American manual alphabet

The American Manual Alphabet (AMA) is a manual alphabet that augments the vocabulary of American Sign Language.

Letters and digits

The letters and digits are signed as follows. In informal contexts, the handshapes are not made as distinctly as they are in formal contexts.



















LSQ 10


The manual alphabet can be used on either hand, normally the signer's dominant hand – that is, the right hand for right-handers, the left hand for left-handers.[1]

J and Z involve motion. J is I with a twist of the wrist, so that the little finger traces the curve of the printed form of the letter; Z is an index finger moved back and forth, so that the finger traces the zig-zag shape of the letter Z. Both of these "tracings" are made as seen by the signer if right-handed, as shown by the illustrations in this article. When signed with the left hand, the motions are in mirror image, therefore unreversed for the viewer. However, fluent signers do not need to "read" the shapes of these movements.[2]

Asl alphabet gallaudet
The manual alphabet used in American Sign Language. Letters are shown in a variety of orientations, not as they would be seen by the viewer.

In most drawings or illustrations of the American Manual Alphabet, some of the letters are depicted from the side to better illustrate the desired hand shape. For example, the letters G and H are frequently shown from the side to illustrate the position of the fingers. However, they are signed with the hand in an ergonomically neutral position, palm facing to the side and fingers pointing forward.

Several letters have the same hand shape, and are distinguished by orientation. These are "h" and "u", "k" and "p" (thumb on the middle finger), "g" and "q" and, in informal contexts, "d" and "g/q". In rapid signing, "n" is distinguished from "h/u" by orientation. The letters "a" and "s" have the same orientation, and are very similar in form. The thumb is on the side of the fist in the letter "a", and in front for "s".

Rhythm, speed and movement

When fingerspelling, the hand is at shoulder height. It does not bounce with each letter unless a letter appears twice in a row. Letters are signed at a constant speed; a pause functions as a word divider. The first letter may be held for the length of a letter extra as a cue that the signer is about to start fingerspelling.





























  1. ^ Tennant, Richard A. (1998). The American Sign Language handshape dictionary. Brown, Marianne Gluszak. Washington, D.C.: Clerc Books, Gallaudet University Press. ISBN 1563680432. OCLC 37981448.
  2. ^ Stokoe, William C. (2005-01-01). "Sign Language Structure: An Outline of the Visual Communication Systems of the American Deaf". The Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education. 10 (1): 3–37. doi:10.1093/deafed/eni001. ISSN 1081-4159.

External links

Burmese sign language

There are three schools for the deaf in Burma, the Mary Chapman School for the Deaf in Yangon (est. 1904), the School for the Deaf, Mandalay (est. 1964), and the Immanuel School for the Deaf in Kalay (est. 2005). However, oral Burmese is the language of instruction, at least in Yangon, with sign used to support it. The sign language used in Yangon and Mandalay is different, but it's not clear if they are one language or two. Influences on the language(s) include ASL in all schools, as well as Korean Sign Language, Australian Sign Language, Thai Sign Language, and possibly a local substratum. A government project was set up in 2010 to establish a national sign language with the aid of the Japanese Federation of the Deaf.Two manual alphabets are in use in Yangon: The American manual alphabet, which may or may not be well known, and a Burmese-based alphabet taught in the 1970s and 1980s.

Chilean manual alphabet

The Chilean manual alphabet is used by the Chilean deaf community to sign Spanish words and is incorporated into Chilean Sign Language. It is a one-handed alphabet, similar enough to the American manual alphabet for the two to be mutually intelligible, except for the letters Q (touch the jaw), T (touch the lips), S and X (trace the letter shapes, as is done with Z), U (horns, like a 7 or 8), and the additional letter Ñ (a rocking N).


D (named dee ) is the fourth letter of the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet.

Fig sign

The fig sign is a mildly obscene gesture used at least since the Roman age in Western Europe, and nowadays in Turkish and Slavic cultures and some other cultures that uses two fingers and a thumb. This gesture is most commonly used to deny a request.

In Brazil, use of this gesture is said to ward off evil eye, jealousy, etc. Ornaments with this symbol are often worn as a good luck charm. In ancient Rome, the fig sign, or manu fica, was made by the pater familias to ward off the evil spirits of the dead as a part of the Lemuria ritual.The hand gesture may have originated in ancient Indian culture to depict the lingam and yoni.Among early Christians, it was known as the manus obscena, or "obscene hand".Recently, a Ukrainian word for this gesture "дуля" (dulya) has also become a jargon to refer to Control-Alt-Delete. (" need three fingers to press the buttons. So it's like telling somebody (a computer in this case) to get lost.") The letter "T" in the American manual alphabet is very similar to this gesture.


