T in sign language

This word entry contains the letter T in ASL, BSL, and its variant; T in baby signing, and related links.

Letter T in ASL

How to form the alphabetical letter T in American Sign Language.

Meaning: The 20th letter of the English alphabet, a consonant.

Pronunciation (sign description): Dominant fist with the thumb protruding through the web between forefinger (index finger) and middle finger.

The letter T is used often in fingerspelling, such as people's names, spoken words, etc.

Some (not all) signed languages in Europe use a similar manual alphabet as the American manual alphabet; even though, signed languages are distinctly different. One of the minor differences is the letter T.

Deaf people in Europe use the adapted T handshape as illustrated in the video above, because the American version has an another meaning in Europe.

T in baby signing

The T handshape is one of a large number of marked handshapes, which is difficult to form for ASL-speaking babies until about 24 months or so, just like some spoken sounds are difficult to acquire until later months.

In my case study of baby Juli, my documentation shows that she began to form the letter T at age 2;2. Around this time, she could wiggle her thumb in the ASL word "turtle". But, she comfortably formed T at age 2;7 in such ASL words as #TV and TOILET.

This milestone is in conjunction with linguistics studies in ASL language acquisition that the letter T emerges somewhere, if I recall right, in the middle range of the chart of handshapes.

This might surprise many people that thumb is not as easy to manipulate for babies as the fingers in sign language. Juli didn't use the thumb in MOTHER until the similar timeline as TURTLE and letter T. This topic is related to the study of "proximalization".

In contrast, the unmarked handshape "baby-O" (what looks like "20") emerged at about 13 months as found in EYEGLASSES, WATER, EAT (all handshape error) before she formed the correct handshapes for these words at later months.

By age 3 and half, an ASL-speaking child may be able to fingerspell the whole alphabet A to Z with the correct handshapes.

Vocabulary activity with "T"

Can you find ASL signs with the handshape "T" as many as you can?


Relatively very few -- TOILET, letter T (ha), PERIOD-of-time (variation), TEMPLE (variation), TAN, TURKEY (old, possibly obsolete)...

T in BSL

Some different signed languages in different countries share the similar manual alphabets with a few minor differences. And, some countries have both different manual alphabets and distinct signed languages.

T in BSL
T in BSL

While the Commonwealth nations share the same spoken language -- English, the signed languages in these countries are different with their own roots of history. Not only British Sign Language (BSL) and American Sign Language (ASL) differ from each other, their manual alphabets are distinct as well.

Related words

Previous letter: S and next letter U.

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 T

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

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