Note that I have only listed handshapes used in ASL words. There are other handshapes, such as the 7 handshape. It's a legitimate shape, but I don't think any ASL words use it. Please correct me if I'm mistaken!
Combinations of two pure handshapes.
Meaning, writing ASL sentences, not just handshapes. Writing handshapes is cake, like writing English sounds. See above for handshapes.
Okay, how about writing the ASL language? Sure, it's doable. If Chinese writing can flourish, anything is possible. Hey, I like the Chinese, but their writing system is insane! Ever seen a Chinese typewriter? Ach du lieber! (I hasten to add that I do like the way Chinese looks.)
Anyway, I'm going to put my ASL chicken scratches out on the web. Please send me your comments. I'm hacking this out in public, so if you see something weird, please wait a day or two before commenting. But I do want your comments.
Btw, I'm not claiming to have any special qualifications to do this. I'm not even fluent in ASL (yet). I merely suffer from a love of languages and writing systems.
Meaning, what are the problems that may arise with a new orthography, and how can we prevent or solve them? How can the orthography bring the most benefit with the least effort? How much to aesthetic considerations overrule pratical ones? Okay, we've scratched the surface.
I decided to use a "place value" approach. Like numbers, ASL words require that certain items occur at certain locations. Also, the use of defaults is very important. If a component does not appear, a default value is assumed. This keeps the orthography relatively simple (I hope).
I use a word/hand/syllable taxonomy. Words are composed of one or two hands. A hand consists of one or more syllables. Everything is described below, starting with some examples.
In the hope that I've come up with something remotely intuitive, I decided to put the examples before the syntactic explanations. You'll want to check out the handshapes above before looking over the examples.
Of course, I don't consider this a finished product. ASL may not ever be written in my lifetime. But I do hope that I am able to make a contribution. ASL is a beautiful language and deserves to have a wider audience.
Each example contains the ASL writing, an English transliteration, and an English translation.
<W'o'o'' ,vY=|,^B i<BL:-iAL, Washington New York prefer-right I prefer Washington to New York. iY, vO:s^O:) i5,c,, ^O'c<O@: vX== >1' Telephone number woman-right right-give-me should it-right The woman should give me the telephone number. iAL,ciAL,, v5~'-, :1@ i<5,-iO,, ^X-%.y Tomorrow snow I go-away skiing If it snows tomorrow, I'm going skiing. >1' >K= CL@' 5-S% It kitchen have milk There is milk in the kitchen. vSoo.) <3 .<3 >3, .,>3 Bicycle <classifier;> <classifier;> <classifier;> <classifier;> There are bicycles all over the place. 5~'c,/vB, '<4c,<4.,<4 vB:c:,.vB: vV@:/vB: Trees-down-right fence-down-left hill-middle person-on-hill There were trees down the right, a fence down the left, and a hill in the middle. .>;1c:, i<;Y: vVC,,-: person-go-down-hill suddenly animal-from-right The person started down the hill, when suddenly, an animal appeared from the trees on the right. .>;1c*,,>1 'vKs'^K/,<;4 person-swerve-left person-over-fence The person swerved to the left and fell over the fence.
The description below is not rigorous -- nonsensical combinations are permitted, and more is allowed than is implied by the notation. I didn't want to get bogged down in notational issues. The logic (I hope!) should be apparent from the examples. I'll try to clean it up as I go along.
Any vagueness is probably purposeful, but feel free to ask.
|<default>||natural location for the hand|
|: (colon)||along centerline|
|, (comma)||low or out or low-out|
|,,||lower or more-out or more-lower-out|
|,,,||even lower or even-more-out or even-more-lower-out|
|' (apostrophe)||high or out or high-out|
|''||higher or more-out or more-higher-out|
|'''||even higher or even-more-out or even-more-higher-out|
|<default>||The natural direction for the hand in question.|
|<from the list of pictures above>|
|NOTE: Shapes are always written uppercase|
|~||shaken or wiggled|
<syllable><motion><character><special> [<syllable><motion><character><special> ... ]
|%||repeat all syllables back to start or back to previous %.|
|<hand>||one-handed, strong hand|
|.<hand>||one-handed, weak hand|
|+||crossing arms or hands|
||||palms facing each other|
|/||strong over weak|
|\||weak over strong|