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Måmak Glossing
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what måmak is, and how to read the glosses
This public article was written by [Deactivated User], and last updated on 19 Feb 2020, 14:56.

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This article is a work in progress! Check back later in case any changes have occurred.
(I apologize in advance for my crude diagrams.)

I’m in the process of transferring my lexicon into my CWS dictionary. I will be including måmak glosses in the notes of some words. I figured I should explain what the heck måmak is and how to interpret the glosses.

The Basics of Måmak:  Girekian Sign Language
The Qirɛk are fisher-foragers who traditionally use nets to surf fish. This is usually a group activity that an entire family unit of 15-20 people do together. Between the wind and the waves, and the fact that people typically stand a considerable distance apart, normal verbal communication becomes infeasible (nobody feels like yelling all day).

Måmak is a system of hand and arm signals that developed as a way to talk without words. It is rarely used away from the beach, so vocabulary is limited to mainly fishing terms, numbers (numbers have their own special glossing I'll have to explain in further detail at some point), general directions, and a few important interjections like HELP and DANGER. There are four elements of måmak: arm placement, hand placement, hand orientation, and movement.

First, it’s important to explain that signals are mirrorable. The signer’s orientation in regards to the land and the water determines how the signal is executed. With a group of people all standing parallel to the edge of the water, when two people turn to face each other each person will then have a “land side” and a “water side”, and therefore a “land arm” and a “water arm” as well as a “land hand” and “water hand”. The water hand is considered dominant/primary, regardless of which direction the signer is facing or which hand is the signer’s normal dominant hand (when writing, eating, etc).

Arm Placement
Arm placement involves moving at the shoulder, and is either high (upward, so hands are above the head), neutral (straight out, so hands are at shoulder height), or low (downward, so hands are at waist level). At high and low placements, the upper arm is approximately 45 degrees away from neutral.

Hand Placement
Hand placement involves bending at the elbow. Each hand can be either inward (with elbow bent) or outward (with arm extended fully). Most signals have or start with an outward hand placement.

Hand Orientation
The Qirɛk are a melanated people and their pale palms are in high contrast with their brown skin. This gives another binary dimension to their signals. Each palm can be facing either towards or away from the viewer.

The final element of a signal is its movement. Keep in mind that måmak is more “signal” than “sign language”. There are usually only two or three signals chained together at a time at most (ie "here - many - finfish" or "that way - danger"). There isn’t an inordinate amount of wild arm waving, so whatever movement there is differentiates one signal from another. Each signal is either static (put it there and keep it there), dynamic (start here and move to there), or flashing (rapidly alternate between here and there).

Glossing Explanation
One-sided gloss layout:
[arm placement] + [hand placement] + [hand orientation]

Two-sided gloss layout:
[arm placement] + [hand placement] + [hand orientation] / [arm placement] + [hand placement] + [hand orientation]

Arm Placement
  • Land Arm is LA
  • Water Arm is WA
  • High placement is H
  • Neutral placement is N
  • Low placement is L

Hand Placement
  • Land Hand is LH
  • Water Hand is WH
  • Inward is I
  • Outward is O

Hand Orientation
  • Palms Towards Viewer is T
  • Palms Away from Viewer is A

  • Static signals simply have a single placement/orientation
  • Dynamic signals are noted as XdY, where X=initial placement/orientation and Y=final placement/orientation
  • Flashing signals are noted as XYf, where X and Y are the placements/orientations between which the signal alternates

Sample Gloss:
LA = N + LH = OdI + T / WA = N + WH= IdO + T

It helps to break the måmak glossing into the individual elements and lay them out on a table.

Arm PlacementHand PlacementHand Orientation
LandNO d IT
WaterNI d OT

This is a dynamic signal, so it will start in one position, progress in a smooth motion, and end in a different position. For this signal, both arms are in the neutral position throughout. Initially, the land arm is extended so the land hand is in the outward position, while the water arm is bent putting the water hand in the inward position, and both palms are facing the viewer. Then the position switches, with the land arm bending and the water arm extending, keeping the palms facing the viewer. This is the signal for cast (a net).

The order of the placements/orientations is important! For example, WA = HNf + WH = O + TAf / LA = NHf + LH = O + ATf means the arms and hands start in opposite positions and flash alternately (when one arm is high with palm towards, the other arm is neutral with palm away). This is the gloss for tiqi cepholopod.
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