1.1.1. Phonemic handshapes

The handshape of a sign is determined by the number of fingers selected and their position in relation to the rest of the fingers. The selected fingers are the ones that are active when articulating a sign.

In Spanish Sign Language (LSE), various handshapes have been described. Rodríguez González (1992) identified 29 shapes, Muñoz Baell (1999) identified the 21 most representative shapes of each family, and Herrero Blanco (2009) identified 42 phonologically contrastive configurations. Muñoz Baell (1999) also listed 70 handshapes used in LSE, but not all of them are phonologically contrastive. Here, we focus on the handshapes that function as phonemes or contrastive parameters.

We define the handshape based on two characteristics: the selected fingers and the configuration (or position) of the fingers (Mandel, 1981).

On one hand, the selected fingers indicate which finger(s) of the hand are active during the articulation of the sign. In LAW, the selected fingers are the thumb, index, and middle finger. On the other hand, the finger configuration indicates the position of the selected finger(s). In LAW, the fingers have an extended configuration.

There are signs in LSE that may have the same selected fingers but with different configurations. For example, LAW and BREAD have the same selected fingers, but the finger configuration differs between the two signs. In fact, BREAD has two configurations, transitioning from an initial configuration with the thumb separated and facing the index and middle finger, to another configuration where the thumb is in contact with the index and middle finger.

Villameriel García, S. (2023). Phonology: 1.1.1. Phonemic handshapes. In S. Villameriel García (Ed.), Gramática de la Lengua de Signos Española (GramLSE) / Grammar of Spanish Sign Language (GramLSE). Real Patronato sobre Discapacidad. Retrieved Month DD, YYYY, from https://cnlse.es/es/recursos/gramlse/ingles/index/phonology/sublexical-structure/active-articulators/phonemic-handshapes