International gesture: Principles and gestures

International gesture: Principles and gestures1

David Bar-Tzur

Created 11 July 2002, links updated monthly with the help of LinkAlarm.

The international gesture for 'gesture'

EXPLANATION OF THE GLOSSING SYSTEM
(to understand how I describe the signs in this dictionary).

A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J
K
L
M
N
O
P
Q
R
S
T
U
V
W
X
Y
Z

Disclaimer: I am certainly not an expert in International Gesture, but since there is not much readily available about it at present I will offer some observations of what I have seen International Gesturers use at Deaf Way I and Deaf Way II, as well as at other conventions.

Principles

Deaf people from different countries have greater ease in communicating with each other than hearing people do. This is not because sign language is universal, but because Deaf people have more patience with communication and are willing to add mime and gesture. Some signs are more iconic than others. If you sign HOUSE slowly to hearing people, they are likely to guess its meaning. If you sign PEOPLE, it is unlikely that they can deduce its meaning. People who are fluent in any sign language have minds that are more open to understanding a new sign, but it is also true across sign languages that one country may have a more iconic sign than another. In Israel, "government" is signed (2h)[B, POs down, FOs away, and hands alt. move forward and backward, similar to the ASL sign WALK. In Canada the sign looks like a fingerspelled G-G. In England, they tap the head with the fingertips of a [5:]. Although it is true that someone who is unfamiliar with any of these sign languages may not guess their meaning, the British sign is the most translucent, that is, if one were told its meaning and given the mnemonic that is it like a king's crown, that person would be able to learn and retain its meaning the fastest and longest.

Deaf people who travel internationally often seek out other Deaf people or, if they run into them by chance, take the time to try and communicate with them. This was vital for international Deaf sports meets and with the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), which works to improve the quality of life for Deaf people worldwide. The possibility of a universal gestural system was originally discussed in 1951 by the WFD. In 1973, it set up a committee called the Commission of Unification of Signs to develop Gestuno, a gestural system parallel to the spoken/written Esperanto, which could be used for such occasions. The committee selected signs from across the world that were the most iconic and developed Gestuno. Gestuno has developed and changed to what is now called International Gesture (IG). It is useful for interpreters at international conferences so that they can serve those Deaf audiences who could not bring their own interpreters. It is also helpful for interpreters working one-on-one with Deaf people from their own country who do not share a common signed language. It can also be used for pleasure when visiting other countries when a person wants a system that will facilitate communication.

We will now consider some principles that should be used when communicating in IG. Remember that IG is not a language but a negotiated communication system so one needs to be flexible. Languages reflect culture, so signs/gestures should be picked that are as cross-cultural as possible. I saw a gesturer sign for "Abraham Lincoln": Left hand [A], PO down, FO away, right hand [L], PO down, FO away, like the Lincoln Memorial statue + (2h)[C] showing stovepipe hat. [See Explanation of the glossing system used.] If an international person would recognize anything about Lincoln, it would probably be the Lincoln Memorial and pictures of him with a stovepipe hat. This brings up the point that if a person had never seen a picture of Lincoln and did not know who he was, no amount of gesture will bring across that concept. Feedback is of course important in any communication, so you will want to keep an eye on your audience for comprehension or a lack thereof. With IG, it is even more likely that some people will understand while others won't.

One continuous thread of ideas is better than a lot of repetition, but the gesturer will need to decide when clarification needs to be given. Signs often use metonymy, which means a sign language will select a part of an object to depict in the sign. For a gesture, you may need to show many parts of an object, such as showing the surgical table, the pedestal, the patient, the doctor, and the action to convey "surgery". On the other hand, if only a part of an object is being spoken of, you may need to describe the entire context of the object as we have just described and then end by indexing which part of the whole you are referring to, such as "the surgical patient". Remember to show the three-dimensionality of an object, such as showing the height, width, and depth of a television set rather than showing it as a flat screen. Don't repeat what you've already done or add too much information if you have already conveyed the idea as shown by the back-channel feedback. Don't be shy; act it out. Show the steps of a process, such as opening all four legs of a card table.

Signs may generalize a thing, such as a box; show the specific size of the object being referred to. You may need to back up out of your signing space to show perspective or to expand the space you are working with. Fingerspelling is permissible. A one-handed alphabet is used, similar to that used in ASL, but the "T" is modified, since it is an obscene gesture in some cultures. The "T" may either look like an ASL "F" but with the thumb crossed on the thumb side of the or with thumb and index finger crossed as just described, but with the other fingers folded into the palm. The "M" and "N" are also held with the relevant fingers held out straight and the hand nodded down to make it absolutely clear how many fingers are being held out. Since the audience may have a totally different alphabet, make sure to fingerspell slowly and sparingly. If you know the audience's alphabet (and there is only one used by all of them) you could use their fingerspelling instead. If you are having a conversation with a person, things will go most smoothly if you use the alphabet of the person you are speaking with and the person uses your alphabet.

