Handshape parameter in sign language

The five parameters (handshape, movement, location, palm orientation, and non-manual signal) are the smallest units of sign language. I.e. A single ASL word/sign is made up of the five parameters. Each parameter has a set of primes.

How many handshapes are there in ASL? Originally, the Dictionary of American Sign Language by Stokoe et al. listed 19 handshape primes in the 1960s. Over time, ASL linguists listed over 50 handshapes. There is no consensus on the specific number of handshapes. Generally speaking, there is over 50 handshape primes.

ASL handshape chart

The handshape system of the "Handspeak handshape chart" below was developed by Jolanta Lapiak for the reverse dictionary in early 2000s and occasionally modified since then. E.g. baby 0's have been moved to 20. The chart is for a general illustration.

0-num

ASL / sign language handshape chart
opinion
nothing

0-flat

ASL / sign language handshape chart
food/eat

1-num

ASL / sign language handshape chart
for
think

1-claw

ASL / sign language handshape chart ASL / sign language handshape chart
apple
key
recently
suspicious

1-d

ASL / sign language handshape chart
dating

1-i

ASL / sign language handshape chart
idea
if

2-num

ASL / sign language handshape chart
see
twice

2-bend (N)

ASL / sign language handshape chart
niece/nephew

2-claw

ASL / sign language handshape chart
doubt
gum

2-close

ASL / sign language handshape chart
knife
name

2-cross

ASL / sign language handshape chart
rocket
realize

3-num

ASL / sign language handshape chart
lousy
awkward

3-claw

ASL / sign language handshape chart
bug
mischievous

3-close

ASL / sign language handshape chart
funny
rabbit

3-flat

ASL / sign language handshape chart
no
duck

3-k

ASL / sign language handshape chart

4-num

ASL / sign language handshape chart
leak
envious

4-close

ASL / sign language handshape chart
beer
know-that

4-claw

ASL / sign language handshape chart

5-num

ASL / sign language handshape chart
parent
finish

5-close


school
please

5-claw

ASL / sign language handshape chart
mad
grumpy

5-half

ASL / sign language handshape chart
video-recording
experience

5-bend

ASL / sign language handshape chart
seem
forget
tired

5-c

ASL / sign language handshape chart
look-for
complain

6-num

ASL / sign language handshape chart
wine

6-claw

ASL / sign language handshape chart
weird

6-inverse (y)

ASL / sign language handshape chart
forever

7-num

ASL / sign language handshape chart
nerd

7-8

ASL / sign language handshape chart
hippopotamus

8-num

ASL / sign language handshape chart
silver
melon

8-inverse

ASL / sign language handshape chart
enmity

8-open

Fingerspelling A
advantage
touch

9-num

Fingerspelling A
fruit
sewing

10-num

ASL / sign language handshape chart
girl
sports

10-a

ASL / sign language handshape chart
aunt

10-s

ASL / sign language handshape chart
bicycle
work

10-t

ASL / sign language handshape chart
teenage

20-num

ASL / sign language handshape chart ASL / sign language handshape chart
bird
gossip

1-thumb (L)

ASL / sign language handshape chart
later
law

20-claw

ASL / sign language handshape chart

20-g

ASL / sign language handshape chart
nut (as in pea-brained)

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