SignWriting List
February 15, 2013

Hello Stefan and everyone - see my message below this excerpt from Stefan's message here:

On Feb 15, 2013, at 12:39 PM, Stefan Wöhrmann <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

What I am interested in is to understand why we find different designs for extremely bent fingers depending on the fact how many fingers are involved. We do write these bent fingers as angular/hooked/bent handshape, if we are talking about one, two or three fingers but write half circle curves if there are more fingers involveld.
Is this just by accident?  Is this a matter of how to get a clear design in small fonts...? Is it a relict of the DOS-software with limitations if it comes to smooth lines,,?


Thank you, Stefan for your message and many thanks to your team…

I am happy with your project so do not misunderstand my explanation below which is just giving you the development of the invention with the rules I laid out years ago …I lived and breathed these symbols for so many years, and it is a joy to see others use them…. So I look forward to seeing your beautiful work...

The answer is basically…No….this was not by accident, because there are rules behind the hand symbol construction, but there is also an element of YES…it was by accident because of which sign languages we wrote first etc…so keep reading below...

Some was very much on purpose. The Sign-Symbol-Sequence is sorted by fingers that are Straight, then Bent, then Curved, then Angled…So it goes Straight-Bent-Curved-Angled…and there is meaning behind these - a curved finger can mean something different than a bent finger, when it comes to spellings…even if we physically may not be able to do them sometimes, the reader attaches meaning to curves and bends in their own mind...

Here is an attached screen capture of Group 1 for Hands. This is the single Index Finger. We are talking about "Action Fingers" not the bases….Notice the sequence of the symbols: All of the symbols with straight Action fingers are first, all of the bent are second, all of the curved are third and all of the angled are last in the list…There are more bent than curved…that is true.

I believe what you are noticing is that we did not list as many curved fingered symbols in some groups than we did in others - that is because there are soooo many possible hand symbols that if we listed them all…and every group had an equal number of curves as well as bent, we would have a lot more hand symbols... So what we have in the ISWA 2010 are the symbols we seem to need and use and want on a daily basis. 

Yes you could say those choices were partly by accident because they were based more on the sign languages we wrote first…like ASL, DSL and so forth…and got established first…so it did put some sign languages at a disadvantage because they were written later…so we could always use more hand symbols...

So of course it would be wonderful to have a bent and curved version for all the fingered hand symbols, and I welcome additions…but additions are better than replacements for the old ones, which we are used to, because they are really needed…

People felt we needed one curved index finger in this first group, and so we have one, but most are bent.

And the bent and curves are defined differently - 

Bent Fingers are bent at the middle and last joint of the fingers, but the knuckle joint does not bend, for the "Bent Fingers"…the Knuckle Joint is locked. (like the X hand shape or the Claw)

For the "Curved Fingers" …there is not only a curve at the Middle and Last joints, but the Knuckle Joint also curves a little bit forward - so all three joints are involved with the Curved Fingers" (like the C hand)

And the Angle Fingers are defined as being locked at the MIddle and Last Joints, and only the Knuckle Joint bends forward… (like the Angle Hand symbol)

These are the rules of hand symbol configuration for Action Fingers - The Action Fingers are placed on 13 Rootshapes (see attached below).

From an artistic point of view, I am sure you can improve the looks of the symbols, just as long as the same symbols still exist and only new ones are added, or the old ones are just improved enough for looks, but will not change their definition..

Thanks for asking for my opinion and no worries - enjoy your project - it is a joy to be able to be creative!

Val ;-)

see attached -