Writing Levels

A large part of ASL is pantomime with handshapes that represent puppets.  The sign for CAR is a 3 handshape with the thumb pointed up.  The hand becomes the car driving down the street, stopping for a red light, turning left at the intersection, bending the fingers in a crash, and so on.  These action words can be created on the spot with any actor or object handshape as long as they expect the audience will understand.  Therefore many of these kind of signs will not appear in any dictionary.

Transcribing ASL is more like writing a script for a play than writing down both sides of a conversation.  Written English uses narrator descriptions of the action on stage separate from the actors' lines.  An ASLSJ transcription will likely need something similar to convey an ASL story.

A written language has different rules than an natural language.  Writing helps us to store ideas, but ideas on paper cannot be shared unless the reader is already fluent in the language.  You have to know the history context and cultural values of the story writer.

Just remember that learning to read does not automatically translate into understanding the language.  Writing and speaking are related, but don't necessarily match each other.

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