Lesson 1-Fingerspelling Rules

1.1 Fingerspelliing Rules

A. Expressive Rules

1. When to fingerspell
* Proper nouns
* Words with no signs
* Technical vocabulary
* Specific nouns: “carpet,” “tool”
* Clarification
* Abbreviations/acronyms
* When you don’t know the sign

2. Correct hand position
* Held approximately between the chin and the
shoulder level
* Comfortable position; hand is not stiff
* Palm orientation out most of the time, or slightly
turned toward non-dominant side
* don’t bounce; keep ‘quiet’ visually

3. Mouthing
*Mouth the WHOLE word, not individual
* Fingerspelled words represent English
words, and the word spelled is commonly

4. Speed or clarity?
* Since clear communication is the goal,
clarity is more important than speed.

5. Double letters:
* The rules for double letters vary depending on the position in the word
* Typically double letters repeat at the beginning (Aaron) and in the middle of the word (Miller) move laterally at the end of the word (Bill)

B. Receptive Rules

1. Where to look:
* Look at the signer’s face, around the chin
* Never look at the signer’s hands

2. What to look for:
Look for the shape of the word by seeing he shape of the letters (tall, down, side or moving)
Tall letters: b, d, f, l, r, u, v, w
Down letters: p, q
Side letters: g, h
Moving letters: j, z and sometimes x

1.2 Strategies to Understanding Fingerspelling

Use clues based on context such as categories- e.g., fruit, cars, geographical locations – to narrow the word choice.

Look for restrictive clues- such as colors of the rainbow or types of Nissan cars – to borrow word possibilities

Look for the shape of the whole word rather than concentrating on each letter.

Use clues such as the configuration of the word and the context of the conversation to help “piece” the word together.
Catch whatever letters one sees, then use the above clues. Using closure allows you to “Fill in the gap,” so it is not necessary to see every letter. This process also allows you to grasp the meaning, even when the signal is not clear or inaccurate


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