Definition of 'base symbol'

Valerie Sutton sutton at SIGNWRITING.ORG
Sat Jul 28 17:36:28 UTC 2012

SignWriting List
July 28, 2012

Hello Charles and Maria!

Thank you, Charles, for the excellent answer. Charles is correct about the side view of some of the BaseSymbols for Category 1: Hands…

I just answered the question in a previous message, but I forgot the exceptions…thank you Charles, for reminding me of the exceptions ;-)

To try a better explanation...

BaseSymbols exist for all 652 symbols - and it is only the Hand Category that has the 2nd Fill (side view of hands) as its representative BaseSymbols (sometimes, not all the time). All the other Movement Symbols and Facial Expressions and so on, use Rotation 1, Fill 1 (the first symbol of the possible 96) as their BaseSymbol -

Maybe this will help:

1. There are 7 Symbol Categories, 30 SymbolGroups, and 652 BaseSymbols in the ISWA 2010.

2. What is a Group BaseSymbol?
There are 30 Group BaseSymbols in the ISWA 2010. A Group BaseSymbol is the representative BaseSymbol for the entire group. In all categories, all Group BaseSymbols are Rotation 1, Fill 1 (the first symbol of the possible 96).

3. What is a BaseSymbol?
A BaseSymbol is the representative symbol for each of the 652 symbols in the International SignWriting Alphabet 2010 (ISWA 2010). In Categories 2-7, all BaseSymbols are Rotation1, Fill 1. But in Category 1: Hands, there is an exception. In Hands, the first symbol within the group, called the GroupBaseSymbol is Rotation 1, Fill1. But all other Hand BaseSymbols inside each group are Rotation 1, Fill 2.

4. Why the exception? The purpose of the BaseSymbol is to provide the "easiest to read" representative symbol for users to find the symbol quickly. Back when SignWriter DOS was developed, we needed a representative symbol for the keyboard, and the side view palm facing was easier to see quickly for users in most hand symbols - this was tested with our Deaf Action Committee (DAC) and so, all hands are listed from the side view, except for the first hand symbol in each group, which is shown with the white palm facing…

Please see the attached diagram:

On Jul 27, 2012, at 10:43 PM, Charles Butler wrote:

> For me, a base symbol is a basic configuration of the fingres and the thumb. The base configuration in ISWA tends to be on the edge facing left because that configuration shows all the fingers being articulated most clearly. Sometimes the clearest configuration is facing the reader. The "base" configuration is a defined configuration of fingers, thumb, palm. I don't know if that's clear, but it's what I go on. 
> Charles Butler
> chazzer3332000 at
> 240-764-5748
> Clear writing moves business forward.
> From: MARIA GALEA <maria.azzopardi at UM.EDU.MT>
> Sent: Friday, July 27, 2012 11:26 PM
> Subject: Definition of 'base symbol'
> Hi everyone,
> Has anyone come across the definition of a base symbol - in the literature
> or anywhere else? How would you define the base symbol of ISWA 2010? To
> define it I'm explaining the whole system of rotations and orientations
> for each given base symbol- but still how do you explain the base symbol -
> does it represent NO rotation and orientation? (because actually it is
> marked for rotation and orientation).
> Complex question maybe..sorry- would appreciate any feedback.
> thanks
> Maria

Val ;-)

Valerie Sutton
SignWriting List moderator
sutton at

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