SignWriting List
September 23, 2013

Hello Susanne and Charles!
Yes, I agree, great answer, Charles … and thank you for your quick response.

To show you an example of a SignWriting Cluster, please see the attached ASL sign for Deaf (one of the signs for Deaf in ASL)...

Instead of writing the symbols in a one-lined string, left to right, like in German or English, the SignWriting symbols are written in relationship to each other, as it happens in real life. The head is above and the hands move up to the head and down below, depending on the sign. So the symbols are placed above and below each other and grouped closely together in units. These groupings can also be called a SignSpelling or a "written sign" - SignWriting Clusters are really signs, or words, written tightly in units, rather than connected to stick figures like the old days...

Not that there is anything wrong with stick figures - There are still some SignWriters who write with stick figures, in Honduras, Denmark and others when wanting to show a more "movement writing" motion or gesture - and of course DanceWriting can be blended with SignWriting to write sign language theater and so forth...

This article may explain it a little:

Evolution of Writing Styles

Thanks for the question -

Val ;-)


On Sep 23, 2013, at 10:31 AM, Susanne Trumpold <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Ah, thx Charles Butler!
it is great to get such usefull answers in a short time!
Thank you!
Gesendet: Montag, 23. September 2013 um 12:45 Uhr
Von: "Charles Butler" <[log in to unmask]>
An: [log in to unmask]
Betreff: Re: writing in stacked clusters instead of using stick figures?
The original system called SignWriting was a system of stick figures showing the human body with arms and sometimes legs as it was created from Dance Writing which showed full body movement. SignWriting as now developed shows the minimum information necessary (the hands only, for example) arranged to show multiple positions in a cluster that is visually "stacked" to be an encapsulated "movement" showing both the beginning and ending positions in a vertical cell (like a filmstrip). With the German version there may be multiple mouth positions that are stacked across to show that a series of mouth movements happens at the same time as the change in hand positions. 
Unlike writing sound where one sound follows another, in sign languages many actions may be happening simultaneously so that "stacking" all the symbols together becomes the natural way to show that "A and B" are happening together, not "A, then B". 
On a linguistic level, it is the difference between "S" and "Z". The tongue and teeth are both in the same position but the "Z" simultaneously has the vocal cords engaged so that the "Z" is a "S" stacked with a vocal buzz. 
Charles Butler
[log in to unmask]
Clear writing moves business forward.

From: Susanne Trumpold <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Monday, September 23, 2013 3:24 AM
Subject: writing in stacked clusters instead of using stick figures?
Hey Valerie and everybody :)
Thanks again for all your detailed great answers, Valerie!!
I just struggled once while reading an explanation around the SignWriting Newspaper.
You wrote ...
Through writing articles in ASL, the Deaf writers learned what they needed to write ASL, and this experience lead to their request for writing Expressively, for writing in vertical columns, and for writing in stacked clusters instead of using stick figures…
Could you please explain what the last one means: writing in stacked clusters instead of using stick figures?