So, What Do You Need to Know About ASL Name Signs? Workshop by Professor Andrew Byrne

Hunter Spanjer signing his name. Image courtesy of Huffington Post.

This workshop presented by Professor Andrew Byrne during Deaf Awareness week at Lamar University, Beaumont, Texas, featured a fascinating description about the linguistic structure, origin and history of the process of “naming” in the Deaf community. Professor Byrne stated that there are many errors made by hearing people who assign name signs to deaf children that are not linguistically accurate. He emphasized that name signs should always be given to hearing persons by a member of the Deaf community. Using the history of his own Deaf family, the families of his Deaf colleagues and the work of the Deaf linguist, Dr. Sam Supalla of the University of Arizona, in the “The Book of Names Signs: Naming in the Deaf Community,” (published by Dawn Sign Press. 1992), Professor Byrne described the two broad categories and the nine different rules that should be followed in assigning name signs.

Lamar University
Lamar University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In his workshop, Professor Byrne stressed the notion that name signs have high value and are used for identification purposes within the Deaf community. The name signs mark the person’s membership in the Deaf community for a lifetime. Name signs signal respect for Deaf heritage. Those interested in more information about name signs can read Dr. Sam Supalla’s book or contact Professor Byrne in the Dept of Deaf Studies/Deaf Education at Lamar.

8 thoughts on “So, What Do You Need to Know About ASL Name Signs? Workshop by Professor Andrew Byrne

    1. During Professor Byrne workshop, we found out that several deaf students had “inappropriate name signs,” some of which were given to them by deaf people!


      1. How interesting. I’ve always used the one Tom gave me, simply because that’s what he called me. It was Tom’s shorthand for me. Maybe a “home sign”? I’ve been told not to give anyone a name, to let it come from the Deaf Community. That being said, sometimes I get tired of spelling things out and will shorten a name – my trainer I is Julio. I call him Jo – rather like the shortened form of job. But that’s just me getting his attention. Home sign, I suppose. It is so loud in the gym that he can see me sign Jo as easily – or moreso – than hear me. It works for us. 🙂


      2. BTW, Julio is not deaf or HoH, but he has a Deaf community client too. So I’ve taught him enough sign to get by. He loves it. Who knows, maybe someday he’ll really get with the program and we’ll have another signer in the world


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