SignWriting List
February 7, 2000


I'm in the middle of transcribing material in Jordanian Sign Language (LIU = "lughat ul-'ishaarat il-'urduniyya"), and have run into a handshape which I have not found in the SW material. It is a tight fist, with the tip of the index finger touching the inside of the thumb knuckle. If you look at the thumb side of the hand, it resembles a written "9" -- which is good, since it is a signed number "9" in LIU, as well as a fingerspelled letter "waw". LIU also has a two-handed form of "9" ("4+5", as used in international gesture), but I'm not composing -- I'm transcribing. Any ideas?


ANSWER 0018:
First, take a look at this web page:

Brazilian Fingerspelling Keyboard

and look at the Brazilian number 6 and 9. Both use that handshape as an open fist.


Example 0018 above shows the tight fist with a protruding thumb, and the open fist with a protruding thumb. It shows different
rotations and palm facings to give you an idea how the symbol looks as the hand turns.
The dot in the middle of the square represents the protruding finger....the side view shows the side of the finger....

SignWriting List
February 8, 2000

I'm wondering if your response might possibly have missed the mark. I think when the person wrote: "with the tip of the index finger touching the inside of the thumb knuckle" that they might have meant that the index finger is no longer part of the tight fist, but rather partially opened, and its tip is contacting the inner part of the outermost knuckle. I know what the Arabic letter "waw" looks like, and that's what leads me to believe that it's not just the thumb that is pointing forward, but that the index is also partially opened. So, is there a symbol for this particular handshape?


ANSWER 0019:
There is no problem writing the new handshape you mention. There are specific rules as to how each handshape is constructed.

SignWriting is not based on computer programs. It developed as a true handwriting before any computer programs were developed.

SignWriter 4.3 in MS-DOS has limited memory. It therefore cannot incorporate all of the handshapes that can be written in SignWriting, because of a lack of space in the computer program itself.

SignWriter 5.0 will have unlimited space for symbols, so that issue will slowly go away as more software is developed.

This has nothing to do with SignWriting itself, which can be written by hand anytime.

How do we construct new handshapes we didn't expect? There are rules for constructing handshapes:

1. If fingertips touch the palm of the hand, that is a Closed Fist.

2. If fingertips touch each other, that is an Open Fist.

3. When creating a base for the handshape, the lower fingers rule...which means that if there are fingers touching the palm of the hand, the handshape has a square for the Closed Fist as its base.

4. If the lowest fingers are touching each other, then the base of the hand starts with the Open Fist.


As you can see, handshapes can be combined. Number 3 starts with the base of a square, because there are some fingers touching the palm of the hand, but it also has some fingers touching each other, so the two shapes are present in one handshape symbol.

Number 6 is a combination of Number 4 and 5. It starts with the base of the fingers touching the palm of the hand (a square), but it also has two fingers touching each other in the curlicue configuration.


Questions? Write to:

Valerie Sutton