From: Philippe Verdy (email@example.com)
Date: Sun Jan 11 2009 - 12:04:44 CST
Hans Aberg wrote:
> Counting that right/left hands can be used, as well showing
> front/ back, and four directions, two colors white/black, there are
> 2^5*2*2*4*2 = 1024 hand characters.
That's underestimated. You have many more signs with just one hand !
You seem to forget that individual fingers are not just up or down, their
relative position or angle can be significant : consider the case of the
well known "V" sign for victory where two fingers are up (from any hand and
shown front or back), they wouldnot mean the same if they were parallel.
Consider the sign for showing the number 4 : all fingers are up except the
thumb, but fingers need to be separated by angle; if they are parallel and
touching ech other, you get another sign which may mean "stop!" or "hi!"
(the up or down position of the thumb there is not very significant).
Now combine the two hands or place them relative to other part of the body
(shoulder, arm, eye, mouth, nose, ears...) and there are other meanings...
Sign languages are developed to use those signs extensively, but their usage
is not limited to death people. Some signs are extremely common in the
general population, with a wellknown meaning (some of them obscene) but it's
clear that they are not written (they are accessory to the other oral or
written means of communication), but sometimes seen in photos and videos
(including in news reports from public areas when there's some public behind
As long as you don't need them to communicate in a written form, you don't
demonstrate a written usage that would qualify them as being used for text,
so they are not characters per se. But some of them are found effectively in
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