Numbers vary vastly across sign languages. IG uses numbers as follows. All numbers are PO away, FO up. A "zero" is sometimes represented by an "O" and sometimes by an "F", because of the round shape of the joined thumb and index finger. "1 - 5" is shown by holding up the index finger, then adding the middle finger, the thumb (some people will show an ASL "W", holding the little finger against the thumb), switching to the four fingers and tucking in thumb, and finally showing all five fingers. "6 - 10" are shown by add fingers on the NDH with the addition of a FIVE on the DH. If a number is larger that 10, it is shown digit by digit, so that "548" become FIVE FOUR EIGHT. Numbers are shown from the signer's right to the signer's left (regardless of handedness) to make it easier for the audience to read. If the number has more than three digits, a comma may be added to show the thousands place. "12,832" would become ONE TWO COMMA EIGHT THREE TWO. Since dates do not show a comma, the year "1462" would be ONE FOUR SIX TWO without a comma. I have seen a 1-CL and (2h)4-CL used to show the movement or placement of a person or people, but the use of other classifiers must be carefully considered, since different sign languages use different handshapes for the same concept.

IG uses each country's indigenous sign for itself: the Norwegian sign for "Norway", the Polish sign for "Poland", and so on. See the resources at the end of these principles for the site for indigenous signs for countries. Before the sign is given, if there is a likelihood that the audience will not recognize what country is being referred to, or if a specific city, state, county, or province is being referred to, the place is indexed on a classifier that represents that region. To represent a place in North America, South America, or Central America, see dictionary below under those entries. I have not seen what classifiers are used for the other continents. Once the continent has been identified, point to the area where the region under discussion is.

DICTIONARY

(Please note that all English glosses, such as "politics" = GOVERNMENT SUPPORT refer to other items in this dictionary and not to ASL signs.

A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J
K
L
M
N
O
P
Q
R
S
T
U
V
W
X
Y
Z

Illuminated letter A

able
(2h)[S], POs down, FOs away, nod down at wrists. For a QuickTime movie of this gesture, ASL Browser - can.

adults
(2h)[B^], alt. circles to indicate tall people.

affiliate
DH [X], PO away, FO up, NDH [loose S], PO > DS, FO away. DH inserts index finger into the curled fingers of NDH.

agree
THINK SAME.

airplane
(1) [ILY], PO down, moves forward. (2) [Y], PO down, moves forward.

already
(2h)[5], POs > signer, FOs up, pronate.

amazed
[L:], PO > signer, FO > NDS, pauses under mouth and then falls forward like a dropped jaw.

analyze
(2h)[V], POs down, FOs ><, hands approach each, then separate while changing to (2h)[V:] repeatedly while circling towards and away from each other in a large movement.

approve
[3], PO down, FO away, descends and strikes palm of [B], PO up, FO away.

April
[4], PO > signer, FO up, twists > NDS while descending, ending up PO down, FO away.

Asia
[A], PO away, FO up, moves in vertical circle CCW parallel to the chest.

association
(2h)[C dot] are interlinked at fingers and circle CCW vertically.

audiology
(2h)[Bb] frames the ear horizontally and then vertically.

August
DH [5], NDH [3], POs away, FOs up, nod down at wrists.

Illuminated letter B

backpack
(2h)[C] run FT down respective sides of chest like straps.

beautiful
[O^] touches FT to mouth and opens to [5] while moving forward.

bedroom
(2h)[B] press palms together and then against chin + (2h)[1], POs away, FOs up, separate and come together while supinating, ending with POs > signer.

begin
NDH [B], PO up, FO away, DH [1], PO > signer, FO up. DH arcs upwards and lands with index finger striking palm with FT.

Bible
CHRISTIAN BOOK.

bird
[G], PO away, FO up, is held against mouth and closes 2x to [bO] + (2h)[B^], POs > respective sides, FOs up, flutter FTs like wings.

blind
(2h)[H], POs > signer, FOs diagonally up, touch eyebrows in such a manner as to hide the eyes.

book
(2h)[B] press palms together and open like a book. For a QuickTime movie of this gesture, see ASL Browser - book.

born
(2h)[B], POs ><, FO down, are held close to belly and move away as FOs curl upwards.

brain
[1] touches temple.

breathe
Both hands [5], PO towards body move in and out from chest as if imitating breathing.

brother
MALE SAME.

building
(2h)[B], touch FTs which point up at a diagonal then separate while descending to trace a roofed building.

but
[1], PO away, FO up, moves forward.

butter
(2h)[B], DH spreads butter with flexible hand on NDH.

Illuminated letter C

camp
(2h)[horns] touch FTs and descend diagonally like the sides of a tent. For a QuickTime movie of this gesture, see ASL Browser - camp.

can
(2h)[S], POs down, FOs away, nod down at wrists. For a QuickTime movie of this gesture, see ASL Browser - can.

captain
MILITARY + EXECUTIVE.

cat
(2h)[5], touch FTs to respective sides of mouth and separate to show whiskers.

Central America
DH [A], PO > signer, FO > NDS, overlaps thumb with that of NDH [H dot], PO away, FO > diagonally up, with both hands moving forward slighty. The handshapes are different, but to get the general idea of the arrangement of the hands, see the QuickTime movie at NEEDS Outreach: North/South America.

Central and South America
DH [B], PO > signer, FO > NDS, overlaps thumb with that of NDH [H dot], PO away, FO > diagonally up, with both hands moving forward slighty.

chicken
[G], PO away, FO up, is held against mouth and closes 2x to [bO] + (2h)[S] bend in two at elbows and flap elbows up and down.

children
(2h)[B], PO down, FO away, hops as hands separate as if patting the heads of a series of children, with a single movement for each child. For a QuickTime movie of this gesture, see ASL Browser - children.

