Date: Fri Jun 19, 1998 7:36
SignWriting List Forum
Subject: Fingerspelling Keyboards Part 2
On Sat, 6 Jun 1998 Harry Blackmore wrote:
>I am left-handed, and I sign AUSLAN, the AUstralian Sign
>LANguage derivative of British Sign Language and, therefore,
>uses the two-handed manual alphabet. As you may imagine,
>it sometimes takes a novice sign-reader a little adjustment to
>realise why the signs he or she is reading on the sinister signer's
>seem back to front!
On Thu, 18 Jun 1998, Neil Bauman wrote:
>How about Czech fingerspelling? I like that one--it's easier on my fingers
>than ASL--but it is somewhat like British fingerspelling--it's two-handed.
June 19, 1998
Good Morning SignWriting List!
Thank you, Harry and Neil, for bringing up two-handed fingerspelling :-)
In this discussion I am referring to this page on our web site:
It is the two-handed fingerspelling keyboard used when typing British Sign
As you know, I have based all fingerspelling keyboard designs on these
1. All Fingerspelling Keyboards are "right-handed" and Expressive.
2. We type the way fingerspelling is really done, not the way a beginner
3. The numbers on the top row of the Fingerspelling Keyboard are used for
zip codes & telephone numbers.
Back in 1997, I sent Harry a paragraph typed with the UK Fingerspelling
Keyboard. Harry told me that they use the same fingerspelling system in
Australia, so this was an experiment to see if he and some of his students
could read what I typed. Later I received a message from Harry saying that
it was fun to decipher and it seemed that his students enjoyed the exercise!
So it wasn't a total surprise for me, when Harry mentioned the "left-handed
issue" in regards to fingerspelling, since the fingerspelling paragraph I
sent him was typed "right-handed" of course!
Two-handed fingerspelling systems have a more "marked difference" between
right and left handed signers. Why? Because there is a "base hand" that is
continually being contacted by the "active hand". Two-handed fingerspelling
looks more like "signs", than the one-handed manual alphabets do.
But Harry....go right ahead and type in "left-handed two-handed
fingerspelling" - we will be able to read your typing whether it is
"left-handed" or "right-handed" :-)
I want to share two other points about "two-handed fingerspelling"...
First, our BSL Fingerspelling Keyboard is not complete yet. I want to study
a native signer fingerspelling at speed in BSL in the future, and I believe
if I do that, the UK Fingerspelling Keyboard design will change for the
better. The keyboard we have right now has not gone through the
"housecleaning" stage - I need more time to do the "movement analysis" to
establish what signers really do when they fingerspell at speed in the UK.
Their fingers "dance" across the palms of their hands in such an awesome
form of "finger choreography" - it deserves further study on my part.
Second, you will notice when you look at the UK Keyboard - there are no
numbers on the top row. Why? Because when I worked with a Deaf person from
the UK, she could not decide which "number system" to choose. There are
apparently many dialects of BSL, and I was told that different BSL dialects
have different ways of signing the numbers 1-10....So she felt uneasy
because she did not want to choose one dialect over the other. So we left
the keys blank.
Someday I look forward to "revisiting" the UK Fingerspelling Keyboard, to
see if we cannot find numbers for the top row of keys, and to see if we
cannot improve the way we write native signing BSL fingerspelling.
So....I hope I have given you a little picture of some of the work that
goes behind developing fingerspelling keyboard designs :-)
Have a wonderful weekend!
Valerie Sutton :-)
Sutton at the DAC
Deaf Action Committee For SignWriting
Box 517, La Jolla, CA, 92038-0517, USA