Letter I in sign language

Like sign languages that are not a universal language, sign language alphabets are different throughout the world. Manual alphabets are used for fingerspelling a spoken/written word of spoken languages, such as personal names, brand names and others where there are no signs for them.

I letter in ASL alphabet

How do you form the letter I in American Sign Language (ASL)?

Definition: The ninth letter of the English alphabet and American manual alphabet, a vowel.

Pronunciation (sign description): With the dominant fist hand (in this case, right-handed), the pinkie is upright and the palm faces outward/left (natural orientation).


When fingerspelling a double letter, how to do fingerspell a word with the double letters? Like the letter J, there is a rare word with the double "i" in English. Supposedly, the loanword "shiitake" is fingerspelled. Sideways, tap, or bounce?

What is studied is usually looking at Deaf native signers in their natural everyday conversations in Deaf community. Since the double "i" letters are not commonly used, it's difficult to say. There is no one answer. For "bacchii" and "nauplii, most likely sideways. For "skiing" and "taxiing", repeat the "i" and maybe sideways in some contexts. As a native Deaf signer, we listen by the sound of it, not what "one says that or this". Just like why it's "a" in "a university" but not in "an university"? Hearing people sense it in their native language, not just because "an" must always come before any word with the initial vowel.

Baby signing I

In language development (phonological acquisition in particular), the handshape I in ASL-speaking toddlers doesn't emerge in ASL words with the handshape I until later, somewhere in the late phase of the whole handshape chart which contains over 50+ handshapes found in ASL, just like there are about 40-44 phonemes in English spoken language (vs 26 alphabetical letters in written English).

In a case study of baby Juli in my documentation, the handshape I emerged at age 2;9. Prior to the full-formed "I" at age 2;9, interestingly, she used the handshape T to help form I, which means a combination of T and I. Then, she was able to form the handshape "I" in the ASL word "drawing".

By age 3.5 to 5 or later, ASL-speaking deaf children and codas may be able to form all letters of the alphabet.

Vocabulary booster activity

Can you think of as many ASL signs with the handshape "I" (including J) as possible? It must be on the dominant hand regardless of one-handed or two-handed signs.


Some possible signs: LINE, IDENTITY, IDENTIFY, JUICE, SPAGHETTI, INSTITUTION, JUST (variation), IF (variation), IDEA, IMAGINE, IMMATURE, EGOISTIC ("I" on the chest), DRAWING...

Other manual alphabets

Here shows how to form "I" in British manual alpahbet.

Letter I in BSL
Letter I in BSL

In the BSL alphabet, the index finger of the dominant hand points to the middle finger of the non-dominant palm-up flat hand.

If you have noticed with the previous letter A and E. Each of the non-dominant fingers represents a vowel from the thumb to the pinkie in order: A, E, I, O, U.

Related words

Previous letter: H and next letter J.


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 I

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

Feeling lucky? Random word

Basic word starters: hello / learn / ASL / sign language / alphabet / love / I love you / please / thank you / welcome...

Search Tips and Pointers

Search/Filter: Enter a keyword in the filter/search box to see a list of available words with the "All" selection. Click on the page number if needed. Click on the blue link to look up the word. For best result, enter a partial word to see variations of the word.

Screenshot of dictionary search with notes
Screenshot of the search dictionary

Alphabetical letters: It's useful for 1) a single-letter word (such as A, B, etc.) and 2) very short words (e.g. "to", "he", etc.) to narrow down the words and pages in the list.

For best result, enter a short word in the search box, then select the alphetical letter (and page number if needed), and click on the blue link.

Screenshot of dictionary search with notes
Screenshot of the search dictionary

Don't forget to click "All" back when you search another word with a different initial letter.

If you cannot find (perhaps overlook) a word but you can still see a list of links, then keep looking until the links disappear! Sharpening your eye or maybe refine your alphabetical index skill. :)

Add a Word: This dictionary is not exhaustive; ASL signs are constantly added to the dictionary. If you don't find a word/sign, you can send your request (only if a single link doesn't show in the result).

Videos: The first video may be NOT the answer you're looking for. There are several signs for different meanings, contexts, and/or variations. Browsing all the way down to the next search box is highly recommended.

Video speed: Signing too fast in the videos? See HELP in the footer.

ASL has its own grammar and structure in sentences that works differently from English. For plurals, verb inflections, word order, etc., learn grammar in the "ASL Learn" section. For search in the dictionary, use the present-time verbs and base words. If you look for "said", look up the word "say". Likewise, if you look for an adjective word, try the noun or vice versa. E.g. The ASL signs for French and France are the same. If you look for a plural word, use a singular word.