Dan's SWML suggestion about pasting sign sentences from dictionaries

Valerie Sutton sutton at SIGNWRITING.ORG
Thu Jul 10 17:27:48 UTC 2003

SignWriting List
July 10, 2003

Everyone, and Dan -
Thanks for this suggestion...Antonio Carlos and I did discuss this
briefly. I would like to discuss two points, before we program this...

1. What are the "grammar ramifications" of pasting signs from a
dictionary into sentences...? Is it good for Sign Languages to
encourage this practice, or is it hurting the grammar? And are people
becoming lazy and not learning how to type, and therefore not realizing
that signs change depending on the placement in a sentence and the
inflection and emphasis in a sentence etc?...

As you know, the "pasting sentences with signs already typed in the
dictionary" is a popular practice when using SignWriter DOS, because it
doesn't require a knowledge of how to type SignWriting, but it also
poses a problem for writing the correct grammar of signed languages...A
dictionary cannot include every possible facial expression needed to
write sentences in signs... so I have had mixed feelings about the
pasting of sentences from the beginning. On one hand it helped spread
SignWriting because the typing of signs was not a barrier to beginners
using SignWriter DOS, but the negative side is that people never
learned how to type, because of that feature, plus the grammar is wrong
in many of their sentences...

2. A second question is the " dependency issues"...if we hook the SWML
to a specific entry in a dictionary, what will happen if we delete the
entry from the dictionary later, or if we change dictionaries? What
would happen if we change how that sign is written, and suddenly is
doesn't work with the document it is tied to? I guess your point, Dan,
was that it would be tied to dictionaries that are already converted to
SWML, and not to dictionaries that are in the process of being typed in
SignWriter DOS?

This dependency issue reared its ugly head for us with SignWriter Java
menus. I designed separate icons for the SignWriting menus used in
SignWriter Java, but the programmers back in 1998 didn't use those
icons, and hooked the menus to the current dictionary instead. I was so
upset! The moment you change dictionaries, the menus in signs
disappear, or the wrong signs appear in the menus...so that is why I
want to go back to menus with real separate icons that are not
dependent on any one dictionary...

Having said all this...go ahead and do it if you think it is a good
idea - your opinion means a lot, since you use these programs daily and
know what is needed by users...

Val ;-)

On Sunday, June 29, 2003, at 07:08 AM, Dan Parvaz wrote:

> Dear Val, Antonio Carlos, and anyone else who is interested,
> I have a suggestion for extending SWML to make using it a little
> simpler. On those occasions when the sign used in a document
> corresponds precisely with what is available in a dictionary file
> (which has also been converted to SWML), it'd be nice to allow a
> pointer from a text SWML file to a Table SWML file. Basically,
> something along the lines of...
> <sign>
>    <external uri="us-dictionary.swml" gloss="same(2)" />
>    ...
> </sign>
> .... or something like that. I know that this creates some dependency
> issues, to say nothing of the search time in creating the initial SWML
> file (although this could be made smarter if the dictionary were
> inserted in suffix trees/Patricia tries or something similar); these
> are concerns which I share. However, it would reflect in SWML's
> semantics what is practiced by SW users; namely, that the dictionary
> is often referenced in typing running text. It would also help
> separate "core" dictionaries from those developed by the user.
> Dan.
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