Christian
[bC], traces a cross, vertically, then horizontally.

church
[bC], traces a cross, vertically, then horizontally + (2h)[B], touch FTs which point up at a diagonal then separate while descending to trace a roofed building.

clean
(2h)[B], palm of DH rubs across upturned palm of NDH once. For a QuickTime movie of this gesture, see ASL Browser - clean.

collapse (opposite of establish)
[A dot], PO > NDS, FO up, slides along [B], PO down, FO > DS, until it falls off FT.

collect
NDH [B], PO up, FO away, is held in place as [5:], PO down, FO away, rakes up things moving > NDS.

come together as a group
(2h)[C], POs ><, FOs away, approach each either from the sides.

committee
(2h)[1^], POs down, FOs away, touch fingertips close to body and make symmetric outward arcs as they move away from the body, thus outlining their respective sides of a circle.

compare
(2h)[B], POs > signer, FOs up, hands move alt. backwards and forwards.

complicated
[1], PO down, FO > NDS, is held at DS of forehead and wiggles like a worm as it moves across the forehead.

Congress
(2h)[L:], POs ><, FOs away, touch close to body, separate and rejoin while moving away, describing a circle.

connected to
(2h)[F], interlink FTs and move between the two things that have a connection. For a QuickTime movie of this gesture, see ASL Browser - connect.

continent
(2h)[5:], POs ><, FOs away, are held in place to show the globe, then with the NDH held in place the DH moves to different locations to show the locations of the continents.

cook
[bX] stirs something in an imaginary bowl held by a curled [B] arm.

country
(1) [5:], PO down, FO away, plops down in neutral space. (2) [C], is held at NDS, PO away, FO up, and twists so that PO > NDS, FO away, then the motion is repeated, all the while the hand slowly moves > DS.

(give) credit (to)
[bX] tips hat to the person being credited.

culture
(1) [C], FO up, curves semicircularly around [1], PO > DS, FO up. (2) [bC], FO up, curves semicircularly around [1], PO > DS, FO up.

Illuminated letter D

daughter
BORN FEMALE.

day
(1) [F], PO down, FO > NDS, rises and falls in an arc > DS against the outline of a [B] arm, PO down, FO > DS. (2) (2h)[5], POs > signer, FOs ><. Hands twist at elbows so that hands move away from one another and up, uncrossing.

deaf
(1) FT of [H], PO > head, are placed near ear. (2) FT of [H], PO > head, touches near ear and then near mouth.

Deaf club
(1) [5:], PO down, FO away, plops down on palm of [B], PO up, FO away. (2) [A dot] strikes thumb against palm of [B], PO up, FO away.

December
(2h)[5], POs away, FOs up, are held in place for a moment, then [2], PO away, FO up, nods down at wrist.

degree (diploma)
(2h)[F], POs away, FOs up, touch side to side, then separate + (2h)[C], POs away, FOs up, DH rises and NDH descends as if unrolling scroll and hands close to (2h)[S].

delegate
(2h)[S], are held with the DH above the NDH as if hold a picket sign. The hands move forward in an upward arc as if handing over the sign to another person in front of him/her.

deteriorate
(2h)[A], POs ><, are held side by side and descend in a wavy pattern. For a QuickTime movie of this gesture, see ASL Browser - deteriorate.

developmentally disabled
(1) THINK + [A dot] pushes thumb down. (2) THINK + PROBLEM.

dictionary
WORD BOOK.

die
(2h)[1] cross forming an "X" and pause at each eye.

disabled
(2h)[B], DH moves as if cutting off the NDH close to the elbow and then the NDH does the same to the DH.

discuss
(2h)[1], POs > signer, FO up, alt. move back and forth from chin.

divorced
(1) [open F] pulls off a ring from the ring finger of NDH, [5], PO down, and throws it down. (2) (2h)[A], FOs away, start with palms touching and separate.

doesn't
[1], PO away, FO up, shakes from side to side from wrist.

dollar
[V:], PO away, FO up, descends in an "S" pattern.

don't
[1], PO away, FO up, shakes from side to side from wrist.

dream
(2h)[S] are held at forehead with DH closer to head, and hands open to (2h)[5] while separating while FT wg.

drink
[C] tips towards the mouth like a cup delivering a liquid.

Illuminated letter E

eat
(2h) or (1h)[O^] repeatedly brings something to the signer's mouth.

education
(2h)[B] are held together like an open book and circle in front of face.

eighth
NDH [3], DH [5], POs down, FOs away, supinate and rise.

eleventh to nineteenth
(2h)[5], POs down, FOs away, pause for a moment, then switch to the gesture for "first" and so on.

email
DH [B], PO down, FO > NDS, is held between the fingers of NDH [C], PO > DS, FO up, and DH pivots in and out by twisting the wrist while the DS arm is held relatively still.

emotion
(2h)[5:] contact FTs to chest and alt. rise and fall.

empower
[C], PO towards muscle, is held above NDS bicep. This [C], FO up, is then moved so that the PO is towards whoever is being empowered.

encourage
(2h)[5], POs up, FOs away, hands nod up > signer as if beckoning.

