Language Parameters

Language Parameters

Parameters of sign language are similar to speech sounds in spoken language. Changes in the parameter means that a different sign is produced in the same way that a change in sound means that a different word is being said. The 5 parameters of signed languages are explained below.

Handshape:

  • Shape of the hand when a sign is produced.
  • Hands are labelled dominant and non-dominant based on your handedness. If you write with your right hand, your dominant hand is the right hand.
  • Handshape(s) may change when producing a sign.
A
Open A
B
Open B
Bent B
C
D
E
F
Spread F
Open F
G
H
I
I-L
K
L
Curved-L
M
Open M
N
O
Open N
Flat-O
Spread O
Baby O
R
S
T
V
Curved V
W
X
Y
1
3
Curved 3
4
5
Closed 5
Curved 5
8
Open 8
Spread 8

Orientation:

  • Direction in which the palm is facing with relation to the body, when making a sign.​
  • Palm may be facing in, out, sideways, up, or down. There are also signs whereby the hands are positioned diagonally.​
  • Orientation may change when making a sign.​

Location:

  • Signs are made within a signing space, usually from slightly above the head to the waist. This parameter refers to the location of the hand when signing within this space.
  • These are the locations where signs are expressed:
    • Head
    • Neck
    • Body
    • Arm
    • Non-dominant Hand
    • Neutral Space
  • Location may change when producing a sign.

Movement:

  • Way in which signs move when produced.
  • There are 3 types of movement:
    • Through a path whereby the hand moves to a different location.
    • Local movement at the hand and wrist.
    • Movement at the fingers.
  • Not all signs involve movement.

Non-manual Markers (NMM):

  • Grammatical and semantic features of sign language beyond the hand.
  • Features include:
    • Facial Expressions
    • Mouthing
    • Head movement
    • Body movement