American Sign Language – Writing

Trough my research of ASL I learned about the interesting practice of Sign Writing. It is an innovative way of bringing the mental images of deaf people, particularly children, to life. Sign Writing is based on sign language and uses a system of graphic symbols that closely replicate the hand gestures used when signing. It can be hand written or typed using special software. It is written vertically and uses simple geometric forms to collapse three basic parameters- hand shape, location and movement- into a streamlined icon, topped by a stylized face.

Sign writing is essentially an alphabet for writing the movements of the hands and fingers used in signing. Sign Writing was invented in 1974 by Valerie Sutton. She was a hearing American who moved to Denmark as a dancer at the age of 19. She first developed a way to read and write all body movements for dance. This became known as Sutton Movement Writing.

Sign Writing is one of the five movements of this writing. Ms. Sutton didnt get involved with Sign Language because she wanted to work with deafness. She believed that preserving languages for future generations was important. Ms. Sutton believed that when a language is written, it places it on equal footing with other written languages, which brings language attention and respect.

Sign Writing is not a language and was not designed to replace any language. It was developed to provide a written form for hundreds of languages that did not have any written form before. Some deaf people benefit from writing their native Sign Language because it is very different than any spoken language.

There are several ways to learn Sign Writing. A person can use free lessons online or there are plenty instructional videos, textbooks and dictionaries. There are also Sign Writing workshops that a person could attend. Sign Writing has been very controversial. Few people embraced the system at first. There are some who argue that signed languages do not need to be written.

Educators feared that it would deter the deaf from learning English and deaf community questioned Ms. Suttons motives. Little by little, despite the controversy, Sign Writing is gaining footholds in individual homes and classrooms all over the world. The program is now being used in 27 countries including South Africa, Japan, Italy, and Saudi Arabia.

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American Sign Language – Writing. (2018, Nov 17). Retrieved from