Euro-dollar
(1) DH [V], PO away, FO > NDS, rests on thumbside of NDH [C], PO > DS, FO up. (2) "E" but without shaking + [H], PO away, FO diagonally up, moves diagonally down > NDS while supinating.

Europe
[E], PO away, FO up, is held in place momentarily then [5], PO away, FO away, moves in a circle.

executive
[A dot] pushes up [B], PO down, FO > DS, with thumb.

expand
DH [S] is held inside of NDH [C], FOs away. Hands separate while opening into (2h)[5:].

express
(2h)[S], POs > signer, FOs up, alt. rise up chest and then move forward while opening to a [5:], PO up, FO away.

Illuminated letter F

fail
(2h)[A dot], push thumbs down.

fair
GOOD HEART.

family
(2h)[C], POs away, FOs up, are held next to each other, separate and come together in a circular path while supinating, ending with (2h)[O^], POs > signer, and FOs up.

father
(1) [G], PO > NDS, FO up, is held under nose, then closes to a [bO], and twists up as if curling a moustache. One may mouth "papa". (2) [Bb], PO down, FO > NDS, touches chin and then forehead.

February
[2], PO > signer, FO up, twists > NDS while descending, ending up PO down, FO away.

federation
(2h)[H], POs down, FOs away, touch and separate while descending, making symmetric "S" patterns.

female
[Bb], PO down, FO > NDS, supinates while tracing the outline of a breast.

feminine form (queen vs king)
[Bb], PO down, FO > NDS, supinates while tracing the outline of a breast.

few
ONE TWO THREE.

fifth
[5], PO down, FO away, supinates and rises.

finish
(2h)[B], POs down, cross at wrist and then move > their respective sides. For a QuickTime movie of this gesture, see ASL Browser - don't.

first
[1], PO down, FO away, supinates and rises.

flag
NDH [1] is held at wrist of DH [B], PO > NDS, FO away, which furls in the wind.

flower
[bX] is held to each nostril.

fly (by plane)
[Y], PO down, moves FT to show the direction of flight.

focus
(2h)[Bb], POs ><, FOs up, are held at sides of face and move forward once.

follow
(2h)[1], POs ><, FOs up, are held with DH behind and touching NDH and both hands move forward.

foundation
NDH [S], PO > signer, FO > DS, is held out with arm parallel to the chest and DH [S], PO > signer, strikes hand from below several times while moving from elbow to wrist.

fourth
[4], PO down, FO away, supinates and rises.

funding
NDH [B], PO up, FO away, holds the bottom of a money bag, and [S] holds the neck of it. Both hands move forward.

Illuminated letter G

gentle
[sligtly curled B^] PO > back, FO up, brushes down the cheek slowly.

get to work
DH {A} rolls up ND arm's sleeve, then vice versa.

goal
(2h)[1], DH points at FT of NDPO > DS, FO up. For a QuickTime movie of this gesture, see ASL Browser - goal.

good
[A dot], PO > NDS, FO away, moves forward slightly. For a photograph of this sign, see BritishSignLanguage.com - good.

government
FT of [5:] touch the top of the head and rise.

grow
NDH [C], PO > DS, FO away, wraps its FT around [O^], PO up, FO away, and DH breaks through NDH by rising and opening to a [5^].

Illuminated letter H

happy
(2h)[1] trace a smile up the cheeks.

hard of hearing
(1) [C] holds FT close ear, then partially "close" the FT to the thumb so that HS is [C^]. (2) [Bb], PO down, FO > NDS, is drawn across face > DS.

have
(1) (2h)[5:], POs up, FOs away, descend and close to (2h)[S]. (2) [5:], PO up, FO away, descends and closes to [S].

hearing person
[F], PO away, FO up, pulls out from ear.

heart
(2h)[1], trace a heart shape on the chest.

help
DH [B^] supports elbow of [S] arm and brings it forward.

heritage
(2h)[1], POs > signer, FTs circle each other as they move forward.

hero
FT of [V] look up to [1], PO > DS, FO up.

honest
NDH [B], PO up, FO diagonally > DS, DH [B], PO > NDS, FO away, slides away on NDH palm.

hope
(2h)[R], POs > signer, FOs up, move forward together.

how
(2h)[C dot], POs ><, FOs away, touch at knuckles, then twist forward while maintaining contact.

human
(2h)[B], POs ><, FOs away, move straight down to indicate a person.

Illuminated letter I

if
(2h)[B], POs up, FOs away, alt. rise and fall.

important
(2h)[flat F], POs><, FOs away, tap thumbs together, rise, and tap thumbs again.

impossible
(2h)[S], POs down, FOs away, hands descend diagonally, almost crossing, then supinate and separate.

impressed
[5] is held limp and shaken from side to side. For a QuickTime movie of this gesture, see ASL Browser - wow.

