[Sw-l] Placement of Signs in Space

Valerie Sutton 0000001342802f5f-dmarc-request at LISTSERV.VALENCIACOLLEGE.EDU
Thu Apr 15 21:17:43 EDT 2021

SignWriting List
April 15, 2021

Hello everyone on the SignWriting List, and thank you for this message, Adam ;-)

Of course this sounds like a very useful way to write “teams” in sign language, but can you show us written examples in SignWriting?

And since I am not a teacher of a classroom of ASL signers, maybe you could explain to me (and all of us) - what do you mean by “teams”? Is it for writing some kind of a game in ASL?

But to answer your question - the Lanes show us spatial comparisons and weight-shifting to the “right of center” and to the “left of center”. They are invaluable for writing spatial comparisons in sign languages.

Technically there is a Lane that is “far in front” and one that is “close to the chest” - and one that is neutral in signing space - but over time we started to write those differences in “depth” with Movement Symbols. We actually DID have a way to write “depth” with hand symbols years ago, in the 1980s.

This was a technique that really worked in the early days of SignWriting, when we were writing sign language by hand with ink pens. There were 3 sizes of hand symbols - the normal size we use everyday is the “middle neutral space”, the smaller version of the symbol means “far away from the chest” and the larger symbol means closer to the chest. This is based on art perspectives. Further away is always smaller.

I have an article about this somewhere - I will try to find it and post it later.

But, as time went by, it seemed like too much information that was not necessary for everyday writing, and for computer symbol sets, it was a real problem because it would double or triple the amount of symbols so the idea of "far being smaller" and “close being larger” was ignored and we have one set of symbols at one size for everything. The ISWA 2010 is large enough!

So how do we see “depth” in everyday writing? Movement Symbols and some standardized spellings have helped.

But now - Adam - please post some SignWriting showing us what you have written - many thanks!

Val ;-)


> On Apr 15, 2021, at 1:22 PM, Adam Frost <icemandeaf at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> I was doing some writing in SignWriting and came across an issue that I never really thought of in the past. In ASL, scores can be done by placing the teams in a location and then giving the numbers of the score in that location. For example, I can have one team on the right and another on the left. If I sign 4 on the right and then 5 on the left, it clearly says who has what score. This is easily done using the lanes in SignWriting.
> The issue came into play when it was giving scores for “my team” vs “your team”. If I signed 4 near my chest and then 5 away from me, it would means “I have 4 and you have 5.” When I tried to write this, I wrote the shoulder line over 4 and wrote 5 as I do normally. This didn’t really seem like an issue to me until I had a friend asked me how I knew that 5 was signed away from my body rather than just in the neutral location when signing 5 on its own. I had said I just assumed it, but that got me thinking if there was a simple way to write it so that it would be clear and didn’t have to be assumed. Is there?
> Adam




Valerie Sutton
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sutton at signwriting.org

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