Sign Dictionary Orders

Bill Reese wreese01 at TAMPABAY.RR.COM
Sun Oct 20 22:45:25 UTC 2002

What you say makes sense Charles - with regards to Sign Language and
SignWriting.  When I try to compare to a spoken language like English, I
try to think of doing it with a word, composed of letters.  When I think
of searching by either letters or syllables, I can't imagine a common
dictionary doing that.  For example, if I take the word "playing" would
I sort by "play" and "ing"?  Or for that matter, would I sort by "P",
"L", "A", "Y", "I", "N", and "G"?  While it is theoretically possible,
what purpose would it serve?

My reflection on this: a researcher may want to know what words have
"ING" in them, but he is not looking for words with only "G".  Also, a
casual user of a dictionary would most likely be looking up a word - say
"PLAY" - and would be interested in "PLAY", "PLAYING", "PLAYFUL",

Given the fact that a digital dictionary does need to be constrained by
an abridgement, I would think it would be quite logical to include a
search by "PLAY" or "ING".

So to come full circle, what would be a constraint of searching in
SignWriting that would be equivalent to searching for a single letter in
a spoken language?  Is there one?  If we equate each symbol in
SignWriting to a letter in a spoken language, is there then a more
complex construct that can be equated with a syllable?  For instance,
the sign "PLAY" in ASL is a "Y" hand, held in a certain location
relative to the body and rotated  back and forth.  Could we say that the
"syllable" is the "Y" hand held at that location?   A search of this,
then, would not just search for a "Y" symbol but it would also search
for some location symbol.

Would this make sense?  Would we want to search this way?  Why would
someone search this way?  I imagine a person observing another person
sign "PLAY" and he wants to find out what concept is associated with it.
 He doesn't know the meaning of the sign, so therefore he whips out his
trusty pocket dictionary.  In his mind, he remembers the sign in two
parts: the "Y" hand held mid-level and facing the left side of the
signer; and the movement back and forth.  Would these, then, be
"syllables" and for which he would want to search for?


Charles Butler wrote:

>I guess, for me, I would consider all of the spellings correct.  It depends
>upon what "section" of the dictionary you would be looking in.
>If one were to start with the "handshape section" then you'd start with
>If one were to start with the "movement section" then one would start with
>If one were to start with the "contact" section, one would start with the
>I feel that ALL of them are equally valid, and a complete dictionary would
>list all four, depending on the section.
>Starting at the beginning of the SSS is the handshape dictionary, so you
>start there, go through all of the single handshapes, single hands that
>change shape, then double handshapes.
>The next section, movement, you'd start at movement, but then you'd have to
>go back to the handshapes and do them in order of SSS, etc.
>For me, a complete dictionary using SSS should list all four variants, as
>each "section" is independent of all the others, but someone may want to
>find any sign using any one of its components.
>It's kind of like commutative arithmetic.  2 + 1 + 3 = 6, but so does 1 + 2
>+ 3, and so does 3 + 2 + 1.  All three equations are correct, but one can
>order them by which number comes first.  The SSS does exactly that.  Which
>"section" is first is the choice of the investigator, but if all of us are
>going to use the dictionary, we have to explain our logic to each other.

More information about the Sw-l mailing list