SignWriting List
June 28, 2001

Next, let us look at the ASL sign for "twenty" and its changing spelling over the years. It has been written four ways in the past:

1. Before Finger Movement Symbols were developed, we used arrows to show the movement of the fingers touching the thumb. But the arrows were not read properly. They were mistaken for the WHOLE arm moving down twice.

2. So, by taking the stems of the arrows away, leaving only the arrowheads, the new Finger Movement Symbols could not be confused with arm movement. Notice the arrowheads are near the "position of contact".


3. We wanted to write only one position, because it was faster. Which position did we keep, and which one did we throw out?

The sign for "twenty" in ASL is recognized "as the index and thumb contacting twice". Without the contacting position, we could not read the sign properly. So we kept the "position of contact".

In fact, the contacting position is so important, that some of us write contact symbols instead of the Finger Movement Symbols...and we read the sign well!! The sign for "twenty" can be written with contact stars too...

SignWriting List
June 28, 2001

So writing a sign with two fingers and a thumb is similar to the sign for "twenty" in ASL:

1. The sign could be written with both the beginning and ending position. This is the most accurate.
2. One position could be written. This writing assumes that the "position of contact" is the most important.

3. Or you could use contact stars...

4. So what about the Finger Movement Symbols on top of the first position? There is nothing wrong with that, except I would not read that as contacting at the end. I would assume that a hinge-like motion is occurring twice without touching fingers.


Questions? Write to:

Valerie Sutton