Y in sign language

The manual alphabets are used for fingerspelling spoken or written words of a spoken language, people's names, titles, brand names, etc. Or, sometimes fingerspelling is used to specify a word of a spoken/written language even if there is a signed word for it.

Signed languages are not a universal language; they are independent from spoken languages. Provided with the right education, most Deaf people as well as deaf children are bilingual from early age.

Letter Y in ASL alphabet

How do you say the letter "Y" in American Sign Language?

Definition: The 25th letter of the English alphabet and American manual alphabet, a consonant.

Pronunciation (sign description): Dominant "Y" hand held in space with the palm facing outward. The "Y" handshape consists of the thumb and the pinkie extended while the three fingers are folded on the palm.

Fingerspelling Y

In cursive fingerspelling, the letter Y tends to be firm in its position, thus affecting the other letters before and after it (co-articulation).

For the double letters of Y, use the bounce. Maybe sideways, in some cases. For the standalone "YY", bounce only.

Kids signing Y

Unlike the "1" handshape, the thumb and the pinkie are difficult to manipulate in the early language acquisition in a signed language.

For example, in my documentation of bilingual ASL-speaking Juli's language development from birth, the toddler formed the handshape Y at ease in ASL words YELLOW at age 2;8 and later in STAY and NOW. A month later, she formed the letter "I" completely at age 2;9 as in DRAWING.

Children develop at different pace. It's possible that the handshape Y precedes I or vice versa, since both are very close in the timeline and they share a similar characteristics of handshape with a similar requirement of control (proximalization).

At a preschool age, ASL-speaking preschoolers may be able to fingerspell the whole alphabet with correct handshapes for all letters of the alphabet.

Handshape Y activity game

List as many ASL words that start with the handshape Y as you can before you take a peer some possible words below. It doesn't matter if ASL signs are one-handed or two-handed as long as the Y handshape is on the dominant hand.



Other manual alphabets

Here shows the letter Y in British manual alphabet which is part of British Sign Language (BSL) -- the language of Deaf people in the U.K., Australian Sign Language (Auslan) of the Deaf people in Australia, and New Zealand (NZSL) in New Zealand.

Letter Y in BSL
Letter Y in BSL

In the two-handed BSL alphabet for the Y letter, the top of the dominant "1" handshape with the palm facing left (if right-handed) rests on the back of the non-dominant flat hand between the forefinger and thumb. The dominant forefinger brushes downward the backside of the non-dominant hand.

French Sign Language (LSF) in France and ASL share the similar manual alphabet, but these sign languages are very different languages, even though Old ASL was the descendant of Old LSF.

Related links

Previous letter: X and next letter Z.


Written ASL

[Note: ASL writing is not an official standard. This sign language writing remains in a state of open space to allow room for experiment, evolution, and improvement.]

How to write ASL for letter Y

Written ASL digit for the alphabetical letter Y. [Contributed by ASLwrite, 2019]

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