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American Sign Language: "letter of the alphabet"

In everyday life with everyday people if for some reason your signing partner needs to express the concept of "letter" as in "a letter of the alphabet," there is more than a small chance that he or she will do the sign for "letter" as in a piece of mail.  (See: "LETTER-(mail).")  It is also likely the "LETTER-(mail)" sign used will be a version in which both the dominant and non-dominant hands are in "A" handshapes. This is a natural evolution of the citation form of the sign in which the non-dominant hand is a "flat-hand" (or a "B"-hand) wherein the flat hand represents an envelope and the dominant "A"-hand represents the placing of a "stamp" onto an envelope.


I'm not going to debate the right or wrongness of using a version of the "LETTER-(mail)" sign to mean "LETTER-of-the-alphabet)."  Whether it is wrong or right is simply a question of "Does a substantial number of native Deaf adult members of the Deaf Community recognize and use the sign."

What I will do here however is show you a specialized sign that may be helpful for English classrooms. By "English classrooms" I mean Deaf Education environments in which Deaf students are studying English.  In such classes the teacher and students may find it useful to have a sign which clearly and specifically refers to a "letter of the alphabet" rather than "a piece of mail."

For that purpose there is an initialized sign based on the sign for "word" wherein you do the sign WORD but you swap out the regular "G" dominant handshape for an "L" handshape.

To sign "letter" touch the tip of the thumb of the dominant "L" hand to the tip of the non-dominant index finger. Use a small double motion. The non-dominant hand stays stationary, the dominant hand moves.

LETTER-of alphabet:

See: LETTER-(mail)

Also see: WORD

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