International Manual Alphabet??

This is a very old post (2006), written by Sven Noben, founder of Signfuse. Several data (and links) in this article may be outdated.

Source: Technische Universit├Ąt Wien

I have been asked by Helga Stevens to design a card for an international manual alphabet. But, wait… Is there anything like an International manual alphabet??

Many countries have very specific manual signs. Then I am not even talking about Japanese manual alphabets, Arabic or Russian ones…

I suppose most Deaf people know that many alphabets in the EU look very similar, even the American one. They tend to use the “international” alphabet.
They call it international, because Sweden, Portugal, Brittain and maybe even more countries in the EU are using a very different one. (the portuguese alphabet is related to the Swedish one)

But let’s narrow down again! Let’s be very egocentric, and cut those three countries off and let’s forget East Europe for 1 minute.
Now most countries have similar “A”‘s “B”‘s and “C”‘s, but what about the “T”, the “H” and the “P”?

Scandinavia has it’s own “international” manual alphabet, international means there they can use it between Nordic countries. (You find the international scandinavian alphabet on top of this page).

Central Europe has a very different “T” and “P”, in both their local as in their “international” manual alphabet.
France and relatives have even a very different “H”.

The “T” seems to be the most variating manual sign, as there is

    • the French version (open hand, thumb behind index)
    • the Belgian version (closed hand, index around thumb)
    • the Scandinavian version (closed hand, thumb above stretched index)
    • the American version (closed fist, thumb behind index)

And then there’s even this difference of “mainfinger”. The more south you go, the more often the thumb is used, also to spell “W” or “1”.
And the more north, the more the index finger becomes the maincharacter…

So, what do you think, is there something like an international alphabet in europe? And no, we should certainly not forget about East-Europe.

And, “International”, what does it mean?
Does it mean international relationships like in scandinavia, or does it mean the whole world?
Could an international manual alphabet ever exist?

Thank you for commenting this topic with your thoughts!