the diagonal plane in SW

Valerie Sutton sutton at SIGNWRITING.ORG
Thu Sep 2 16:36:47 UTC 2010

SignWriting List
September 2, 2010

> On Sep 2, 2010, at 3:36 AM, Gan Lu wrote:
> Just a quick question. For the hand movement in sign writing, apart from the wall and floor plane, there is another diagonal plane also. How important the diagonal plane is in sign language? As there seems only a subtle information about it. Many thanks, Gan 

Hello Gan!
Thank you for this question...I appreciate it, that you posted your question to the SignWriting List, as this helps all the readers on the LIst ;-)

Hands do go on Diagonal planes at times in sign languages, although not as often as the hands parallel to the Wall or Floor. The Diagonal hands are usually followed by a diagonal movement.

Regarding planes in SignWriting...

There are two things you need to the Diagonal Planes relate to Movement Symbols and how they relate to Hands, because they are dependent on each other to write sign languages.

1. The Wall Plane and the Floor Plane are used throughout all of SignWriting, for both Hand Symbols and Movement Arrows.

2. When writing Movement Arrows, we do have the Up-Forward Diagonal Plane, the Down-Forward Diagonal Plane, the Up-Back Diagonal Plane and the Down-Back Diagonal Plane, but those Movement Arrows are not used as often as the Wall and Floor Planes.

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Now to your real question related to hands...

In SignWriting we can write the hands parallel to these Diagonal Planes by writing a slash across the symbol. The Horizontal Line represents the Horizon Line, that shows that the hand hits the horizon in front of the body in an exact spot on the handshape. Placing a dot on the Horizon Line means the back-diagonal plane. These are old symbols almost never used any more. Here is an example:

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We chose over time to not write the hands parallel to the Front Diagonal Planes...even though we could technically do so, we found that sign languages can be written with hands on the Wall Plane and Floor Plane only, and then the added Movement Symbol on the Diagonal Planes would give the information of the diagonal plane...we have found that the Movement Symbol on the Diagonal is enough to make the sign readable for signers...

I do not know how this effects your research and use of SignWriting for your animated glove...if you want to use the above symbols in SignWriting for your programming that would be fine and I can help you further to understand them if you wish.

Please write again on the List to tell me your needs with your project -

Val ;-)

Valerie Sutton
Sutton at

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