Indian (Native American)
(2h)[B], PO down, FT of DH rubs gently back and forth on backhand of NDH.

influence
[O^], PO down, brushes against the back of [B], PO down, while opening into a [5] and moving away.

inform
(2h)[O^], POs away, FOs up, DH at forehead level, NDH lower, both move forward while open to (2h)[O^].

insect
(2h)[X] are held at sides of head like feelers and wg.

inspired
(2h)[O^], FOs up, travel up against the chest and open to (2h)[5^]. For a QuickTime movie of this gesture, see ASL Browser - inspire.

intelligent
(1) [O^], PO > NDS, FO up, is held at temple and expands to a [C] with thumb held in place. (2) [bO], PO > NDS, FO up, is held at temple and expands to a [bC] with thumb held in place.

interpret, interpreter
(2h)[B], DH is held across the midpalm of NDH, PO up, FO away, and supinates and pronates while maintaining contact.

interview
The index finger is curled and the thumb touces the inside central joint, PO > NDS, FO up, moves away and > the signers chin.

involved
[5], PO down, FO away, circles above [C], PO > DS, FO away, while closing to a [O^] and is put in the opening of the NDH. For a QuickTime movie of this gesture, see ASL Browser - involve.

Illuminated letter J

January
[1], PO > signer, FO up, twists > NDS while descending, ending up PO down, FO away.

join
[5], PO down, FO away, circles above [C], PO > DS, FO away, while closing to a [O^] and is put in the opening of the NDH. For a QuickTime movie of this gesture, see ASL Browser - involve.

July
DH [5], NDH [V], POs away, FOs up, nod down at wrists.

June
DH [5], NDH [A dot], POs away, FOs up, nod down at wrists.

justice
(2h)[B], POs down, FOs away. NDH is held high and DH is brought up to its level and taps sides together. (2) (2h)[1], POs down, FOs away, tap sides together.

Illuminated letter K

kill
Stab at space with [S].

kind-hearted
[sligtly curled B^] PO > back, FO up, brushes down the cheek slowly.

kind of, so-so, not so great
[5], PO down, FO away, swivels at wrist while maintain FO. For a QuickTime movie of this gesture, see ASL Browser - sort of.

king
(2h)[4], POs > back, FOs up, hands start together at front and trace the outline of a crown.

knowledgeable
(1) [O^], PO > NDS, FO up, is held at temple and expands to a [C] with thumb held in place. (2) [bO], PO > NDS, FO up, is held at temple and expands to a [bC] with thumb held in place.

Illuminated letter L

language
(2h)[5], POs > signer, FOs ><, hands overlap with DH closer to signer and hands separate.

learn
(2h)[B^], POs away, FOs up, are held at forehead level and alt. approach it, closing to [O^].

lecture
[B], PO > NDS, FO up is held at head level and hands nods side of hand back and forth.

legal
DH [bX], strikes DH [B] arm, PO down, FO > DS, like a gavel + (2h)[B], POs down, FOs away, descend at respective sides of the head outlining a powdered wig.

liberate
DH [B] lifts upwards and off from contacting [S], PO > DS.

like
Palm of [B], FO > NDS, stokes down midchest twice.

Lincoln, Abraham
Left hand [A], PO down, FO away, right hand [L], PO down, FO away, like the Lincoln Memorial statue + (2h)[C] show stovepipe hat.

look at
FT of [V] point at what is being looked at.

Illuminated letter M

mainstream
NDH [5] and DH [U]; POs down, FOs ><, move so that FOs are away and then move away, with NDH touching DH from above.

male
[G], PO > NDS, FO up, is held under nose, then closes to a [bO], and twists up as if curling a moustache.

man
[G], PO > NDS, FO up, is held under nose, then closes to a [bO], and twists up as if curling a moustache.

many
(2h)[5], POs > signer, FOs up, wg FTs.

March
[3], PO > signer, FO up, twists > NDS while descending, ending up PO down, FO away.

married
(1) [open F] places a ring on the ring finger of NDH, [5], PO down. (2) (2h)[A], POs ><, FOs away, are brought together.

masculine form (king vs queen)
[G], PO > NDS, FO up, is held under nose, then closes to a [bO], and twists up as if curling a moustache.

May
[5], PO > signer, FO up, twists > NDS while descending, ending up PO down, FO away.

me
[1] touches chest.

meat
(2h)[Y] touch thumbs to temples + [A dot] slits throat + [bX] circles vertically at mouth as if eating with a utensil.

meet
(2h)[1], POs ><, FOs up, approach and touch.

mentally retarded
(1) THINK + [A dot] pushes thumb down. (2) THINK + PROBLEM.

military
Salute with [Bb].

mind
[1] touches temple.

minute
(2h)[B], DH PO > NDS, FO away, touches wrist of NDH, PO down, FO away, with heel of hand and NDH twists > DS as if it were a minute hand of a watch.

money
Tip of thumb is rubbed against the other FTs.

month
[1], PO away, FO up, nods down.

more
(2h)[B^], touch FTs, then DH moves up in an arc towards the signer and away. For a QuickTime movie of this sign, see ASL browser - more than.

mother
(1) [Bb], PO down, FO > NDS, supinates while tracing the outline of a breast. One may mouth "mama papa". (2) [Bb], PO > NDS, FO up, touches DS chin, then NDS chin.

movie
NDH [B], PO > DS, FO away, is held at side and DH [bO] circles vertically as if operating a wind-up camera. For a QuickTime movie of this gesture, see ASL Browser - video camera.

