Cued Speech Journal, V, 1994, pp77-81
NATIONAL CUED SPEECH ASSOCIATION (NCSA)
Guidelines on the Mechanics of Cueing
(Approved by the NCSA Board of Directors, September
These guidelines are intended to supplement the National Cued Speech
Association (NCSA) procedural guidelines for persons who desire to secure
NCSA input during the production of Cued Speech instructional and practice
materials, such as manuals, audio lessons and videocassette lessons. They
will also be of help to teachers, parents and others seeking authoritative
information on specifications for the mechanical details of the cueing
process, not on teaching methods as such. Cuers, instructors, and persons
preparing materials on Cued Speech should consult current sources of information
on techniques and teaching methods for meeting these specifications, and
for correcting deviations from them. The NCSA office will maintain an up-to-date
list of such sources.
Execution of the act of cueing is subject to some requirements that depend
on the proportions of the cuer's body. In order that cueing shall be as
consistent as possible for each cuer, that fatigue shall be minimized,
and that readability of Cued Speech shall be enhanced, the following specifications
should be met:
The Apropriate Arm Posture and the Side Placement
The arm should hang comfortably from the shoulder, so that tension in the
ligaments attached near the shoulder joint is at a minimum. The tips of
the fingers should be at the level of the chin for the side placement,
for most persons. The angle between the forearm and the horizontal should
be in the range of 45 to 80 degrees for the side placement. The best angle
and distance of the elbow from the body will depend on the cuer's body
proportions, that is, on the ratio of the length of the forearm and extended
hand to that of the humerus, the length of the neck, and the height of
the shoulder joint. The forearm angle, and the positioning of the elbow,
should be chosen so as to place the tips of the longest fingers at a horizontal
distance of about four inches from the vertical plane bisecting the chin.
Ideally, this should place the fingertips at the level of the tip of the
chin. This side placement can be achieved easily by most people, resulting
in a minimum of up-and-down movement in connection with the side-throat
and side-mouth movements.
Some cuers' body proportions are such that the normal, comfortable positioning
results in a lower side placement. Persons who suspect that their forearm-wrist-hand
combination is too short to reach to the recommended chin-tip level without
tension in the shoulder should get in touch with the NCSA office, which
will either help them or refer them to qualified sources of help in determining
(1) whether they actually need to use a lower side placement, and (2) how
to select and use that placement if they should. This can be done by placing
the elbow close to the body and raising the inclination of the straight
forearm-wrist-hand combination to almost vertical (about 80 degrees above
the horizontal). The shoulder must be neither raised nor lowered from the
relaxed shoulder posture. If under these conditions the fingertips do not
come up to the recommended chin-tip level, the level to which they come
is the appropriate side placement level for the individual, who should
use it consistently. Qualified guidance in carrying out this procedure
and arriving at the right decision, preferably through face-to-face assistance,
is essential. Individuals who find it necessary to use a side placement
lower than the recommended one, and who thus need to keep the elbow close
to the body, must be careful to follow the specification that the forearm-wrist
combination shall be kept straight and moved as a unit.
If the cuer's body proportions result in a fingertip level above the
recommended chin level, when the arm is close to the body and at an angle
of 60 to 80 degrees, the inclination of the forearm should be reduced (to
45 degrees or so), so as to lower the fingertips to the chin level. This
will require placing the elbow a little farther from the body.
The forearm inclination for the mouth placement will be essentially
the same as for the side placement, or slightly less. That for the chin
placement will tend to be less than for the mouth placement, and that for
the throat placement still less. These differences, however, should be
held to the minimum consistent with smooth, efficient, accurate cueing.
Beginning cuers should try to keep the forearm-wrist-hand combination
straight, avoiding any bending of the wrist. As they become fluent and
cue more and more rapidly, they will need to increase their effort to avoid
excessive bending of the wrist. If beginners form the habit of bending
the wrist at will, the tendency to increase the bending as they become
fluent is likely to make them ``floppy'' cuers, which is undesirable. Cuers
should also avoid any twisting of the wrist, unless they are cueing in
one of the languages in which pronation of the wrist is used to indicate
palatized or aspirated consonants, or nasal vowels.
