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HAWAII: The American Sign Language (ASL) sign for "Hawaii"
Note: Starting in 2015 I noticed people starting to do the sign for Hawaii with an "index finger" handshape instead of an "H" handshape.   Out of context an INDEX-FINGER-(handshape) moving around the perimeter of the face is the FACE-(looks) sign and tends to mean "face" or "looks" as in "the appearance of something."   So, if you are going to do the INDEX-FINGER-(handshape) version of Hawaii -- make sure you have plenty of context or spell out Hawaii at the beginning of your conversation. - Dr. Bill


HAWAII-[non-initialized-version] / face / looks:



The sign for "Hawaii" has a couple of main versions.  One of the more popular and traditional versions is done by drawing a circle around your face with an "H" hand.  This likely has to do with the concept that Hawaii is a beautiful place.  Someone probably initialized the sign for PRETTY with an "H"-hand and the sign spread. 


Model: Byron Cantrell (Native Deaf, Deaf School/Georgia, Deaf wife, Deaf kids, long-time ASL instructor.)





Dr. Bill's Notes:
Memory aid: The signs for "pretty" and "beautiful" use a (somewhat) circular movement around the face. Hawaii is a "beautiful" place. This same approach is also used for the sign Monterey, California.



Regarding the sign for Hawaii:
The face-based versions of signs for Hawaii are associated with the traditional older / full version of the sign for "beautiful." Since people think Hawaii is beautiful, they stuck an "H" hand on the sign and circled the face. In other words, there is a version of the sign for Hawaii that is an initialized form of the sign for "beautiful."
Over time it became increasingly unpopular to use English initials on ASL signs and thus many signers started reducing or eliminating English influences on ASL whenever possible. Some signers don't care and resist the change - other signers push for such changes.

As an ASL researcher and lexicographer (dictionary maker) my goal for the "Signs" channel ( ) is to develop a sign language repository of versions. This sign bank is not instructional - it is referential. In addition to modern versions of signs the repository includes also includes some older or even archaic signs -- for discussion, historical, or development purposes. For example, if you are going to train AI (computers) to read signing -- it would be good for the computer to be able to read signing done by people of any age group -- including older signers who may use older versions of signs.

For best results, individual sign language learners are encouraged to develop friendships and relationships with adult, socially active, Deaf native ASL signers in your local area -- then use the versions used by the locals. Don't think of it as right or wrong but rather as more or less common for your area.



There is another sign for "Hawaii" that looks a bit like someone doing a hula dance. It is a legitimate and respected old sign. I wouldn't mark it "wrong" on an expressive test (though some teachers might). I might use the hula dance sign in "creative signing" situations though, (poems, plays, children's stories, etc.).
I personally don't use the "hula-version" simply because it takes two hands and is a little bit more work than just circling my face with an "H" or an "INDEX-finger."  The one-handed "H" around the face version is fast, easy, and previously well accepted in the Deaf community.  However since initialization (using the first letter of the English word for a sign as the handshape for the sign) has become associated with "Signed English" many ASL teachers and aficionados (people who are very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about an activity or subject) eschew (deliberately avoid using) initialization.  That means they go out of their way to NOT use "letters" as the handshapes for their signing.  
Note: John Feagans (who lives in Hawaii, travels frequently to Japan, and interacts with Deaf people in both places) wrote to tell me that "Oahu" (one of the Hawaiian islands) uses the circular movement around the face with an "O" handshape. John also noted that Japanese Deaf people (using Japanese Sign Language) prefer the "hula dance" version of the sign for Hawaii.



Hawaiian pizza [non-initialized-version]:


Sample sentence: Last week, the Hawaiian state legislature passed a bill that required movie theaters to provide open captions.



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