This article discusses the common origins of written scripts and sign handshapes in tally scores, the board abacus, and finger counting. The early roots of numbers in magic, prognostication, and religious numerology are shown to have resulted in familiarity with alphanumeric code switching particularly in the superstitious practice of fadic addition.

The breakthrough of using handshapes for letters, not merely numbers, occurred in eighth-century Northumbria, where Bede recorded a one-hand finger alphabet and showed how number shapes could be used as signs as well as for the transmission of spoken languages by fingerspelling.

The possible links between the ancient Celtic Ogham script, the seventeenth-century Century Scottish Glove Alphabet, and the present-day two-hand British and Australian finger alphabet are given as a particular example of the influence of number on the evolution of handshapes.


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pp. 322-334
Launched on MUSE
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