Illuminated letter N

name
Inside FT of [H dot] are run across the DS of the chest like a name tag.

negative
[1], FO > NDS, is tapped against the palm of [B], PO away, 2x. For a QuickTime movie of this sign, see ASL browser - negative.

new
[B^], PO up, scoops upwards, grazing NDH [B], PO up, FO away. For a QuickTime movie of this gesture, see ASL Browser - new.

night
(2h)[5], POs > signer, FOs up. Hands twist at elbows so that hands move towards one another and down, crossing.

ninth
NDH [4], DH [5], POs down, FOs away, supinate and rise.

no
[1], PO away, FO up, shakes from side to side from wrist.

none
(2h)[O], POs away, FOs up, circle vertically: up, separate, down, and approach.

North America
(2h)[A] NDH PO away, FO diagonally up, DH PO > signer, FO diagonally down, thumbs touch to show the area where North America touches South America, then DH opens to a [B] to show that the upper portion of the two continents is meant. Similar to the QuickTime movie at NEEDS Outreach: North/South America.

North and South America (The Americas)
(2h)[A] NDH PO away, FO diagonally up, DH PO > signer, FO diagonally down, thumbs touch to show the area where North America touches South America, then both hands opens to (2h)[B] to show that both continents are meant. See the QuickTime movie at NEEDS Outreach: North/South America.

not
[1], PO away, FO up, shakes from side to side from wrist.

November
(2h)[5], POs away, FOs up, are held in place for a moment, then [1], PO away, FO up, nods down at wrist.

now
(2h)[Y], POs > signer, FOs ><, descend slightly.

number
[5], PO > signer, FO up, FT wg.

Illuminated letter O

obstacle
Fist hits palm of [B], PO > DS, FO away.

October
(2h)[5], POs away, FOs up, nod down at wrists.

old
[B^] holds chin and slides down it, keeping FT in contact with chin.

opportunity
NDH [B], PO > signer, FO > DS, is held at midchest; DH [S], PO > signer, FO up, moves upwards while flicking index finger out, then both hands move slightly > DS and the sign is repeated.

organization
(2h)[C dot] are interlinked at fingers and circle CCW horizontally.

other
[B], PO down, FO away, supinates.

Illuminated letter P

parents
[Bb], PO down, FO > NDS, supinates while tracing the outline of a breast + [G], PO > NDS, FO up, is held under nose, then closes to a [bO], and twists up as if curling a moustache. One may mouth "mama".

party
(2h)[5], POs ><, FTs circle each other with fluttering + (<) EAT, (>) DRINK.

people
[bC], PO away, FO twisted to the side so that when it descends it describes a double vertical outline like the sides of a person and repeats it as it moves > DS.

percent
(1) [O], PO away, FO up, moves > DS and down as if tracing the path of a "%" sign. For a QuickTime movie of this sign, see ASL browser - percent. (2) [F], PO away, FO up, moves > DS and down as if tracing the path of a "%" sign. (3) [1], PO away, tilts > right, then changes to an [O] and is placed to one side and then to the other of where the dash was.

person
[bC], PO away, FO twisted to the side so that when it descends it describes a double vertical outline like the sides of a person.

personal
[bC], FO > NDS, drags fingertips down middle of chest.

Ph.D.
[4], PO down, FO > NDS, is held at forhead and wg as it moves > NDS, returns and moves again.

philosophy
(2h)[5], POs ><, FTs circle each other with fluttering + (<) EAT, (>) DRINK.

placement
Put [S], PO > NDS, FO away, on top of [B], PO down, FO > DS.

please
(2h)[B] are held FO up and palms pressed together and move slight backwards and forwards.

politics
(1) GOVERNMENT SUPPORT. (2) (2h)[1], POs > signer, FOs ><, hands move alt. up and down. (3) (2h)[1], POs down, FOs ><, hands move alt. up and down and fingertips strike each other slightly as they pass.

poor
(2h)[F] mime pulling pockets inside out to show the absence of money.

POSS. (my, your, her, and so on)
Palm of [B], FO up, points to the possessor.

pour
Tilt [Y], PO away, as if pouring from thumb.

power
[1] outlines bicep.

president
[bX], PO > signer, FO down, moves from side to side as if ringing a bell.

print
[A], PO down, FO away, stamps at palm of [B], PO up, FO away.

problem
(2h)[O^], DPO away, NDPO > DS, FOs ><. The FTs touch, the hands switch PO, and then touch again.

process
(2h)[B^], POs ><, FOs away, DH is held ahead of NDH, then NDH leapfrogs over DH, and DH over NDH. For a QuickTime movie of this sign, see ASL browser - procedure.

publish
[A], PO down, FO away, stamps at palm of [B], PO up, FO away.

Illuminated letter R

record (break the old one, make a new one)
Elbow of DH [S], PO > signer, FO up, strikes the wrist of [S], PO down, FO > DS.

register, registration
[O^], PO down, FO away, taps FTs against middle of chest, rotating at wrist.

related to
(2h)[F], interlink FTs and move back and forth between the two things that have a relationship. For a QuickTime movie of this gesture, see ASL Browser - relationship.

resign
(2h)[B^], POs down, FOs away, are held in front of signer limply, then move > signer in an upward arc.

restaurant
(2h)[V], POs > signer, FOs ><, alt. bring food to mouth.

right
[1], PO down, FO away, draws a check mark in the air.

rights
(2h)[B], DPO > NDS, DFO away, is held in palm of NDPO up, NDFO > DS, and DH moves forward while curling FO up.

room
(1) (2h)[B], first hands show one pair of sides: POs > signer, FOs > opposite sides; then they show the other pair of sides: POs ><, FOs away. (2) (2h)[1], POs away, FOs up, separate and come together while supinating, ending with POs > signer.

