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

Valerie Sutton sutton at SIGNWRITING.ORG
Mon Dec 6 17:48:52 UTC 2004

SignWriting List
December 6, 2004

List members, Sandy, Stephen, Kathleen, Kristof, Charles, Stuart -

Charles and Stuart are correct. When we are writing real Sign Language
sentences...then the signs become alive, and they are not the same as
cold entries in a dictionary...When we are typing directly in
SignWriting, without copying signs from dictionaries, the typing
experience gives us the ability to write the body shifting to the right
or left of center...in vertical writing, that is called
Sign-Lanes...some signs are produced in the center of the body...but
some are over to the left or over to the right, and that has to do with
grammar, and has nothing to do with right or left handed signing...so
when a signer is really saying something, no longer can left or right
be looked at the same way, as in a dictionary entry...and for right now
at least, I would be concerned at standardizing right and left handed
signing, since we still need a flexible writing system, since most of
these signed languages have not been researched yet...

So meanwhile, there is this new program SignText which is the first in
history to create Sign-Lanes...so you can place a sign to the right or
left by saying which Sign-Lane it belongs in...This is a wonderful step
forward...but...we will need both right and left handed signs for
writing in the Sign Lanes, because the right and left handed signs
interchange sometimes, because of grammer issues...

Val ;-)


On Dec 6, 2004, at 9:20 AM, Stuart Thiessen wrote:

> Well, I haven't taught children, but it seems to me it depends on the
> way we teach it.  If we are teaching dominant vs. non-dominant, then
> it should not matter much ... I would think.  But again, Charles
> brings up an excellent point. There are times when it is a dominant
> vs. non-dominant situation and there are times when it truly is a
> right vs. left situation (when location is important ... Bob on the
> left talking with Phil on the right.)
> From a programming point of view, if we want to implement your idea,
> we would have to store some "metadata" that would allow us to mark a
> sign according to its type.  Is it a dominant/non-dominant sign or a
> sign that is dependent on true location?  But I can think of some
> scenarios where it might be both. For example, the ASL for "to have
> surgery" requires a location. Now, I have noticed we ASL signers tend
> to use the non-dominant palm as a location to indicate generic
> surgery. But suppose I wanted to emphasize a particular location for
> the surgery, then the sign becomes location-specific. So it actually
> fits both categories depending on my intent.  Computers hate that ;).
> So the metadata for that sign would have to specify when it was
> location-specific and when it is dominant/non-dominant.
> Thanks,
> Stuart
> On Dec 6, 2004, at 11:02, Sandy Fleming wrote:
>> Stephen wrote:
>>> As a programmer, I prefer right-handed signs in the dictionary.  If
>>> I know
>>> what to expect, I can generate a left-handed dictionary
>>> automatically.  I
>>> can either flip the image, or manipulate the SWML.  If something is
>>> consistent and predictable, it is easier for programmers to use.
>> Unfortunately it's not consistent and prodictable and you can't
>> generate a
>> left handed dictionary automatically except for signs with no
>> "handedness"
>> location information.
>> Imagine amking a sign "turn off to the left" (say, on coming to a
>> fork in a
>> road in a car). The attached gif shows this sign, which is identical
>> both
>> right-handed and left handed in the SW (though not in real life!) -
>> it's
>> _not_ just a mirror image, even though an awful lot of left-hander
>> signs
>> would be just mirror images of the right-hander signs. If the hand
>> had been
>> asymetrical (say, if the thumb was sticking out or held in), the
>> left-handed
>> version would be neither a mirror image nor identical.
>> I've noticed the other responses with interest, but none of the
>> teachers say
>> that they're teaching children. What I'm asking is that when all
>> concepts,
>> language and writing system are new, and the pupil doesn't have a wide
>> experience of life situations, will a purely right-handed dictionary
>> cause
>> problems?
>> Sandy
>> <turn.gif>

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