[sw-l] left-handed or right-handed?

Charles Butler chazzer3332000 at YAHOO.COM
Mon Dec 6 16:10:56 UTC 2004

Hi Sandy,

This is Charles Butler, and I also must respond to your queries on "lefties" in Sign Writing classes.

When I was teaching a class on SW at the Deaf Association of Pelotas we had one signer who was left-handed.  Because we were teaching the writing system, I stressed, constantly, the necessity of writing what you see both from a teacher and from your own hands.

We had long discussions on left-handed signs, and I made the decision to focus on right-handed signs in the dictionary that I was compiling, but to seriously note and search for a method to show both as mirror images, except when specific location variables were concerned.  "The building on the left has caught fire," for example.

It is an alarm bell for me, as I stress accuracy in the SW classes I teach and if the teacher is signing left handed, you would be expected to write what the teacher has done, not translate it to your own hands.  For me, SW is transcription first, and then a daily personal handwriting.

Sandy Fleming <sandy at FLEIMIN.DEMON.CO.UK> wrote:
Hi Val and List!

>> But policies are established by the Editors of different dictionaries and
I no longer worry about this issue...I personally don't care very much about
left and right handed signs...I read SignWriting for the dominant and
non-dominant hands and I don't notice if they are left or right handed signs
most of the time, just as I wouldn't if someone was signing to me... <<

Though not a left-hander, this kind of sets alarm bells ringing for me.
While left-handedness may be virtually unnoticeable in actual signing, it's
a different matter in classes of sign-language learners. I have no
experience of teaching children but this makes me wonder if a left-handed
Deaf child would be discriminated against quite severely if having to learn
their first writing system from a right-handed dictionary.

I think that it would be a mistake to ignore the problem - what do teachers
of SW to Deaf children think?

As for the problem of creating a dual-handedness dictionary, the obvious way
to me, is to use the SWML variants system I proposed some time ago.

You may remember that I explained a straightforward modification to SWML to
allow large numbers of variants of a sign to be expressed with very little
SWML. The left-handed version of a sign could simply be treated as a variant
of the right-handed version. We could write the dictionary (and if required,
word processing) software so that it can give the user the left-handed form
of the sign if he has chosen this as a setting. Dictionary signs often don't
have location informaton so that a lot of them wouldn't need to have a
variatn expression - in the absence of a variant the software could simply
provide a mirror-image of the stored sign. Of course, mirroring could also
be used with locational signs - it's logical and would reduce the amount
information required to express the variant.

Val, I know you prefer to think visually but I'd suggest you learn to read
SWML - it's not that hard and would help you to understand the potential of
the system when used with variants. I really feel that people are missing
something important here.


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