The wrist and the back of the cueing hand should remain even with the
forehead and chin, that is, in the same vertical plane with the forehead
and chin, when cueing at the side, mouth and chin placements.
The mouth, chin, and throat placements
The mouth placement
For the mouth placement, the tip of the pointer finger should touch just
outside the corner of the mouth. Care must be taken not to let the site
of the contact stray on to the mouth and cover part of it, but it needs
to be very close to the corner. The pointer finger is the longest finger
extended in the hand configuration, with one exception. For handshape 8,
in which the index and middle fingers form a wide open ``V'', the middle
finger is the pointer for the mouth placement. This differs from the chin
and throat placements, for which the index finger is used as the pointer
for handshape 8.
The chin placement
For the chin placement the tip of the pointer finger should touch the very
tip of the chin, at its geometric center, that is, in the plane dividing
the right and left halves of the face. Care must be taken not to execute
this placement higher on the chin, or to either side of the center line.
The throat placement
For the throat placement the pointer finger should make contact at the
site of the larynx, or 2 to 3 inches below the tip of the chin. cuers who
find the larynx sensitive to touching may touch below this level, but should
not make contact lower than the hollow which marks the junction of the
collarbones with the breastbone.
The importance of consistent touching
The mouth, chin, and throat placements have the advantage of furnishing
a tactile response to the cuer if he/she is careful to touch the designated
location. The tactile response serves two important purposes: (1) furnishing
tactile feedback to the cuer that the placement and timing are correct,
and (2) making sure that parallax (the error that results if the cue placement
is away from the face and is viewed from an angle) does not give a false
impression of the placement for the reader, even when that placement is
in front of the right location.
Touching is important in maintaining synchronization of cues with the
visible manifestations of speech, which is advantageous to decoding. Cuers
should take care to touch consistently at these placements. When they cue
faster, they will need to exert more concentration in order to maintain
touching as consistently as possible. They will encounter most difficulty
in maintaining consistent touching at the throat placement.
Acquiring, and maintaining consistent synchronization
The synchronization of handshapes and placements with the visible manifestations
of speech is an important part of the mechanics of Cued Speech. It is essential
that beginners form the habit of accurate synchronization and endeavor
to maintain it as they become fluent. Even expert cuers need to guard against
poor synchronization at the side placement, particularly for final consonants.
Techniques for preventing and overcoming synchronization problems are available
in published materials listed by the NCSA office.
Execution of Handshapes
In executing handshapes the fingers not specifically bent to form the target
handshape should be extended parallel to each other and in contact throughout
their length, except in the case of handshape 8, for which the index and
adjacent finger are separated as much as possible to make an open ``V.''
For all handshapes the bent fingers (and the thumb, if not extended) should
be out of sight of the cue-readers. This is accomplished by careful maintenance
of the plane of the cueing hand parallel to the plane of the face and chest,
plus keeping the thumb out of sight when it is not extended. In English
the wrist should never be twisted.
In executing the handshapes for which the thumb is free to hold the
bent fingers in position, it should do so. For example, in executing handshape
3, the thumb should actually hold the bent index finger in position, not
just touch it, in order to make sure that the thumb and finger are out
The Timing Movements
The execution of each cue must include a discernible movement or event
that clearly indicates the time at which the key articulatory action takes
place. This is needed because the mouth does not consistently furnish such
information on an adequate basis.
Touching at the Apropriate Cue Placements
Touching at the throat, chin, and mouth placements furnishes the cuer a
tactile verification of timing that is essential in maintaining synchronization
of cues with speech. To the decoder of Cued Speech, synchronized touching
in these placements furnishes the timing information needed in fully utilizing
When a cue is executed at mouth, chin, or throat placement, and another
cue or a repetition of the same cue is to follow immediately at the same
placement, the fingertips are lifted slightly from the contact location,
and replaced. This provides a tactile timing verification for the cuer
and a visual timing indication for the Cued Speech reader.
Timing Movements in the Side Location
When a cue is executed at the side location there is nothing for the cueing
hand to touch to indicate the initiation of articulation. Thus, some kind
of specific movement or change in movement is necessary, as a timing signal.
