Date: Sat Dec 19, 1998 5:22
SignWriting List Forum
Subject: Writing Finger Movement
December 18, 1998
Tonight I received a question about this lesson on the web:
Lesson 4: Finger Movements
We write finger movements with two symbols. Dots represent Middle Joint
Movement. Little arrowheads represent Knuckle Joint Movement.
QUESTION: In the sign for "milk" in ASL, shown on this web page...
Sign for "Milk" In ASL
....both the Middle Joints and the Knuckle Joints are bending, so why not
write both symbols? You have only written the dots for the Middle Joint.
ANSWER: There are four parts to the answer:
1. The Knuckle Joint symbol does not represent ALL movement of the knuckle
joint. It represents movement from the knuckle joint, while the rest of the
finger is NOT bending from the middle joint. Either the finger is totally
straight, or it is curved, but there is no bending happening in the middle
joint, while the movement in the knuckle joint occurs.
2. The dots are used whenever Middle Joint movement occurs.
3. The dot for the Middle Joint is never combined with a Knuckle Joint
symbol to describe one finger's movement. It is either one or the
4. When writing Middle Joint movement, 90% of the time, we write the
"finishing position" after the bend occurs, and then we place the dot over
that finishing position. It is like a movement symbol - you are closing or
opening "into the final position".
Note: When you write a sign, think to yourself: "How much detail do I
really need to be able to read the sign? Will this writing be confused with
If no confusion can occur, then write the LEAST complicated version. Write
the minimum detail necessary to understand the sign later. Do not get too
detailed. It seems that Deaf children read intuitively, and see written
signs as units. Picking at the details tends to be an adult habit, making
SignWriting harder than it really is.
Thanks for the good question!
Valerie Sutton at the DAC
Deaf Action Committee for SW
Center For Sutton Movement Writing
an educational nonprofit organization
Box 517, La Jolla, CA, 92038-0517, USA