Sign Can You  
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Components of Sign


It’s difficult to see detail when viewing something for the first time, especially something as complicated as Sign. There are fingers, hands, arms, cheeks, lips, eyebrows moving every which way, continuously and simultaneously. How does one make sense of it all? What constitutes a sign?

Signs have four components, each having a limited range of possibilities. These components will give you something to focus on. Other than facial expression, the components of a sign are:


      ASL sign illustration video - SIGN                    

1. Hand shape
2. Hand orientation
3. Location
4. Movement


Each component contributes meaning to a sign. Change any component, and the meaning of a sign could drastically change. We’ll see a few examples along our way. Focus on these four components when viewing the DVD, and be as precise as possible when reproducing them.

Sign is a visual language that moves in its own space, defined by the limits of our bodies. While the arms may extend to their full range, they’re generally limited from above the head to below the chest, and from elbow to elbow. This limited range is easy to see while gazing at the signer’s face.

This last point needs emphasizing. When viewing someone sign, we gaze at his or her face, and view the signs by way of our peripheral vision. There’s more information on the face and body than on the hands.

One more thing to be aware of is that we have two sides, right and left, but we’ll call them dominant and subordinate. The dominant side is generally the one moving. It’s usually the signer’s strong side, be it right or left. All the illustrations are of right–handed people. If you’re left handed you may be more comfortable using your left as the dominant side. The important thing is to pick a dominant side, and stick with it.

                ASL sign illustration video - THINGS
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