Lexicalized fingerspelling in American Sign Language (ASL) is a technique where fingerspelling is incorporated into the natural flow of sign language, taking on the characteristics of signs rather than strictly following the manual alphabet. This is in contrast to the more traditional use of fingerspelling, where each letter is spelled out individually using the manual alphabet.

Here are some key aspects of lexicalized fingerspelling in ASL:

Blending with Signs:

  • Lexicalized fingerspelling is often blended seamlessly with signs, creating a smoother and more natural signing flow.
  • The fingerspelled word takes on the movement and rhythm of a sign, making it look more like a cohesive part of the language rather than a distinct spelling gesture.

Reduction of Letters:

  • In lexicalized fingerspelling, some letters may be omitted or modified to increase efficiency and fluidity.
  • Commonly omitted letters include vowels and repetitive consonants. For example, in the word “school,” one might only fingerspell “s” and “l,” with the movement and position indicating the omitted letters.

Assimilation with Signs:

  • Lexicalized fingerspelling adapts to the surrounding signs, incorporating similar handshapes, locations, and movements.
  • The transition between signs and fingerspelled words is smoother, as the fingerspelled elements blend with the sign parameters.

Facial Expressions and Non-Manual Markers:

  • Facial expressions and non-manual markers are important in lexicalized fingerspelling. They help convey the tone, emotion, or emphasis associated with the fingerspelled word.
  • The facial expressions may also aid in distinguishing between signs and fingerspelled words, as well as indicating the grammatical or semantic context.


  • Lexicalized fingerspelling follows the general rules of ASL syntax. It is integrated into sentences and phrases in a way that makes grammatical sense.
  • The placement and movement of the fingerspelled word within the signing space adhere to ASL spatial grammar rules.

Common Examples:

  • Lexicalized fingerspelling is commonly used for frequently fingerspelled words or proper nouns. For instance, names of people, places, and certain technical or specialized terms may be lexicalized for efficiency.

Cultural Variations:

  • It’s worth noting that the degree to which fingerspelling is lexicalized can vary among individual signers and among regional variations within the Deaf community.


Here are some common examples:

  1. TV (Television): T and V handshapes moved in a circular motion.
  2. VIP (Very Important Person): V, I, and P handshapes with a distinct movement.
  3. OK: O and K handshapes with a nodding motion.
  4. BS (Bullshit): B and S handshapes with a shaking head motion.
  5. USA (United States of America): U, S, and A handshapes in a fluid motion.
  6. CD (Compact Disc): C and D handshapes moved together in a circular motion.
  7. ID (Identification): I and D handshapes with a specific movement.
  8. FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions): F, A, and Q handshapes with a repeated movement
  9. WiFi: W and F handshapes with a specific movement.
  10. CEO (Chief Executive Officer): C, E, and O handshapes with a distinguished movement.
  11. NBA (National Basketball Association): N, B, and A handshapes with a smooth motion.
  12. ABC (Alphabet): A, B, and C handshapes with a fluid movement.
  13. DIY (Do It Yourself): D, I, and Y handshapes with a repeated motion.
  14. TGIF (Thank God It’s Friday): T, G, I, and F handshapes with an expressive movement.
  15. FYI (For Your Information): F, Y, and I handshapes with a clear motion.
  16. PC (Personal Computer): P and C handshapes with a fluid motion.
  17. ATM (Automated Teller Machine): A, T, and M handshapes with a specific movement.
  18. Back: B into K
  19. Bank: B down into an N, and up for a K
  20. Burn: B U R N in a circular motion
  21. BUS: B U S in or without a circular motion
  22. FUN: F U N in a distinct movement
  23. GYM: G Y M in a distinct movement
  24. IF: I and F on palm-up
  25. Job: J O B in a circulation motion
  26. Style: S T Y L E in a circular motion
  27. Vegetable: V and G in a distinct motion

ASL is a visual language, and it is always better to try out some video. You can find a reference video here.


In summary, lexicalized fingerspelling in ASL involves incorporating fingerspelling into the flow of signs, adapting it for efficiency and natural expression. This technique enhances the fluidity and visual appeal of signed communication while maintaining adherence to ASL grammar and syntax.

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