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Cueing Information: In No Uncertain Terms

In No Uncertain Terms,
You Saw It Here First

by Earl Fleetwood, M.A. & Melanie Metzger, Ph.D.

Recent research and analyses have given rise to a better understanding of the nature of cueing. In effect, a paradigm shift has impacted the way cueing is now being discussed by some. The vocabulary used in this discussion has also changed over time. No one can assure accuracy or consistency in the use of new vocabulary. Nevertheless, because we are responsible for bringing certain terminology to the discussion, we have a unique responsibility to provide an accurate and consistent definitional source.
The following terms and intended meanings first appeared in our work.


cuem (noun) visible symbols used to convey cued languages; mouthshape-handshape pairs and mouthshape-hand placement pairs used to visually represent and distinguish among the phonemic segments of consonant-vowel languages; These visual symbols are assembled to form morphemes and are modulated to provide grammatical, semantic, and prosodic information; These symbols function analogously to the acoustic symbols (speech) used to convey spoken languages and the visible symbols (handshape, hand orientation, hand location, hand movement and hold parameters) used to convey signed languages. Cued Language Structure: An Analysis of Cued American English Based on Linguistic Principles provides the following definition: (noun) an articulatory system, employing non-manual signals (NMS) found on the mouth, paired with 1) handshapes and 2) hand placements, which both produces and functions as uniquely identifiable visible representations of the phonemes (or tonemes) of consonant-vowel languages.

Rationale for use of term: Prior to our coining this term, no single term existed that referred solely to the fundamental visible products of cueing. The term "cuem" is a composite of "cue" and "mouth." "Cuem" is the visible product of combining "cues" (the handshapes and hand placements of Cued Speech [Cornett, 1967]) with non-manual signals (NMS) formed on the mouth. "Cue" + "m" (for "mouth") = "cuem"


cued language (noun) a class of languages, or a member of this class, characterized by the expression / representation / articulation of language via cuem; Other language classes include signed languages and spoken languages. Cued Language Structure: An Analysis of Cued American English Based on Linguistic Principles provides the following definition: (noun) a class of consonant-vowel languages rendered via the employment of articulators, including non-manual signals (found on the mouth), handshapes, and hand placements (e.g. cuem), which are modulated in conjunction with other non-manual information, such as head and eyebrow movements, to convey phonemic (or tonemic), morphemic, syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic information in the visible medium; a member of this class of languages.

Rational for use of term: Prior to our use of the term "cued language," the term "cueing" exclusively referred to rendering Cued Speech. Thus, because "Cued Speech" is defined in terms of sound, speech, and speechreading, the term "cueing" did NOT refer to a strictly visible process. Even now, phrases such as "She uses Cued Speech for English" do NOT refer to a visible product. We find this at odds with a system purportedly designed to be wholly accessible to sighted people who are d/Deaf. The term "cued language" refers exclusively to language rendered in the visible mode via cueing. Fleetwood and Metzger first used the term "cued language" in 1991 (Fleetwood and Metzger, 1991).


cued English (noun) English as articulated/represented/expressed via cuem; a member of the class of languages known as cued languages.

Rational for use of term: Prior to our use of the term "cued English," the term "cueing" exclusively referred to rendering Cued Speech. Thus, because ´Cued Speech═ is defined in terms of sound, speech, and speechreading, the term "cueing" did NOT refer to a strictly visible process. Even now, phrases such as "She uses Cued Speech for English" do not refer to a visible product. We find this at odds with a system purportedly designed to be wholly accessible to sighted people who are d/Deaf. The term "cued English" refers exclusively to English rendered in the visible mode via cueing. (NOTE: Just as "spoken American English" is more specific than is the term "spoken English," so the term "cued American English" is more specific than "cued English" and should be used as appropriate. Fleetwood and Metzger first used the term "cued English" in 1991 (Fleetwood and Metzger, 1991).


native cuer (noun) an individual whose exposure to a cued language has significantly impacted subsequent acquisition of the given language; an individual who has acquired a given language primarily via cuem.

Rationale for use of term: Prior to our use of this term, the literature characterized individuals who acquire a cued language as "deaf/hard-of-hearing Cued Speech users," "deaf/hard-of-hearing individuals who grew up using Cued Speech for English," and the like. Our introduction of this term recognizes that counterpart terms refer to language acquisition in a particular mode. Hence, the term "native cuer" is a counterpart to "native speaker" and "native signer."


transphonation (noun) The process of representing in one mode an accent or dialect first expressed in another mode (i.e. cuem to speech, speech to cuem).

Rationale for use of term: Prior to our coining this term, no single term existed that referred solely to the movement and representation of accents and dialects across modal boundaries. For example, where an individual moves information between a cued language and a spoken language, the term "interpretation" does not apply. "Interpretation" refers to the process of moving meanings between languages. In many instances, the term "transliteration" also does not adequately refer to this process of rendering messages between a cued language and a spoken language. The term "transliteration" refers to a change of form within a given language without regard for accent or dialect. Where a change in form within a given language also includes movement of an accent and/or dialect across modes, the term "transphonation" applies. The term "transphonation" first appeared in Cued Speech Transliteration: Theory and Application.


We are pleased that these terms can now be found in the literature, in public policy, and on websites. Their accurate use represents a step away from the antiquated view that cueing is a supplement to speech/speechreading or that cueing conveys speech sounds. We provide the clarification contained above with the hope of supporting the accurate use of these terms. We are hopeful that the resulting discussion and research will further the study of human language and expand multilingual opportunities available to individuals who are d/Deaf.

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Cornett, R. O. 1967. American Annals of the Deaf. 112. 3-13.

Fleetwood, E. and M. Metzger. 1998. Cued Language Structure: An Analysis of Cued American English Based on Linguistic Principles. Silver Spring, MD: Calliope Press.

-------------------------------.1991. Signed English and Cued English: A Contrastive Analysis. Paper presented at the Deaf Awareness Conference. Dothan, AL.

-------------------------------. 1990. Cued Speech Transliteration: Theory and Application. Silver Spring, MD: Calliope Press.