Illuminated letter S

same
(1) (2h)[B], POs down, FOs away, tap sides together. (2) (2h)[1], POs down, FOs away, tap sides together. For a QuickTime movie of this gesture, see ASL Browser - same.

same old thing
(1) (2h)[B], POs down, FOs away, tap sides together repeatedly while circling vertically. (2) (2h)[1], POs down, FOs away, tap sides together repeatedly while circling vertically.
Scandinavia
[A], PO > signer, FO diagonally down, touches palm of [B with thumb against index finger], and DH twists upwards, keeping in contact with the palm, while opening to a [5] so that the fingers are exposed to the viewer.

school
BUILDING EDUCATION, that is, (2h)[B], touch FTs which point up at a diagonal then separate while descending to trace a roofed building + (2h)[B] are held together like an open book and circle in front of face.

second
[2], PO down, FO away, supinates and rises.

see
[1], PO > signer, FO up, moves forward from under eye.

September
DH [5], NDH [4], POs away, FOs up, nod down at wrists.

seventh
NDH [2], DH [5], POs down, FOs away, supinate and rise.

shouldn't
[1], PO away, FO up, shakes from side to side from wrist.

since (a give time)
FT of [1] touches shoulder, then spirals forward.

sincere
HEART + [5:] touches FT to the heart, keeping the arm in place, twist the PO up as if offering someone your heart.

sister
FEMALE SAME.

sit
[V:] sits on top of [B], PO down, FO > DS.

sixth
NDH [1], DH [5], POs down, FOs away, supinate and rise.

small
(2h)[bC], POs ><, FOs away, are brought close together.

smile
FTs of (2h)[O^], are held at respective corners of the mouth and then hands pivot upwards leaving FTs in place.

social
[3], PO > signer, FO > NDS, FO nods downward twice.

son
BORN MALE.

sorry
Underside of FT of [B], PO down rubs side to side against NDH [B], PO down, FO > DS.

South America
(2h)[A] NDH PO away, FO diagonally up, DH PO > signer, FO diagonally down, thumbs touch to show the area where North America touches South America, then NDH opens to a [B] to show that the lower portion of the two continents is meant. Similar to the QuickTime movie at NEEDS Outreach: North/South America.

stand
[V] touches FT to palm of [B], PO up, FO away. For a QuickTime movie of this gesture, see ASL Browser - stand.

start
NDH [B], PO up, FO away, DH [1], PO > signer, FO up. DH arcs upwards and lands with index finger striking palm with FT.

stay
(2h)[B], POs down, FOs away, descend and stop abruptly.

steal
[5], PO away, FO up, sweeps in a twist so that PO is > DS with thumb pointing down and circles back > chest, closing to an [S], PO down.

strong
(2h)[S] flex muscles at respective sides.

study
FT of [5] point and wg at palm of [B], PO up, FO > DS.

sunrise
[F], PO down, FO > NDS, rises with [B] arm as horizon, closer to body.

support
[S], PO > signer, FO up, pushes up on NDH [S], PO > singer, FO > DS, from below and moves > the thing being supported.

sweet (personality)
[sligtly curled B^] PO > back, FO up, brushes down the cheek slowly.

syntax
(2h)[bC], POs away, FOs face away from each other. DH put a "word" on one side of the NDH, and then the other side.

Illuminated letter T

talk
[B], PO > NDS, FO up closes repeatedly to a [O^] in front of mouth like a yapping jaw.

technology
FT of [1], PO > signer, taps little finger edge of NDH [B], PO > signer, FO diagonally up.

tell
FT of [1], PO > signer, FO up, touches chin and moves to the person being told. To tell more than one person, this sign is (2h) and alt.

tent
(2h)[B] touch FTs and descend diagonally like the sides of a tent.

tenth
(2h)[5], POs down, FOs away, supinate and rise.

thank
[bX] tips hat to the person being thanked.

theater
(2h)[5:] alt. close to [S] while pulling down on curtain ropes + (2h)[B], POs > signer, FOs ><, rise like a curtain.

think
[1] touches temple.

third
[3], PO down, FO away, supinates and rises.

title
FT of [H], PO > signer, FO > NDS, is dragged across palm of [B], PO away, FO up, like a label.

tomorrow
[1], PO away, FO up, touches DS cheek, then nods forward.

train (locomotive)
(2h)[B], POs ><, FOs away, DH circles vertically while NDH stays in place, like the wheel arm of an old-fashioned locomotive.

true
NDH [B], PO up, FO diagonally > DS, DH [B], PO > NDS, FO away, slides away on NDH palm.

TTY
NDH [Y], PO down, FO away, is held above [5], PO down, FO away, and DH FT wg as if operating a keyboard below a phone receiver.

Illuminated letter U

understand
THINK + [5:], PO > NDS, FO up, still held at forehead level, moves forward and closes to an [S] as if capturing an idea.

unimpressed
[B] pats at open mouth like a yawn.

university
(2h)[1] touch in front of the forehead and trace the front half of a mortarboard (graduation cap) by separating then moving back until the reach over the ears. Ideally it is square, but usually looks more rounded. For an animated gif of this sign, see Art Signs (UK) - university.

up to now
FT of [1] touches shoulder, then spirals forward.

