New handshapes for the ISWA 2010

MARIA GALEA maria.azzopardi at UM.EDU.MT
Wed Sep 19 01:53:30 UTC 2012

Hi Steve and Madson,

Prior to creating new handshapes for ISWA, you might want to make sure
such handshapes are truly required.

In the 10 active Literature Puddles I'm analyzing - not one of these
Puddles use all base handshapes of any given group (one of these are
Brazil). For example there is noone who uses all Group 1 (Index) symbols,
not one Puddle that uses all Group 2 (Index Middle) etc etc.. all the way
down to Group 10.

I strongly believe (and the analysis I'm carrying out points to this, and
is based on real evidence) that sign languages have enough (and more than
enough) symbols to represent their phonological inventories.

It is true that there are these nuances in sign language, where for
example a new sign entering the language uses a 'rare' handshape - however
the question is - can another more frequently used handshape be used
instead of this 'odd' handshape (and extremely low frequency)?  And more
importantly if the higher frequency symbol is used instead, does the sign
remain readable? If the answer to that is yes - than the likelihood is
that the low frequency symbol is not truly required to represent the given

My question to Madson is this - can you use another symbol from the ISWA
to represent the handshape/s you have in mind? and if you write your signs
with the ISWA handshapes (similar symbols/glyphs, but perhaps not exactly
what you have in mind), do your signs remain readable in context? Can the
signs be read with ISWA symbols that are already there?

But then again, my study is about 'orthography' - the graphical
representation of specific languages.  I understand that ISWA (2010) goes
beyond this. ISWA (2010) can be used for phonetic transcriptions - and
having very detailed phonetic representations of sign language is in
itself very useful for phonetic studies.


> Hi Madson and list,
> The core of the ISWA 2010 will not change, but we can add an addendum of
> new handshapes.  This will be a compatible improvement and will not
> change any of the existing data.
> I have worked out most of the technical details to make this work. It
> relies on creating complex subsets of the ISWA where the symbols can be
> reorganized and reordered for the individual languages.  We will all
> still use the ISWA, we'll just be able to access them according to the
> default international order created by Val, or by a custom language
> specific order.
> Adding new handshapes is not a trivial matter.  Each handshape will need
> to comply with all of Valerie's rules: written and unwritten.  Each new
> handshape will need an addition to the font that is compatible with the
> existing font.  So if anyone would like to propose a new handshape for
> the ISWA 2010, we will need someone to create the font addition and
> Valerie's approval and my verification of the technical details.
> If anyone is interested, we can discuss how to put together a proposal
> for a new handshape.
> New handshapes need:
> * real life picture of handshape
> * symbol ID that fits within the current ISWA hierarchy
> * English name
> * fallback handshape if new handshape is not available.
> * font Addition
> ** minimum of 12 PNGs (fills 1 thru 6, and rotations 1 & 2)
> ** eventually, 96 PNGs or 96 SVG per font.
> Regards,
> -Steve

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