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Script type
CreatorRobert Arnold
Time period
2003 – present
Related scripts
Parent systems
Child systems

si5s is a writing system for American Sign Language that resembles a handwritten form of SignWriting. It was devised in 2003 in New York City by Robert Arnold, with an unnamed collaborator.[1] In July 2010 at the Deaf Nation World Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada, it was presented and formally announced to the public. Soon after its release, si5s development split into two branches: the "official" si5s track monitored by Arnold and a new set of partners at ASLized, and the "open source" ASLwrite.[2] In 2015, Arnold had a falling out with his ASLized partners,[3] took down the website, and made his Twitter account private.[4] ASLized has since removed any mention of si5s from their website.

Arnold completed his master's thesis, "A Proposal Of the Written System For ASL", at Gallaudet University in 2007, looking at the need for a written form for ASL, and proposing the use of si5s. si5s stresses that the "written system is not to offer readers and scholars how sign language functions but how signers think and communicate in sign language."[This quote needs a citation] Its objective is to provide transparency between ASL, as a written language, and other written languages, to allow for a literary study of sign language without glossing. Arnold is currently a faculty member of the Sign Language & Interpreting program at Mt. San Antonio College.

Comparison of some ASL writing systems. SignWriting is at the far left, si5s to the right of it.


si5s and ASLWrite are built from five primary components:

  1. the digibet
  2. diacritics
  3. movement marks
  4. locatives
  5. extramanual marks

Not every component is needed for every word, but ASL employs each consistently.

At its core, any word written is built from the digibet bank and additional features are added. Words such as "I-LOVE-YOU" do not necessarily need anything more than its handshape, whereas others can employ each or nearly every component. Some words are in fact logographs such as "WHO" and "FOR-FOR".

To build a word, handshapes are bounded to locatives with diacritics and movement marks bounded to the handshape graphemes themselves. Extramanual marks are inserted above to the left or right of the word. As such, there is no set positioning or graphic orientation of the handshape or movement marks.


The core of the writing system, the digibet, represents many handshapes of ASL. They are conditioned by left-/right-handedness, orientation and relative location. There are 67 handshapes within the digibet as of yet.[5]


Diacritics mark movement of the hand itself such as a flutter in "FLIRT" or hinge in "YES" or "CAN". The diacritics are:[6]

  1. Hinge
  2. Rotational
  3. Rattle
  4. Flutter
  5. Edge

Movement marks

Movement marks indicate the movement of the word itself. Some movement marks are systematic, such as move outward, others are less so, such as "WALK-DRUNKENLY."


Locatives indicate when a word is bounded to the body (rather than produced in the signing space). They are subcategorised into two fields: frontal and profile.[7]

Extramanual marks

Extramanual features include facial configurations and body movements.

si5s/ASLwrite extramanual marks are subcategorised into four types: eyebrow marks, questioning marks, mouth morphemes and body movements.

In total, there are 30 extramanual marks.

See also



  1. ^ The napkin with the first scribbled notes
  2. ^ "ASLwrite History and FAQ". ASLwrite. Retrieved February 17, 2014.
  3. ^ "Need Online Computer Support? Ask a Computer Technician".
  4. ^ Robert Arnold Augustus on X
  5. ^ "Digibet". ASLwrite – Digibet. ASLwrite. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  6. ^ "Diacritics". ASLwrite. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  7. ^ "Locatives". ASLwrite – Locatives. ASLwrite. Retrieved 13 October 2016.