In deaf culture and sign language, a sign name (or a name sign) is a special sign that is used to uniquely identify a person, just like a name. In the American Deaf community, there are some special cultural rules around sign names; for example, they must be agreed upon by you and people in the Deaf community. This ensures that no one else in the community already has the same sign name, or that the same sign does not have a different meaning. Until a person receives a sign name, the person's name is usually fingerspelled.
In different cultures
Different deaf cultures appear to have different customs around sign names. For example, amongst the Deaf American community, sign names are usually subdivided into two naming systems: descriptive (DNS) and arbitrary (ANS). The DNS system manually illustrates physical features, while the ANS system is the first letter of their English name applied to one or more locations. An ANS sign is usually just a unique sign without other meaning, though their may be family patterns, such as all the children in a family having names signed at the chin.
In Swedish Sign Language and French Sign Language, it is the DNS system that dominates. In British Sign Language and Japanese Sign Language, people may be named with a lexical sign for something related to them. In JSL, sign names for males tend to be articulated with the thumb prominent, while in those for females the pinky tends to be prominent.
- BBC - Ouch! (disability) - Features - What's your Sign Name?
- "The Book of Name Signs" by Samuel James Supalla
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