Palm orientation refers to the direction in which your palm is pointing (or
would be pointing if your hand were open). Thus, a closed handshape (such
as the ASL letter "S") still has a "palm orientation." Most of the time we
use "general" orientations such as: up, down, forward, side, and back.
However, palm orientation is often a combination of those and it often changes
quite a bit throughout the production of a sign.
Palm orientation is considered one of the basic "parameters" of a sign, along
with "handshape," "location," and "movement." Some people also include
"facial expressions" in that list. (The phrase "facial expressions" would be
more accurately replaced in that list by the term "nonmanual markers" (NMM's
for short) which include not only facial expressions, but also body positioning,
shoulder movements, head tilts, mouth morphemes, and other uses of the body that
using the hands.)
Palm orientation is often used to indicate possesion (who owns what, or what
belongs to whom). It is also used in combination with movement to
establish subject verb agreement (who did what to what or whom, e.g. "He asked
Palm orientation is used as part of "reversal of orientation for negation" as
in: don't-KNOW, don't-WANT, and don't-LIKE
Garrick Lavon (2011) writes:
My question concerns palm orientation. In the vocabulary review for lesson 21
you sign the word "SUPERVISE"
with the right 'K' hand, [palm sideways], on top of the left 'K' hand and
together making two small horizontal circles...but in the lesson quiz (question
# 35) you sign "supervisor" with the right 'K' hand knuckles UP. I don't mean to
be too picayune but i would like to know which version is correct. Thank you so
much for the wonderful website,
- Garrick Lavon
If you do the sign "supervisor" with palms down it takes on a bit of an
"overseer" connotation. As in "watch over." The reason for this is that
the palm down "V" hands are related the "eyeballs" aspect of the sign "look at."
Thus you would have a good sign for a lifeguard "supervising" the pool. That
version of the sign has a very "active" feel to it.
If you do the sign "supervisor" with the "K"-hands palm sideways then the
"supervisor" sign is more related to the signs "keep" and "take care of" and has
a more general "project management" type of feel to it.
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