faces vertical or horizontal and facial expressions that 'hold'

Sandy Fleming sandy at FLEIMIN.DEMON.CO.UK
Sun Dec 6 13:31:56 UTC 2009

On Sun, 2009-12-06 at 06:10 -0700, Natasha Escalada-Westland wrote:
> I have to agree with this 'timing' statement on horizontal vs.
> vertical for faces and spellings. I tend to write fingerspelling
> horizonatlly simply because it looks more that way than vertical when
> I watch a live signer. 
> A related issue is how to represent a facial expression that
> encompasses several signs.  Of course, it can be written over each
> sign separately, but it seems a waste of time and a partial
> misrepresentation, almost as if the facial expression stops and
> starts.  I think I have asked this question before but can't recall
> the answer.  It seems like it would be useful to have some sort of
> punctuation or symbol that shows a portion of the signing 'holds'
> while other parts move on, like a bracket of some kind.  Is there such
> a thing that I haven't learned about yet?


Although people haven't so far constructed SignWriting dictionaries this
way, I tend to take the approach that although facial expressions are
signed simultaneously with manual signs, they are better written as
separate "words". The issue of a facial expression stretching over
several signs then tends to go away.

SignWriting has a rather ad hoc "grey line" way of indicating which
signs a facial expression applies to, but personally I don't use this
any more, I just assume that the expression will end either on the sign
it's written before or else at the next punctuation mark, and the reader
who knows the language will be able to put his own interpretation on it.
You'll guess that I don't write phonetics, rather, I write language for
communication and, like in other forms of writing, I accept that it's
not really possible to prevent the reader from reading it his own way.

Of course some signs are made at the head or face so the facial
expression gets written as part of the sign. I think this is confusing
things a bit, however: the facial expression and the sign itself could
still be written separately, the sign with an empty head circle. I think
SignWriting would benefit if facial expression were separated from sign
execution: although you'd occasionally be writing the head circle twice,
the problem with clutter in the head circle would clear up somewhat.

I must admit that these days I'm lazy about writing fingerspelling. I
just write the word in English (ie the Latin alphabet) and leave it at
that! Again, for me as a writer it's about communication and not trying
to use a writing system as a political force. Of course I make some
exceptions when the fingerspelling is so short it has the structure of a
sign, or when it has been modified to suit natural signing. I'd be happy
to write fignerspelling "properly" if I knew my readers needed it, but I
don't really have much in the way of readers so far!

I'm using BSL fingerspelling which is two-handed, so the issues are
different from in most sign languages, but I have devised ways of
writing it which are quick and clear, I just don't see any reason not to
write a borrowing in the original language unless I feel I'm writing for
people who don't know that language at least in its written form.



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