Signwriting: Preparing a sign for a new word - Help needed.

Valerie Sutton sutton at SIGNWRITING.ORG
Sat Oct 2 02:42:10 UTC 2010

SignWriting List
October 1, 2010

Hello Thorsteinn!
Thank you for this message, and we look forward to working with you on the sign language Wikipedias written in ASL, BSL, and any other sign language that requests it...

I am really happy to hear that there is a request for a BSL Wikipedia in SignWriting - how wonderful! There has recently been a SignWriting workshop in Southport, UK, and perhaps as interest grows in the UK to write BSL, the BSL Wikipedia could become a real vehicle to teach the reading and writing of BSL.

SignWriting in the UK

One of the problems in using fingerspelling for a universal or international sign, is that there are different fingerspelling systems around the world depending on the sign language, and BSL uses a two-handed fingerspelling system, which of course can be written in SignWriting, but would not be understood by signers in other countries, and of course the same is true for ASL fingerspelling - it may not be understood in Great Britain.

So finding a sign is a great idea, in comparison to fingerspelling. Thank you, Alan, for your suggestion for a sign...for ASL signers it is quite logical ;-)

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It is not an international sign...It is similar to the ASL sign for "looking up something" in a dictionary or an encyclopedia, and with the added "W" handshape from ASL fingerspelling, which creates an "initialized" sign...the sign starts with the letter of the English word that is related to the sign (namely Wikipedia) - this is not really ASL, but might be a sign that ASL signers would recognize well...

But would BSL signers understand the above sign? The W handshape is not the letter for W in BSL fingerspelling, and the sign for dictionary is most likely quite different in BSL...

It would be best if we wait for Deaf people, no matter what the country, to choose the sign that seems the most natural or generic for them...perhaps from International signs used among western nations...usually new technical terms are fingerspelled in conversation because they are like foreign words that do not have signs yet...

Meanwhile, Thorsteinn, Alan Post already added the above sign in the ASL dictionary, so you could use that sign until we all agree on something official...

By the way, have you visited our test area for the SignWriting Wiki? An improved version of the SignWriting MediaWiki Plugin software is coming in November (we hope ;-), but right now this test area has been very useful:

SignWriting Wiki articles in ASL

Val ;-)

Valerie Sutton
Sutton at

Read & Write Sign Languages

Create SignWriting Documents Online

SignWriting Wiki
Wiki-style Articles in Sign Languages


On Oct 1, 2010, at 5:57 PM, Thor Malmjursson wrote:

> Hi. My name is Thorsteinn, and I am an editor with Wikipedia.  Some of you may be aware that proposals are underway for the preparation of a Wikipedia in ASL using the Signwriting system.  I am also proposing that we use that same system to prepare and publish a Wikipedia in British Sign Language (BSL) - however, having had a look through SignPuddle online, I've encountered a problem.  
> From what I can see, there is no individual sign for Wikipedia, and I'm not sure how to make one specifically to identify it.  I've spoken with someone else on this list, who suggested that fingerspelling signs wouldn't be great for the purpose, and that I post the question to this list for advice on how to prepare a sign to denote Wikipedia.
> What I would like to ask is whether the community know of any sign you use to identify Wikipedia, rather than fingerspelling the word, and if so, how we would convert that to a SignWriting sign/icon.
> Any help you can provide with this would be gratefully appreciated.  
> Yours, Respectfully,
> Thorsteinn A. Malmjursson
> Editor, English Wikipedia

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