Deaf scientists who use American Sign Language (ASL) need to be able to communicate specialized concepts with ease. Because deaf individuals — here we use ‘deaf’ broadly to refer to the full kaleidoscope of deaf experiences — have historically been under-represented in science, the linguistic capabilities of ASL have yet to be fully explored for scientific discourse. As a consequence, deaf scientists may not have the necessary tools to effectively articulate their work. Nowadays, with improved educational opportunities and communication access, there are more deaf ASL users who are experts in scientific fields. Through their scientific work, these researchers finally have opportunities to expand ASL by incorporating new technical signs and experimenting with best practices for communication. In this Viewpoint, four deaf scientists — a quantum physicist, a marine ecologist, an immunologist and an organic chemist — discuss their experiences in developing scientific lexicons and the resulting shift in their science communication.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution
Access Nature and 54 other Nature Portfolio journals
Get Nature+, our best-value online-access subscription
$29.99 / 30 days
cancel any time
Subscribe to this journal
Receive 12 digital issues and online access to articles
$119.00 per year
only $9.92 per issue
Rent or buy this article
Prices vary by article type
Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout
The authors declare no competing interests.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Supplementary Video 1 Existing and new alternative signs for “electron”. On the more utilitarian side of the spectrum, electron is sometimes signed along the lines of “E-minus” (Signs #1 and #2). On the more artistic side, some signs for electron evoke the particle orbiting an atomic nucleus by having either the letter “E” (Sign #3) or one finger (Sign #4) going around a balled fist. The new alternative sign is an index finger wiggling up and down.
Supplementary Video 2 Existing sign for “ecosystem”. The existing sign combines the letter “E”, the letter “C”, the letter “O”, and the word “system”.
Supplementary Video 3 New alternative sign for “ecosystem”. The new alternative sign depicts a community with all parts interrelated.
Supplementary Video 4 Existing signs for “states of matter”. Existing signs for the three basic states (gas, solid, liquid) are initialized and disjunct. Signs did not exist for the phase changes between these three states.
Supplementary Video 5 New alternative signs for “states of matter”. The new alternative signs include individual signs for the three basic states (gas, solid, liquid) as well as the six phase changes between them (melting/freezing, evaporation/condensation, sublimation/deposition). All of these signs use the same root sign and have proper movements that reflect the relationships among the states and phase changes.
About this article
Cite this article
Lualdi, C.P., Spiecker, B., Wooten, A.K. et al. Advancing scientific discourse in American Sign Language. Nat Rev Mater 8, 645–650 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41578-023-00575-9