ASL Rhyme in "Spring Dawn"

By Jolanta Lapiak

The artist myself translated the poem below into ASL. This poem was written originally by Meng Hao-jan in Chinese. It was translated into English (by unknown), and as it was again translated, interesting rhymes have arisen by the artist myself.

Sleeping in spring, unaware of the dawn,
Then everywhere I hear birds singing.
Last night, the sound of wind and the rain --
Flowers have fallen, I wonder how many.
-- English translation

Photograph art by Jolanta Lapiak at

In my early days, I experimented different ways of "arche-writing" ASL from video to photograph. Six years later, I learned of the emerging ASL writing system called si5s. I deciced to revisit this work and wrote in ASL.

ASL written by Jolanta Lapiak at

One can easily recognize and analyze rhymes in the ASL poem across the flat surface in ASL writing. Alternatively, see the video below for illustration.

Handshape rhymes

If you look closer, you can see the rhymes in this ASL version. Based on the image above, read from the top to the bottom, from the left to the right, counting 19 ASL words/signs.

In the first line (from top to bottom), the first two ASL signs spring and sleep-in respectively have the same handshape rhyme and the next two signs sunrise/dawn and unaware again contain the same handshape.

The signs #6 birds and #7 sing have the same rhyme handshape as the #8 classifier-bird-singing and #9 all-over/everywhere.

The signs #5 and #10 are different but the meanings are smiliar: hear as in listening and hear as in receiving news. Although the handshape is not same, this is the location rhyme.

The handshape rhyme of the signs #11 last and #12 night both are the same, in which the hands are slightly bent. The signs #13 winds and #14 rains contain the same handshape, which is straight open.

The #15 flower is a noun along with the #16 which is a classifier/verb predicate classifier-flower-falling-down.

Skip the sign #17 which was added in the art print, originally not found in video. The last two signs #18 how-many and #19 think-about (also wonder/ponder) both have the same handshapes which contain two parts in these signs: close-fingers and open hand.

The video and photograph print are available for purchase upon request via email.

Gloss the original

Now let's look at the original poem in Chinese written by Meng Hao-jan and look at the English glosses of the Chinese characters below handwritten by myself.

Read each line from the top to bottom, from the right to the left.

SPRING, SLEEPING, NOT, FEEL/AWARE (from top to bottom, starting from the right)

Remember that glosses don't always tell grammatical rules of the language. Grammar is perfect in Chinese but not when glossed in English. Glosses only help identify what characters are. That goes the same for ASL.

Compare Chinese and Ameslan/ASL

It has been said that grammar in ASL is closer to that of Japanese or Chinese than English. Chinese in its written form and ASL in the verbal form share the medium: visual-spatial, unlike other phonetic languages.

Also see Calligraphy in sign language.