New handshapes for the ISWA 2010

Valerie Sutton signwriting at MAC.COM
Wed Sep 19 20:00:59 UTC 2012

SignWriting List
September 19, 2012

What great messages, Maria, Adam, Steve, Charles, Stefan -

Everything you say is true ;-)

On both sides of the issues, it is all true - smile -

We always need more symbols. And we always have too many…;-)

The ISWA 2010 was never meant to be for one sign language. It was meant to be a great big storage closet with lots of symbol choices for writers. I always assumed only around 80 handshapes are needed for most sign languages, but each sign language needs different ones, and so that is why no sign language uses all the hand symbols of the ISWA 2010.

And here is an interesting point - some writers choose a symbol to represent a certain handshape that is not completely depicted by the look of the symbol - for example, if I understand it correctly, in Danish Sign Language there is no D hand symbol that has a circle base, but they don't use a tight fist base for the index finger sticking up either - they have something in-between a tight fist and a circle base - for their index hand symbol. So which symbol do they choose? The one with the tight fist or the one with the circle base? They need something else, but since it was not in the ISWA 2010, they chose to use the one with the tight fist but have it represent a different pronunciation - namely not as tight a fist as they might use in ASL - 

When I moved to Denmark at age 19, I learned that their letter "R" in their spoken language was back in the throat, not like the American "R" - the same writing symbol was used to represent two different forms of pronunciation - and so it is with SignWriting and hand symbols - there are hundreds of possible exact writings of handshapes, but the symbols we have right now could be used to represent different pronunciations between sign languages…

So as Adam says, let's work together. Steve is ready and willing to add new hand symbols if they fit within the guidelines. Recently I have not been able to work very much, because of health problems and I am worried that if decisions must wait for me we will have problems. So what I want is software that has built into it, how to build or construct new hand symbols so that there is no way anyone can construct a symbol that will not work in the world's software - If we can build that so that later it does not depend on me, that will be really "cool"...

Until that day, we will try to help symbol by symbol - so Madson, send us your artwork and we will move forward -

and Stefan if you have facial expressions of course send them to us -

Val ;-)


On Sep 18, 2012, at 7:03 PM, Adam Frost wrote:

> I agree with Maria, you might be surprised how a specific configuration for a handshape that one makes which seems to not be in the ISWA could probably be commonly signed by others as a different handshape that is in the ISWA. It could also be that there is a symbol that represents the handshape but has been overlooked or even forgotten. I know that I have done that on numerous occasions, and I did photos for every hand symbol in to ISWA. SMILE! So if you have a photo of the handshapes you are looking for and maybe even a video of the signs you want to write, we could probably help you work something out. Two heads are better than one, but a community of SignWriters is better. :-D
> Adam
> On Sep 18, 2012, at 6:53 PM, MARIA GALEA wrote:
>> 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
>> language.
>> 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.
>> Maria
>>> 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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