SignWriting List
February 14, 2000


I'm having trouble deciding how to write various signs in Taiwan Sign Language which employ the handshape with the thumb extended (thumb only).

ANSWER 0036:
The handshape with only the thumb sticking straight to the side is not an easy handshape. Here is the trick I use to know which palm facing to use:

1. Place your hand in the position you want, with the thumb going intuitively in the correct direction ;-)

2. Then open the fist into a flat hand, keeping the thumb exactly where it is.

3. What is the palm facing of the flat hand? Use that palm facing for the square with the thumb sticking out.

4. So whenever you write that handshape, base the palm facing on a flat hand in the same position. See Examples 0036


SignWriting List
February 18, 2000



Number 2 shows the Claw Hand with Spread Fingers. That is a handshape that only bends at the middle joint of the fingers. It is used with a lot of animal signs, because it looks like a claw....

Number 3 shows the Cupped Hand with Spread Fingers. That handshape shows a bend at the knuckle joint is truly curved "forward" is no longer a is a true "cup".

If I were writing the sign for RAIN, I would use Number 2...the Claw Hand. Somehow the Cup seems more like holding a small ball or whatever and doesn't give the feeling of RAIN like number 2 does.

Also, notice how hard it is to write the Cupped Hand projecting straight forward. You wrote it correctly, but it does look weird...why not place the hands at a slight diagonal, as in my Number 3?

So I would choose Number 2 above, if I were writing the sign.

SignWriting List
February 18, 2000


ANSWER 0038 continued...

The Claw and Cupped Handshapes are not "visually perfect" when the fingers touch the chest. They either look like they are dipping down or up...that can't be avoided...but they are read correctly if you
know the rules ;-)

The symbol has a "white palm", which means the palm is facing the chest. So when reading these positions, you first place your palm facing the chest, and then you know it is contacting the chest
because of the contact star, plus the addition of the Shoulder Line can help, although it is not mandatory....

So you can dip the fingers down or up..and just as long as the palm is white, it is written correctly...

SignWriting List
February 18, 2000


ANSWER 0039 continued...
I would not write the sign for "FIRE" with the "Cupped Hand with Spread Fingers". That is the wrong handshape. The fingers are straighter than that. Please see some of the different possible versions below in my answer ;-)

The movement of alternating of the fingers is captured in the movement symbol itself, and not in the handshape the bending of the knuckle joint is there in the writing of the
the movement symbol.


Questions? Write to:

Valerie Sutton