Learn Auslan – Depicting Signs

Depicting signs are a linguistic concept that are not used in English. Other foreign languages use them, however. A foreign language which lacks a word for oven may use a depicting sign to describe it: “The hot box with the door in front.”

Auslan uses depicting signs frequently. They are known as CL (fingerspelled) for short. There are two types of depicting signs – proform and descriptive.

Descriptive depicting signs use the hands and face to show what things look like. Try signing:

• Various objects around the room
• A dog
• A man you know
• A pattern

Try drawing on paper shapes that are described in the air. Think about showing proportion and distance, by leaving one hand to show the location of the last element you described.

(Sorry, there’s no video yet to show descriptive classifiers. I hope to make one later.)

Proform depicting signs are used for people, animals and vehicles. Unlike descriptive depicting signs, they are predefined and must be learnt like vocab. They are used to show how people, animals and vehicles interact with each other and the world around them. In this video, I show you the depicting signs for people, animals and vehicles:

Proform depicting signs:

• Person (the area of your pointer finger from which you would take a fingerprint is considered the face of the person, and the fingernail area is considered to be the back of the head. In this video the person is facing sideways.)
• Animal (the finger tip is considered to be the head of the animal).
• Vehicle (car, truck, bike, motorbike. Again, the fingertips represent the front of the vehicle.)

I also show you how you might use these depicting signs to depict:

• A car crash (sorry, my signing here is a bit fractured)
• A woman walking her dog (you can see by my facial expression that the dog wasn’t meant to run ahead!)
• A motorbike stopping suddenly
• Two people meeting

When a depicting sign is used, it is important to identify what you are talking about first. You can’t hold up one finger and have the other person assume it is a person – you must first say who the person is.

Practise signing with proform and descriptive depicting signs, to show:

• two animals playing together
• two people talking and someone going off in a huff
• two cars racing, one sometimes getting ahead, and then the other

3 thoughts on “Learn Auslan – Depicting Signs

  1. Jacqueline morris

    Hi Asphyxia – I enjoy all your videos. I wanted to ask you – do you know of anyone that will give private auslan teachings in my own home. Or theirs if close to Helensvale. I am doing this on my own but feel I need someone to help me. I am 70 years old deaf and want to learn auslan so much. My husband is not in the least interested in helping me learn.
    Look forward to a reply. Thank you.,


    1. Asphyxia Post author

      There’s a company that offers Auslan teachers who will come to the ‘workplace’ – perhaps the home too. Details here:

      The Auslan Company provides Auslan in the Workplace and Deaf Awareness Training. For more information visit http://www.auslan.net.au/auslan-business/ or email Darren – darren@auslan.net.au for more information.

      There’s a list of classes offered by VicDeaf in many locations here:


      Of course you can also pick up some basic signs yourself via my course:


      All the best to you…



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