Unicode Discussion

Stuart Thiessen smt_sw at EARTHLINK.NET
Fri Jul 11 01:35:13 UTC 2003

I haven't had the chance to study how Valerie has done the position symbols. I have only recently become free to start the process of studying these questions. This summer, I am taking literacy courses which focus on encouraging "mother tongue" ("mother hand"? SMILE) literacy at the University of North Dakota.  I hope it will be helpful for promoting ASL literacy using SW.  So I haven't spent much time on this issue this summer as of yet.

My initial planning prior to receiving your email is very similar to what you have described. Rather than (x,y) coordinates, I was considering using a polar coordinate system. For those who may not be familiar with polar coordinates, essentially it refers to storing the angle and distance rather than actual (x,y) coordinates. Certain mathematical formulas can convert between polar and (x,y) coordinates. It is my understanding (and I welcome correction if I am misunderstanding), but the use of polar coordinates may be more useful when considering enlarging or shrinking a symbol as compared to using (x,y) coordinates because you can increase the size of the symbol and the distance by the appropriate ratio and then use the angle and distance to plot the symbol appropriately.

In terms of sign composition, I was thinking that a user could start with any symbol they wanted, and then the angle and distance would be noted for each symbol that follows. This is my starting point.  I want to study SWML in more detail and other encoding approaches to see where some of the challenges will occur. I thought this might be more easily encoded than a static (x,y) approach. Over time, this sequence would be the spelling rule, but initially, I am assuming that SW will go through a period where "spelling rules" will be difficult to enforce.  So, the system needs to be flexible to handle different spelling rules until a community decides on a specific spelling rule.

I will naturally want whatever my research develops to be supportive of other initiatives in the SW community so I plan to keep asking for feedback along the way and studying what others have researched.

Have you explored the use of polar coordinates before or have you chosen to use (x,y) coordinates simply because of the customary grid that SWriter used? Does anyone see a problem with assuming no specific location on the first symbol and allowing other symbols to "form" around the first character? Could you give me some examples if you know of any?  This feedback will be helpful so that I don't waste my time on things that have already been tested.  If this has not been tested, I will plan to do some playing around with that (probably more after my summer school is completed) and see what pro's and con's develop.



> -----Original Message-----
> From: SignWriting List [mailto:SW-L at ADMIN.HUMBERC.ON.CA] On
> Behalf Of Antonio Carlos da Rocha Costa
> Sent: Thursday, July 10, 2003 11:07
> Subject: Re: Unicode Discussion
> Valerie, Stuart, Dan...
>   Yes, after talking with Valerie about the "position symbols" she
> uses when spelling signs in SignBank, I changed my mind about the
> possibility of encoding SW in Unicode.
>   The problem is this: SW signs are written in two dimensions. Unicode
> is mainly directed to writing systems of oral languages, that are
> unidimensional (either horizontally or vertically).
>   In unidimensional writing, the position information needed about the
> symbols is where each one is in the sequence of symbols that
> constitute a word or phrase.
>   In SW, due to the writing on the two dimensions of a surface (paper
> or screen), one needs two position information to locate a symbol,
> let's say, its "x" and its "y" coordinates. Following the SignWriter
> way to encoded, each such information is relative to a virtual box
> encompassing each sign (the "signbox"), so the values of "x" and "y"
> are kept relatively small (in fact, varying from 0 to 48).
>   The trouble I had was this: is Unicode able to encode those two
> "x" and "y" position information needed for each symbol in a text?
>   The answer I got after talking to Valerie about that is positive.
> Namely, when she spells a sign in its full content in SignBank, she
> uses the so-called "position symbols" to indicate where each symbol
> fits in the sign.
>   If those "position symbols" are, then, included in the Unicode
> encoding of SW, they can follow each symbol, giving the precise
> "x" and "y" information for each one.
>   Thus, the answer I have, at the moment, is: SW is encodable in
> Unicode, if each sign is taken in its full spelling, according to
> the way Valerie spells them in SignBank. The "position symbols"
> will have to enter the code as symbols that should not be
> visually displayed (as, for instance, the "end-of-line" characters
> that every editor puts at the end of every line, in a text.
>   Sure, the programs that will be able to handle such encoding, will
> have to be able to understand such "position symbols" in the
> appropriate way. But that is another matter.
>   I think this shows an unexpected importance that the work on
> spelling signs have: they are the key to the proper encoding of
> signs in Unicode.
>   I hope this helps to support Stuart's effort in his SW-Unicode
> initiative.
>   All the best,
>   Antonio Carlos
> > SignWriting List
> > July 9, 2003
> >
> > Dear SW List, Stuart, Dan....
> > Regarding Unicode, Antonio Carlos and I did discuss it briefly, and
> > after going back and forth, I understand that Antonio Carlos thinks
> > Unicode might work perhaps, because of certain location
> symbols I put
> > into the "look-up sequences" in SignBank...We do not write
> with those
> > symbols, but they are useful for placing signs in a detailed
> > sequence...so I will let Antonio Carlos explain his points on this
> > issue...it is related to X-Y coordinates, and the question of how
> > Unicode would handle the relationship of one symbol inside
> a sign, with
> > another symbol inside a sign...I am not sure what to think,
> so I look
> > forward to the discussion!
> >
> > Val ;-)
> >

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