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Two-handed manual alphabet

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Title: Two-handed manual alphabet  
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Subject: Fingerspelling, BANZSL, History of the alphabet, Two-handed
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Two-handed manual alphabet

Several manual alphabets in use around the world employ two hands for some or all of the letters.

BANZSL alphabet

This alphabet is used in the BANZSL group of sign languages. It has been used in British Sign Language and Auslan since at least the 19th century, and in New Zealand Sign Language since the 1970s. In contrast, South African Sign Language uses a one-handed alphabet. Variations of this alphabet are also used in dialects of Indo-Pakistani Sign Language.


  • Signs may be made with the left or right hand as the dominant hand, but the roles do not usually switch when fingerspelling. The dominant hand generally acts as a pointer (or "pen") while the secondary hand acts as "paper".
  • The vowels A, E, I, O and U are formed by touching each digit respectively, starting with the thumb.
  • The letters C, D, J, K, P, Q, T, V, X, and Y make the shape of the letter itself.
  • The letters B, F, G, L, M, N, R, S, and W suggest the shape of the letter.
  • The letters G, L and R suggest only the lowercase form of the letter.
  • Only the letters H and Z do not have a strong relation to their shape or position in the alphabet.
  • Many letters appear backwards (for example, in right-handed fingerspelling, R and D often appears backwards to the viewer). This is not a mistake or a problem, and your signing does not need to be adjusted to compensate.

Deafblind alphabet

This is a variation on the above alphabet, modified for tactile use by those communicating with people who are deafblind.

The sender holds the wrist of the receiver. The receiver's hand is relaxed, with the palm open and fingers slightly apart. The signer uses their dominant hand like a pen to sign on the non-dominant hand of the receiver. As a beginner, you may squeeze the wrist of the receiver between words since you will spell haltingly. Once you can spell fluently, simply put a short pause between words. AEIOU are the pads of each finger, beginning with the thumb.

BANZSL "A" is signed on the tip of the thumb
The fingers and thumb are held together to form half of the BANZSL "B" and placed on the palm
Draw your finger along the edge of the thumb and up the index finger, alternatively the direction of the sweep can be reversed
The signer forms half of the BANZSL "D" with their dominant hand and places it against the recessive hand of the receiver; an alternative is to use the index and middle finger placed against the recessive hand

File:Two-hand manual.ogg

BANZSL "E" is signed on the tip of the index finger
Half of the BANZSL "F" is signed either on the palm or on the top of the receiver's index finger
Half of the BANZSL "G" is signed on the palm
BANZSL "H" is signed across the palm
BANZSL "I" is signed on the tip of the middle finger
BANZSL "J" is signed on the hand of the receiver
Half of the BANZSL "K" is signed on the first knuckle of the index finger
BANZSL "L" is signed on the palm
BANZSL "M" is signed on the palm
BANZSL "N" is signed on the palm
BANZSL "O" is signed on the tip of the ring finger
Pinch the pad and nail of the index finger (P for pinch)
Hook your curled index finger around the thumb
BANZSL "R" is signed on the palm
Hook your curled index finger around the little finger
BANZSL "T" is signed on the receiver's hand
BANZSL "U" is signed on the tip of the little finger
BANZSL "V" is signed on the palm
There are three ways to do this; all are acceptable, but your receiver might not know them all.
Interlace your fingers with theirs
Grab all their fingers from the side (if your hand is folded over, their index finger lies across the first knuckles of your hand)
Grab their fingers from the top (if your hand is folded over, their fingertips lay across the first knuckles of your hand)
Half of the BANZSL "X" is signed on the index finger
The index finger is used to sign a BANZSL "Y" on the hand of the receiver
The side of the palm is placed on the palm of the receiver

Turkish manual alphabet


  • Royal National Institute for the Deaf Animated Fingerspelling Page
  • British Sign Language font
  • British Fingerspelling keyboard

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