Fingerspelling (or dactylology) is the representation of the letters of a writing system, and sometimes numeral systems, using only the hands. These manual alphabets (also known as finger alphabets or hand alphabets), have often been used in deaf education, and have subsequently been adopted as a distinct part of a number of sign languages; there are about forty manual alphabets around the world. Historically, manual alphabets have had a number of additional applications—including use as ciphers, as mnemonics, and in silent religious settings.

French manual alphabet

The French manual alphabet is an alphabet used for French Sign Language (LSF), both to distinguish LSF words and to sign French words in LSF.

The alphabet has the following letters:

These are largely similar to the letters of the American manual alphabet. A few letters (upward G, sideward M and N) are oriented differently, with the result that D and G depend on a difference in hand shape that has been lost from informal ASL, and N looks like an ASL H. Several letters (hitchhiker-thumb A, clawed E, splayed F, nodding P, etc.) have minor differences that suggest a different "accent"; the thumb on A makes it more distinct from S than is American A. Four letters are radically different: H (the ASL '8'/'horns' handshape), J (a swiveling Y rather than I), X (uses two fingers, like a flexed ASL V), and T (just like the French F, but with the thumb on the inside of the index finger instead of on the outside).


In sign languages, handshape, or dez, refers to the distinctive configurations that the hands take as they are used to form words. In Stokoe terminology it is known as the DEZ, an abbreviation of designator. Handshape is one of five components of a sign, along with location (TAB), orientation (ORI), movement (SIG), and facial-body expression. Different sign languages make use of different handshapes.

Hong Kong Sign Language

Hong Kong Sign Language (香港手語), or HKSL, is the deaf sign language of Hong Kong and Macau. It derived from the southern dialect of Chinese Sign Language, but is now an independent and not mutually intelligible, separate language. Macau Sign Language is a dialect, and is understood by practitioners of HKSL, although Macau Sign Language practitioners may find it slightly more difficult to understand HKSL.


I (named i , plural ies) is the ninth letter and the third vowel in the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet.


K (named kay ) is the eleventh letter of the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet. In English, the letter K usually represents the voiceless velar plosive.


L (named el ) is the twelfth letter of the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet, used in words such as lagoon, lantern, and less.


M (named em ) is the thirteenth letter of the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet.

Mexican Sign Language

Mexican Sign Language ("lengua de señas mexicana" or LSM, also known by several other names), is the language of the Deaf community in the urban regions of Mexico. It is the primary language of 87,000 to 100,000 people (1986 T. C. Smith-Stark).


N (named en ) is the fourteenth letter in the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet.

Nepali manual alphabet

The Nepali manual alphabet is fingerspelling devised for the Nepali alphabet-syllabary, Devanagari, to go with Nepalese Sign Language. It was developed by the Kathmandu Association of the Deaf (KAD), with support from UNICEF. Based loosely on the formulations in the American manual alphabet and International manual alphabet, only the forms for the letters अ (from “a”), ब (from “b”), म (from “m”), and र (from “r”) can be said to derive directly from their Latin alphabet equivalent. All other letter finger-shapes are indigenous.


P (named pee ) is the 16th letter of the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet.

Shaka sign

The shaka sign, sometimes known as "hang loose," is a gesture of friendly intent often associated with Hawaii and Guam's souff side , surf culture. It consists of extending the thumb and smallest finger while holding the three middle fingers curled, and gesturing in salutation while presenting the front or back of the hand; the hand may be rotated back and forth for emphasis. While the shaka sign has spread internationally from its Hawaiian cultural roots to surf culture and beyond, the hand gesture also bears a variety of meaning in different contexts and regions of the world.


T (named tee ) is the 20th letter in the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet. It is the most commonly used consonant and the second most common letter in English-language texts.

Ugandan Sign Language

Ugandan Sign Language (USL) is the deaf sign language of Uganda. Uganda was the second country in the world to recognize sign language in its constitution, in 1995. A Ugandan Sign Language Dictionary has been published. However, knowledge of USL is primarily urban, as access to education for the rural deaf remains poor. Nonetheless, USL is a highly valued element of group identity among the deaf community.

The first Ugandan schools for the deaf opened in 1962, and several sign languages are reported to have merged in 1988, when sign was allowed in the classroom. This suggests that USL may be a creole of the local languages that the deaf students created informally in the different schools. There were also influences from ASL, BSL, and Kenyan Sign Language, the first two from the language of instruction in early classrooms, and the latter from deaf Ugandans who went to Kenya for higher education.

Both the British two-handed manual alphabet and the American manual alphabet are used, with minor modifications. Finger-spelling and initialized signs using both alphabets are common among people who learned USL formally as children. Mouthing is also common with abbreviated syllables from both English and Luganda.

It is unclear if USL is related to Rwandan Sign Language.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.