How to write complex signs?

Valerie Sutton sutton at SIGNWRITING.ORG
Wed Mar 2 21:34:46 UTC 2011

SignWriting List
March 2, 2011

On Mar 2, 2011, at 12:50 PM, Olga Drozdenko wrote:
> I faced with the problem: I don't know how to write complex signs. E. g., a sign «an ill person» in ASL consists of two signs: first «an illness» and then «a person». So what should I do: write these two signs side by side or should be there any additional symbol?
> Olga from Russia


Hello Olga!
I am so happy to get questions about writing

Here in the US, we call those "compound signs", because they are really like two signs, within one space....

For example, here are two compound signs in ASL. Because we write down in vertical columns, for SignWriting literature, we usually write the two signs close to each other, but down, with the first sign on top and the second sign directly underneath. See attached diagrams:

-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: Sister_in_Law_ASL.png
Type: image/png
Size: 1870 bytes
Desc: not available
URL: <>
-------------- next part --------------

-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: ASL_Teacher.png
Type: image/png
Size: 1656 bytes
Desc: not available
URL: <>
-------------- next part --------------

Of course, if you are writing from left to right, for example, in some of our older documents, then the two parts to the compound sign can be written side by side - so you will see both choices in different entries in the dictionary, but nonetheless, because we are now writing full sentences down in vertical columns, it feels good to write the compound sign vertically as well ...

No additional symbols are needed...

in some compound signs we actually connect the two signs together with movement arrows showing how the movement is moving between the two signs...but this is not a requirement...just interesting to read...I will try to find you some examples next message...

Val ;-)

Valerie Sutton
SignWriting List moderator
sutton at

Post Messages to the SignWriting List:
sw-l at

SignWriting List Archives & Home Page

Join, Leave or Change How You Receive SW List Messages

More information about the Sw-l mailing list