Illuminated letter V

vice-president
[L], PO > signer, FO > NDS + [bX], PO > signer, FO down, moves from side to side as if ringing a bell.

volunteer
(2h)[B], DH lays the back of its fingers against the palm side of the NDH fingers. The DH puts the palm side of its fingers against the chest under the DS shoulder and both move forward together.

Illuminated letter W

wake up
(2h)[bO] are held at sides of eyes, then open (2h)[bC] while moving forward slightly. For a QuickTime movie of this gesture, see ASL Browser - wake up.

war
(2h)[L], POs > signer, FOs ><, like drawn guns, travel together from side to side.

week
[bC], PO away, FO up, moves > DS.

wheelchair
(2h)[S] are held down at sides as if grasping the wheels and move forward while opening to (2h)[5:] as if they were making the chair move forward.

white
FT of [1], PO > signer, FO up, runs across teeth.

wind
(2h)[5] sway back and forth like the wind, while blowing out. For a QuickTime movie of this sign, see ASL browser - wind.

woman
(1) [Bb], PO down, FO > NDS, supinates while tracing the outline of a breast. (2) [F] clasps earlobe and moves side to side.

word
[bC], PO away, FO > DS, moves forward slightly.

work
(2h)[S], POs ><, FOs away, DH pounds on NDH from above.

world
(2h)[5], POs down, FOs away, are held side by side and the hands descend, supinate, and end with POs up by traveling in a circle. al

World Wide Web
W-W-W.

Illuminated letter Y

year
(1) (2h)[1], POs towards, FOs ><. FT touch, DH moves away then towards in vertical circle, until FT touch again. (2) (2h)[S], POs ><, FOs away, DH circles NDH and then lands on top of it.

yesterday
[A dot], PO away, FO up, touches DS near mouth, then DS near ear. For a QuickTime movie of this gesture, see ASL Browser - yesterday.

young
FT of (2h)[B^], PO > signer, FO down, brush up chest close to waist.

Resources

annestapleton. (2008, July 17). Praise You With A Dance - Leslie Parra.video camera: This links to a videoPerforming at Cornerstone Community Church on 6/29/08: Leslie Parra from Santa Clarita Christian Fellowship, Gospel Mime praise dance.

Bar-Tzur, D.


Deaf cultures and Sign Languages of the world. Use this if the Deaf audience is from a specific country to learn the alphabet or some of the signs from that country.
Indigenous signs for cities.
Indigenous signs for countries.
Introduction to use of indigenous signs.

Deaf Volley Europe Championship 2007 on International Sign Language.

EUD.globe: globe (international icon)Sign Language iconMany of the pages have videos in IG.

Gestuno@Everything2.com.

Handspeak.com.globe: globe (international icon)Sign Language iconHandspeak has entires for International Sign Language in its dictionary, but is available only by subscription. I do believe it is worthwhile, since the site has many interesting features.

stained glass ballhuxiaoshu. (2008, March 30). Interview with Signmark=手语歌手Signmark(聋)做客小胡视点.Japanese flagSign Language icon,globe (international icon)Sign Language icon

International bibliography of sign language.

golden marble bulletInternational Sign Language.

golden marble bulletInternational Sign Language dictionary.

Jones, T. R. (November 12, 2001). Gestuno.

Klopfenstein, M. (January 30, 2002) Lingua Franca in sign languages.

Monteillard, N. (2001). La langue des signes internationale - Aperçu historique et préliminaires à une description. Dans le cadre interactif de rencontres cosmopolites, les Sourds signeurs du monde entier mettent en place une stratégie de communication, la LSI (Langue des Signes Internationale), qui leur permet d’établir très rapidement entre eux un échange opérant. La LSI fut soumise, après la seconde guerre mondiale, à une tentative d’unification.

Moody, W. (1987). "International Gestures." In: van Cleve, J. V. (ed.) Gallaudet encyclopedia of deaf people and deafness. Vol. 3. S-Z,Index. New York, NY [u.a.] : McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc. - pp. 81-82.

Rubino, F., Hayhurst, A., and Guejlman, J. (1975). Gestuno. International sign language of the deaf. Carlisle: British Deaf Association.

Sematos - ISL - Dictionary.globe: globe (international icon)Sign Language icon

SignPuddle. Dictionary International.

Supalla, T. and Webb, R. (1995). "The grammar of international sign: A new look at pidgin languages." In: Emmorey, K. & Reilly, J. S. (eds): Language, gesture, and space. (International Conference on Theoretical Issues in Sign Language Research) Hillsdale, N.J. : Erlbaum - pp. 333-352.

Stained glass bulletWorld Federation of the Deaf.globe: globe (international icon)Sign Language icon

golden marble bulletMADRID 2007 WORLD FEDERATION OF THE DEAF XV WORLD CONGRESS.

golden marble bulletCountry name-signs. Many people need to know what the name sign is for each country. This popular book is published for WFD by Japanese Federation of the Deaf (JFD); orders can be made to JFD. Publisher WFD (2003), Collection of data: Japan Institute for Sign Language Studies and Tomas Hedberg, Swedish National Association of the Deaf.


Image credits

1. Österreichische Gebärdensprache im Netz.

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