View on GitHub

Symbol Font for ASL

How can you read and write American Sign Language?

Elements of ASL

Many people with varying degrees of linguistic training have developed writing systems for American Sign Language. Naturally, some of the similarities between these systems stem from aspects of the language itself.

Like spoken languages, which construct sentences from phrases, phrases from words, words from syllables, and syllables from vowels and consonants, ASL has its own units of language that are combined to produce meaning. Unlike most spoken languages, which combine sounds sequentially, ASL combines linguistic units simultaneously.

In some Asian languages, tone and vowel sound are two different simultaneous elements of a single sound. In signed languages, many different elements are combined into a single pose or motion involving the hands, arms, shoulders, head, eyes, mouth, and nose.

Five Categories

Traditionally, the five elements of ASL are:

Within those categories, there are other elements that may or may not be used in every sign. Click on an element of ASL to see a comparison of how different writing systems represent that aspect of signing.





Non-manual Expression