SignWriting List
October 29, 2020

Hello Honza from the Czech Republic and Adam from San Diego ;-)

Wow. This is such a gift. Thank you, Honza, for your message below with the link to your new “DICTIO” web site, which is in BETA.

It is a Multilingual Dictionary Focused on Sign Languages

I can see that you will have, in the future, a way to look up a sign from Czech Sign Language (CZJ) and find the equivalent sign in ASL and other sign languages. The videos are beautiful and you are writing the signs in SignWriting placed right next to the videos - Fantastic project!

When you feel ready, I hope you will give us permission to link to your site. Thank you for the work you are doing. Keep us informed ;-)

And thank you, Adam, for this excellent explanation of SignWriting palm facing issues. I am so glad you explained about the Symbol Palette and the 96 choices of palm facings, which is neither left nor right handed. Maybe you can help answer my two issues mentioned below too...

There are two other aspects to this issue which are a part of the whole scenario. Looking at Honza’s link to the video of the sign: 

The symbol for the Fist, without any fingers protruding, is a square. And the square symbol all by itself, without any arm lines attached to the square, can create a searching problem for databases. That is why I assume that Honza put fingers protruding from the handshape, so the palm facing could be understood without arm lines. But if I were writing that sign from the photo that I captured from the video of the sign (attached), I would write it with a simple Fist attached to an arm line, and the arm line would help clarify the palm facing for the reader. So one issue is adding arm lines to clarify palm facing for the Fist symbol. The second issue is how to search for this, in a big database? This is only an issue for the Fist, also called the Tight Fist or the Closed Fist, and the Circle, also called the Open Fist. Please see my attached screen capture. Your thoughts?

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On Oct 29, 2020, at 5:46 AM, Adam Frost <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Hello Honza,

If I understand your question correctly, you are asking about this symbol being for the dominant hand:

Below is the sign that you have written:

It looks well written and matches the video that was provided. (Even when noticing that the signer was left handed and the writing is for right handed dominant signing.)

It seems the confusion comes from the fact that the handshape symbol is found in SignPuddle on the lower half of the grid when showing all of the rotations. People generally assume that the rotations are sorted to be “right hand” on the upper half and “left hand” on the lower half.

While this does generally turn out to be true, this isn’t how the rotations are sorted. The symbols are only sorted by rotating counter-clockwise then flipping and rotating clockwise. There is no consideration for “right hand” or “left hand” as the symbols do not hold such inherit handiness in their meaning.

If I were to take your initial sign and use a different palm facing - facing towards the back - you will notice that the handshape symbol is now on the upper half of the rotation level’s grid:

So, there is no information about handiness in the handshape symbol in of itself. To further illustrate my point, consider the writing below:
Notice that I use the same handshape symbol. We know that it is the left hand, not because of the handshape symbol, but because of the arrowhead. The handshape symbol only tells us the handshape, the fingers are pointing down, and that the palm is facing towards the left.

So there is nothing wrong with the writing you had. It was written correctly. It is, however, a perfect example of how the rotating order does *not* actually imply right hand or left hand for handshape symbols. ;-)

If you wanted to take into consideration of the rotation of palm facing of a hand beyond the standard 3 palm facings, it could be done as followed:
Notice that the last palm facing of this series is generally not displayed on the grid because of two reasons: it can be found on the other half of the rotations by using the second symbol, and it is generally not used for most sign languages. This choice was made to reduce space and redundant symbols.

So if I were to using the same ordering of palm facing rotation with the fingers point down, I would get this:
The last symbol is the one that you are writing with. If the reduction was not made, then you would be able to find this symbol on both halves of the grid because the fourth column would just be the same as the second with the upper and lower halves switched.

I hope this explanation helps understand why it is best not to think of the rotation grid as "upper half" = "right hand" and "lower half" = "left hand”. Especially since the side palm facing can double up as both as shown above.


On Oct 29, 2020, at 12:36 AM, Honza <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Hi Val,

I hope, you are still going well ;)
We are facing problem with handshapes orientation with fingers pointing to the ground.
See this Czech Sign Language sign (first video) (note that the signer is left handed, but SW is always switched on right hand for ther purpose of the dictionary.)
Sign is already written down using SW, but with incorrect handshape (just to show better the orientation - without finger it is not very good visible in this case).
There is a symbol showing this orientation, but it is non dominant hand and that is not correct.

So it seems to me, we are missing symbols with this orientation (fingers pointing to the ground).

We use SignWriting as well for searching, so it is necessary tu use correct hand.

Thanks for your ideas.
Honza, Czechia



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