Vowel sounds /ah/ and /oe/.
For the vowel sounds /ah/ and /oe/, or a CV syllable containing one of
them, a forward motion of about one inch is made. If another cue is to
follow in the same location, the hand must first be moved back to the original
location, so that the second forward movement made for the second syllable--if
there is one--is initiated from the same location. Thus, /photo/
[foetoe] is cued 5 side forward and back, 5 side forward. Similarly, /polo/
[polo] is cued 1 side forward and back, 6 side forward; and /ha-ha/
[hah-hah], 3 side forward and back, 3 forward.
Beginning neutral vowel sounds.
If an utterance begins with the neutral vowel [ ], spelled /u/ or /uh/
(stressed) in Funeemik Speling), or includes a CV syllable containing the
neutral vowel, the timing is indicated by a downward movement of about
1/2 to 3/4 inch. As in the case of a forward movement, if another cue is
to follow immediately in the side location, the hand must be returned to
the original location before the next cue is made. Thus /uh-oe/
is cued 5 side down and up, 5 side forward. Similarly, /sofa/ [soefuh]
is cued 3 side forward and back, 5 side down; and /buffalo/ [bufuloe]
is cued 4 side down and up, 5 side down and up, 6 side forward.
The ``flick'' rule.
``When the same handshape is executed twice in succession in the side placement,
the second occurrence must be accompanied by a flick to supply timing information.
Example: /left/, 6 chin, 5 side , 5 side flick.''
Cornett's interpretation of the flick rule is that it applies whether
or not a vowel occurs between the two successive executions of the same
handshape at the side placement. Examples of cueing for this interpretation
are: /coke/ [koek], 2 side forward and back, 2 side flick; /pop/[pahp],
1 side forward and back, 1 side flick; /coves/ [koevz], 2 side forward
and back, 2 side flick, 2 side flick; /source/ [soers], 3 side forward
and back, 3 side flick, 3 side flick.
A differing interpretation is that the rule does not apply when a vowel
occurs between the two successive executions of the same handshape. According
to this interpretation the words used as examples above should be cued
as follows: /coke/ [koek], 2 side forward and back, 2 side; /pop/
[pahp], 1 forward and back, 1 side; /coves/ [koevz], 2 side forward
and back, 2 side, 2 side flick; /source/ [soers], 3 side forward
and back, 3 side, 3 side flick.
Until research results or other considerations enable the NCSA board
to resolve this difference in interpretation of the flick rule, both interpretations
will continue to be taught and used by their supporters.
The flick with isolated consonants.
The flick (a quick movement of about 1/4 inch forward and back) is necessary
in cueing an isolated consonant, as speech teachers may do in instructing.
If one wishes to cue an isolated consonant sound several times in succession,
as in transliterating a stuttered utterance, such as ``t-t-t-Tommy'' or
``m-m-m-mee,'' one must make a flick with each isolated consonant, else
the cueing furnishes no timing indication. Thus, ``t-t-t-Tahmi'' is cued
5 side flick, 5 side flick, 5 side flick, 5 forward, 5 throat, and ``m-m-m-mee''
is cued 5 side flick, 5 side flick, 5 side flick, 5 mouth.
Other Relevant Specifications
Cue What Is Said
The cardinal rule governing cueing is that one must cue what one says exactly
the way one says it on that occasion. This requires accurate rendition
of such options as variations in pronunciation, elision, liaison, assimilation
etc. Current sources of information on these subjects is available in several
publications. Cuers, instructors, and preparers of materials should consult
such sources in order to apply the principles in this document accurately
in cueing exactly what is said.
Adequacy and Normalcy of Mouth Movements
About half the visual information provided by Cued Speech is delivered
by the mouth and face movements. The readability of Cued Speech is greatly
dependent on the adequacy and normalcy of the information delivered by
the mouth and face.
It is a responsibility of Cued Speech instructors to emphasize and work
on the development of accurate, normal mouth movements for beginning cuers,
and to furnish suggestions (mirror work, etc.) for self instruction in
this aspect of production of Cued Speech. All instruction materials
for Cued Speech should address and emphasize this aspect of the development
of competency in Cued Speech, not just competency in executing the cues.
