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American Annals of the Deaf

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The American Sign Language
Handshape Dictionary

Richard A. Tennant and
Marianne Gluszak Brown

Illustrated by Valerie Nelson-Metlay

View select illustrations.


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“The first reference source that allows users to access ASL signs without previous knowledge of their English equivalents (far superior to those in most other English-ASL glossaries). Likely to become indispensable on many educators’ and students’ bookshelves.”


“Look up the sign, find the word! It presents students, sign-language teachers, and Deaf people alike with a genuinely innovative resource to hone communication skills in both ASL and English.”

--Deaf Life

  • Illustrations of More than 1,600 Signs
    Arranged by Handshape for Easy Identification
  • Complete Index of English Vocabulary for All Signs
  • An Introduction to Deaf Culture and ASL Structure

Now, students of American Sign Language can look up specific signs without needing to know their meaning in English beforehand by using The American Sign Language Handshape Dictionary. This unique, two-way sign language dictionary can help users locate a sign whose meaning they have forgotten, or help them find the meaning of a new sign they have just seen for the first time. Instead of offering a conventional alphabetical arrangement of English words and their corresponding signs, The ASL Handshape Dictionary organizes more than 1,600 ASL signs by 40 basic handshapes and includes detailed descriptions on how to form each sign to represent the varying terms that it might mean.

In easy-to-follow style, The ASL Handshape Dictionary introduces how signs are used in ASL structure and presents clear, explicit directions on how to identify a sign and its meaning in the specific context of its use. ASL students can track down almost any sign by employing a logical process of elimination, starting with whether the sign in question is made with one hand or two. Further distinctions of handshape, palm orientation, location, movement, and other nonmanual body signals help them to pinpoint their search while also refining their grasp of ASL syntax and grammar. A complete English word index provides the option of referring to an alphabetical listing of English terms to locate an equivalent sign or choice of signs. The uncommon balance of cross-reference features in The American Sign Language Handshape Dictionary presents students, sign language teachers, and Deaf people alike with a genuine two-language resource that enhances the opportunity to hone communication skills in both modes.

Richard Tennant, a former mathematics teacher who has studied American Sign Language extensively, resides in Acra, NY.

Marianne Gluszak Brown, is an American Sign Language Teacher’s Association (ASLTA) professionally certified interpreter and a child of deaf parents (coda) who works in Palisades, NY.

ISBN 978-1-56368-043-4, 7 x 10 casebound, 408 pages, sign illustrations, index


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