Shortcuts to writing wh-questions in ASL

These shortcut digits show you how to write eight wh-questions in ASL (American Sign Language) writing.

how to write wh-questions in ASL
Source: Adrean Clark, How to Write American Sign Language (2012), p 54. Pdf available at

It may appear to be a bit overwhelming for some learners. But, when you take a closer look, they would make sense. Think of the mnemonics:

All of them have the similar pattern, "V". In ASL writing, there are digits for eyebrows raised and furrowed as well as other upper facial markers. These similar patterns of the shape "V" with two dots below it represents eyebrows.

Next, the cleverly marked round correlates with the typical mouth morpheme for WHO (with the "oo" mouth morpheme). The straight slash for WHAT feels straightforward. The piggy tail for WHEN relates to the movement of the ASL sign WHEN. The rattle movement mark for WHERE is self-explanatory (if you know the sign for WHERE).

The back and forth movement for WHICH is clearly connected to the movement of the ASL word WHICH. The rest of them feels or looks "onomatopoeic", too.

They are quite clever digits. And fun. Now you can practice writing. Copy and write them.