Writing systems for sign language: resources

Image above: ASL written by Jolanta Lapiak

Is there a writing system that represents a signed language? Signed language always has its potential until the emergences of a few writing systems in the early 21st century.

There are about 6800 (spoken) languages in the world (Grimes 2000), yet a small percentage of these have their writing systems. The majority of them is an oral tradition. Like the majority of spoken languages around the world, sign language had no written form until a recent time; although, there had been some attempts to develop writing systems over the past centuries.

In 2017, Adrean Clark found an interesting paragraph from Alexander G. Bell (1847-1922)'s controversial "Memoir upon the formation of a Deaf Variety of the Human Race" (1884, Washington, D.C.) paper and posted it on her Facebook page:

"Another method of consolidating the deaf and dumb into a distinct class in the community would be to reduce the sign-language to writing, so that the deaf-mutes would have a common literature distinct from the rest of the world. Such a species of writing would constitute a form of ideography like the Egyptian hieroglyphics. This, I understand, has already been accomplished by the late Mr. George Hutton, of Ireland, afterwards principal of the Institution for the Deaf and Dumb in Halifax, Nova Scotia.* The full publication of his method was prevented by his premature death; but a committee was appointed by the Indianapolis Convention of American Instructors of the Deaf and Dumb, to act in conjunction with his successor and son, Mr. J. Scott Hutton, to attempt the recovery of the system from the posthumous papers of Mr. George Hutton. I have not yet seen the report of the committee. " (via OpenLibrary)

Resource: Bell, Alexander Graham's paper: (Note that, AGB is much unloved by Deaf people for his eugenic movement.)

Stuart Thiessen found the passage in the American Annals of the Deaf, Volume 43. This is a screenshot of what Google showed: Mimography by Hutton

Related posts

ASL writing dictionary at


Clark, Adrean. "ASLwrite."