An ASL Dictionary

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ASL glossing and conventions

ASL glossing and conventions

Learning Tips   |  Sunday, April 13, 2014

By Marta Belsky

This article is by Marta Belsky. Marta is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 20 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users.

Since ASL is a visual-gestural language, not a spoken consecutive language, it can only truly be recorded in video and not captured in writing. Many writing systems have been developed for ASL, but none of them have reached a critical mass, probably because it is difficult to capture handshape, location, palm orientation, movement and non-manual signals in a written word. For that reason, when scribing ASL, many people rely on the linguistic convention called "glossing," which means writing a word in your native language for each sign that appears. This is not a perfect system, but it can be useful when discussing the syntax of other languages, signed or spoken.

Signing Terminology

Glossing - Writing a word in your native language for each sign that appears. ASL is not a writen language, so glossing is not a translation, but a description of what was signed, including signs used, important body language, and accepted glossing symbols.


When writing an English gloss for an ASL sentence, conventions are followed.

Here are a few glossing conventions that are commonly used:

  • Signs are capitalized, such as BOY, HOUSE, ME
  • Words that are fingerspelled have dashes written between the letters, such as M-A-R-Y, D-O-G, S-A-L-E
  • Classifiers are written as CL: handshape, such as CL:3 (vehicle), CL: 55 (feet), CL: CC (telephone pole)

Signing Terminology

Classifiers - A classifier is a combination of a classifier handshape and movement root that are made to reference whole phrases with a single sign. First a signer will sign the subject, then they can use a classifier to describe something about that subject - what it looks like, where it is, how it moves or behaves.

These are not all of the conventions, these are only a few. What other ASL conventions do you know? Share them in the comments below.

 

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About the Author

Marta Belsky is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 20 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users. Marta is on the Lansing Community College Interpreter Training Program Advisory Board and has also been a board member for the Michigan Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and the Michigan Chapter of American Sign Language Teachers Association.

More about Marta  |  Articles by Marta

Signing Savvy announces new Sign Language Advisory Board

Site News   |  Monday, March 24, 2014

By Jillian Winn

When we set out over six years ago to create Signing Savvy, we had a vision to create the most comprehensive online sign language resource for educators, interpreters, students, or anyone interested in American Sign Language. Recently, we formed a Sign Language Advisory Board. The advisory board advises Signing Savvy on sign language matters and provides guidance to help Signing Savvy accomplish the company's mission and goals.
 
The growing Sign Language Advisory Board is made up of thought leaders who have a deep subject manner expertise in sign language and are leaders in their respective fields. Our goal is to have a diverse advisory board with various backgrounds and experience to provide a wide range of advice and expertise. We are happy to announce our first three advisory board members:
 

Marta Belsky

Marta Belsky is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 20 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users. Marta is interested in working with Signing Savvy to help share American Sign Language with people across the country, she said “It is important to me that people learn the language the ‘right’ way and learn about Deaf Culture at the same time – you can’t have one without the other!” Learn more about Marta…
 

Brenda Cartwright

Brenda Cartwright is a seasoned interpreter, a master teacher, well known presenter, and author of several best selling sign language and interpreting textbooks from the RID Press. For the last 30 years Brenda has been the Director of the Sign Language Interpreter Program at Lansing Community College in Lansing, Michigan. Brenda hopes to help improve Signing Savvy while using it as a resource for her interpreter training program. Learn more about Brenda...
 

R. Ben Roux

R. Ben Roux has a background in advocacy, Information Technology and software development. He is the Advisory Board Chairman of the City of Boston Mayor’s Commission for Persons with Disabilities. Ben is interested in working with Signing Savvy because he is committed to advocacy and service to others, especially the deaf, hard of hearing and people with disabilities. These initiatives are particularly meaningful to Ben as he is profoundly deaf. Learn more about Ben...
 
 
Together with these thought leaders we will continue improving Signing Savvy.  Watch for future blog articles from our advisory board members and for upcoming announcements from us on improvements being made to Signing Savvy based on feedback from them.  As always, we welcome suggestions and feedback from you, our members and users.
 
 

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