differences in fist tensions from signer to signer

Sandy Fleming sandy at SCOTSTEXT.ORG
Mon May 7 14:08:54 UTC 2007

On Sun, 2007-05-06 at 08:18 -0700, Valerie Sutton wrote:
> SignWriting List
> May 6, 2007
> Hello Everyone!
> And I hope Ingvild will help me explain this from the Norwegian Sign  
> Language perspective...
> The detail of writing the differences in fist tensions from signer to  
> signer...
> In Denmark, and some other signed languages too, they do not seem to  
> differentiate between a Tight Fist or an Open Fist (Circle base for O  
> hand in ASL)...


We have something similar in BSL. When we make the flat hand we don't
really care if the thumb runs along the side of the hand, or if it's
tucked in, or if it's raised away from the hand (although occasionally
there's a sign where the thumb being out does matter, but it doesn't
usually matter as a rule). I believe that in other sign languages the
difference tends to matter.

For me in BSL, the answer has always been simple: since two of these
symbols would involve actually drawing the thumb and the other doesn't,
I just take the simplest option and don't draw the thumb. I take it as
understood that the user might have his thumb anywhere as a matter of
signing style.

It's not so easy to decide which option is simplest in Danish Sign
Language but I find square handshapes easier to write because it's a lot
easier to understand how to position the fingers correctly on them. So
personally, if it really didn't matter which, I'd chose the square hand.

Of course there's always the question of whether writing affects
people's accents and whether choosing one thing over another would
affect the development of the language when the writing becomes
widespread. My experience with oral languages and dialects suggests to
me that there is an influence, but it's not very strong.


More information about the Sw-l mailing list