Ability to Cue With Either Hand
The advantages of acquiring the ability to cue with either hand should,
be made clear in Cued Speech materials and emphasized by instructors. Beginners
should be encouraged to either learn initially to cue with the non dominant
hand, or practice cueing with both hands enough to be able to use either
hand. Then, they should regularly cue enough with the non-dominant hand
to become reasonably proficient with it. Being able to use either hand
at will is useful when one hand is occupied, as in writing on the chalkboard
using the telephone, or when one hand/arm is tired or otherwise incapacitated.
It is also important in transliterating for rapid indication of changes
Angle of the Cueing Hand
As has been specified, the wrist and hand are supposed to form straight
extension of the forearm. The angle of the elbow (the angle) between the
upper arm and the forearm) changes with the placements. The inclination
(from the horizontal) of the forearm-wrist-hand for the mouth placement
will be very nearly the same as for the side placement, or slightly less.
The inclinations for the chin and throat placements will tend to be progressively
less, as required for smooth, comfortable cueing.
Charts showing the handshapes, either in isolation or in relation to
the face, should position the handshapes at an appropriate angle above
the horizontal, not vertically or horizontally. Charts showing them in
horizontal or vertical orientations, which have appeared in the past, have
caused some people to try to cue that way. Charts included in instructional
materials should orient the handshapes at about 45 degrees above the horizontal.
Cueing of Intonation
In tonal languages the level of voice intonation is indicated approximately
by the angle of the cueing hand, in relation to its normal angle for a
given placement. This makes it possible to distinguish the phonemically
significant ``tones'' of tonal languages, as Thai, Igbo, Mandarin, Cantonese,
etc. In English this technique can be used to indicate changes in intonation,
but is rarely used except by speech therapists working on voice pitch problems
and monotone speech, or in helping deaf children learn to carry a tune.
More details are available in The Cued Speech Resource Book For Parents
of Deaf Children, pp. 171-72.
The Ubiquitous u~ hu~
One of the most frequent utterances in American English is the expression
commonly spelled uh huh. The nasal vowel in this expression was
Inadvertently omitted from the original Cued Speech chart because it was
not listed among the phonemes of English in phonetics books. This and the
negative form, huh uh, are only in slang dictionaries, yet are used
by most Americans many times a day. It is the nasal counterpart of the
neutral vowel, the schwa. This vowel is a legitimate phoneme of American
English, with at least one minimal pair.
The vowel u~ (as written in Funeemik Spelling) should be cued at the
throat, as it is in French. Authors and producers of materials on Cued
Speech should add this phoneme to the Cued Speech charts.
Many Americans also use the same expressions with the vowel suppressed,
keeping the mouth completely closed and saying: mmmm hmmmm and hmmmm
mmmm. These non-vocalic expressions can be cued at the side, but the
forward motions must be reduced to flicks, else vowels would be indicated.
National Cued Speech Association, Inc.
The National Cued Speech Association was organized and incorporated
1982. Priorities and activities of the Association include: (1) awareness
and education through publications, exhibits, and conferences; (2) quality
assurance through certification standards for instructors and interpreters/transliterators;
and (3) service through information and support to persons with speech,
hearing, and language needs, their families at associates, and the professionals
who serve them.
Officers of the Association: Barbara Caldwell, President;
Osmond Crosby, Vice President; Marshall Dietz, Treasurer;
Catherine Quenin, Secretary.
Board of Directors: Linda Balderson and Amy Hurowitz,
Northeast Karey L. Guzman, Rocky Mountain; Sandy Mosetick,
Great Lakes; Barbara Lee, Gulf Coast; Geralyn O'Neil Wild,
New England; Carl Mauro, Mid-Atlantic; Connie Wilcken Rubsamen,
West; Kay Jamal, Midwest; Marianne S. Flanagan &
Joan Booth, Canada; Joan Rupert Alison Turner, Earl
Fleetwood, Charles G. McIntosh, Directors at Large; Pamela
Beck, Immediate Past President.
© 1994 The National Cued Speech Association, copyright owner of
this document, allows single copies to be made for personal use, or multiple
copies for classroom use. This consent does not extend to other kinds of
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