The SiLOrB transcription system divides the description of a sign into four parts: 1) hands, 2) location, 3) movement, and 4) non-manuals. (In the writing system and Dif0s, each of these parts describes a place on the grid.) Capital letter codes identify each section, followed by lowercase descriptors. Each descriptor is given in the order presented below, according to its category.

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Hands (D/ND)

Each hand can be described individually (e.g. D… ND…) if they have different features, or they can be described together (e.g. D/ND) in a symmetrical sign. Time features are used for signs in which the hands change shape or orientation during a sign. Repeated movement is specified in Movement (Mrep). Groups of fingers with the same shape can be described together (e.g. 01tc234+), and if a Value applies to all fingers and the thumb, fingers do not need to be specified (e.g. Dfu+). If a finger is left unspecified, the default Value is unextended (-). Note that inward and outward orientations reference a vertical center line (i.e. toward the opposite or same side as the hand), while forward and bodyward refer to the plane in front of the signer.

hand trans table

Pre-programmed handshapes (ASL alphabet)

Several shapes from the ASL fingerspelled alphabet are included in the transcription and Dif0s coding system as a type of shorthand. These refer to shape only; orientation is not specified.

asl shapes table
some line drawings courtesy of

Location: L (general)

By default, a location applies to both hands and the entire sign. These aspects only need to be specified if different from these defaults. The head and face are general spaces for larger signs, which can be further specified according to the following tables.

location trans table

Location: L…zero (torso)

Zero space positions correspond to the torso grid given below. The default position is neutral mid on the same side of the body as the hand being described.

zero trans table


Location: L…h (head)

Head and face positions correspond to the head grid given below. The default position in the in front of the head/face. Because head positions use coordinates like zero space positions, they are specified as Lh…, but face positions are unique and do not require ‘f’.

head trans table

Location: L… (face)

face trans table


Movement: M (part 1)

Again, if the hands perform the same movement, D/ND do not need to be specified. Note that inward and outward describe movement in reference to the center line, while left and right are used when the hands move in the same direction. Directions can be combined to describe diagonals (e.g. uo: up and out), sequences (e.g. u+o: up then out), or oscillation (e.g. ud: up and down).

movement trans table1

Movement: M (part 2)

movement trans table2

Examples (see examples page for videos and full transcriptions)

exs mvmt

Non-manuals: NM (face)

nonmanual trans table1

Non-manuals: NM (non-facial)

nonmanual trans table2

Examples (see examples page for videos and full transcriptions)

exs nm