Documentation of the sandbox in sign language writing digits

The ASLwrite system of the ASL writing was initiated and developed by Adrean Clark. We have a wonderful community of Deaf contributors to the ASLwrite system by using and testing it.

Eventually, some brainstorming ideas lead to the adopted digits. Some digits were reformed in a subset system while many others remain the same since their first creations.

April 30, 2020 -- This is a work in progress.

The Colanta

Colanta the Jolanta Circle
Changed a subset system

In April 2015, I proposed a change in the circle and semi-circle systems from the old digit subset to a new subset which worked better. It was tested and agreed to be efficient. Adrean Clark called it "Jolanta Circle" or adorably termed it "Colanta".

Colanta the Jolanta Circle
Changed a subset system

In June 2015, this was posted to the FB community page with the message: I was trying to figure out the relationship between the handshapes using fingers in 'closed' forms and the handshapes using "small circles". E.g. 'D' and 'd' (baby D) handshapes (not including the "1"). "whole C" and "small c" (baby C); whole "O" and small 'o' (baby O), and "flat o" (as in bird), G, open "NO", and whole 'G". Excuse my ugly handwritten.

Colanta the Jolanta Circle
Posted by Adrean Clark, June 30, 2015

Discussion eventually led to omitting the little arc. Since then, this subset is called the Jolanta Circle or Colanta, termed by Adrean Clark.

handshape digithandshape digithandshape digit

Adapted Claw 1

handshape digithandshape digithandshape digit
Glossed as 1-claw

The second variation emerged in 2015(?) when I wrote my name sign in ASL. The "1-claw" digit naturally occurred because of the constant style with the first digit (upright "1"). It appeared acceptable to the community. I do use both digits, depending on contexts.

3-handshape digits

handshape digithandshape digit
handshape digit
handshape digit
handshape digithandshape digit

The Claw Five

handshape digithandshape digit
Left: original 5-claw; right: experimental 5-claw.
Experimented claw-5 handshape in ASL writing
Experimented by Jolanta, 2017

Experimented with the "claw" handshapes including handshapes 2, 5, L, etc. in 2017.

The Number 7

The number SEVEN is one of the few most difficult, if not the most difficult, marked handshapes in language acquisition and is one of few least used. In fact, there is nearly no signs with the handshape 7 other than the number itself! Interestingly, in my ASL writing exploration, I find that developing a good digit for SEVEN was much more difficult than modifying other digits.

handshape digithandshape digit
Experimented in ASL writing for SEVEN
Explored digits for SEVEN by Jolanta, November 2017

Proposed a digit for SEVEN in November/December 2017.

The Fist Subset

Fist digits in ASL
Proposed by Jolanta Lapiak, April 2015.

In April 2015, for the T, N, and M, I proposed some suggestions for the T, N, M in constant line concepts with the subset of "FIST" handshapes, as well as something modified for E. Those handshapes are called "Fist" in the Signing Naturally Unit 1-6 book. So, I wanted to maintain the constant of digits in the "fist" (thus round) form.

Based on the handshape T (left), the concept of the consist pattern with T, N, M emerged with a short line across the circle.

Fist digits in ASL
Posted by Stuart Thiessen, August 2015. Originally proposed by John Escobedo, June 2015
handshape digithandshape digit
Digits N and M

While it's another interesting idea, it diverts from the constant of the "fist" essence. It's up to the community through usage.

ASL digitASL digitASL digitASL digit
Modified T, N, M, E.

Adrean Clark made a suggestion in her comment that she would write the line through the circle as illustrated above. She modified the E as shown above.

ASL digit
Variation by Jolanta Lapiak, 2018(?)

The reason for the evolution of this "E" digit is to cut down to one stroke compared to two strokes in the other digit.


enso in ASL writing
Written by Jolanta Lapiak, August 2015

In relation to the "fist" handshape subset above, this image is inspired by the Japanese word ensō. Interestingly, the English alphabetical letters are in the "fist" group as well, even though ASL and English are independent languages. It looks harmoninous.

"In Zen Buddhism, an ensō (円相 , "circle"?) is a circle that is hand-drawn in one or two uninhibited brushstrokes to express a moment when the mind is free to let the body create. The ensō symbolizes absolute enlightenment, strength, elegance, the universe, and mu (the void). It is characterised by a minimalism born of Japanese aesthetics." - wikipedia

Experimenting with spatial reference in ASL writing

Experimenting with digits: a sandbox