USA Informing ASL Teachers About SignWriting
sutton at SIGNWRITING.ORG
Mon Jan 30 05:09:58 UTC 2006
January 29, 2006
A MESSAGE I WROTE ON THE TEACH ASL LIST
to a List member who thought SignWriting was a foreign language and
not a writing system for ASL...and who mentioned Dr. Stokoe...Here
was my reply:
I can see that you truly love ASL, and I do too. I respect it so
much, that I want to write it on paper, just as it is, without
changing ASL at all, but preserving in on paper so we can learn the
grammar of ASL on paper...A little like a video that captures ASL
just as it is, we are writing those ASL videos on paper, so we can
analyze the movements and try to understand ASL better...Writing ASL
is not another language. ASL is the language. Writing it with symbols
is simply a doumentation of the same language.
It is the same with written English...written and spoken English are
not two separate languages...they are just two forms...the written
and the spoken...
I was very fortunate to know Dr. Stokoe a little. My first
presentation on SignWriting in the USA in 1977 was with Dr. Stokoe.
We shared the podium together at a conference in Chicago. He would
write a sign in his system. And then I would write the same sign in
SignWriting. We presented to a full room that was so jammed, people
were standing in the back, pushing to get in...It was a great memory...
Dr. Stokoe told me that he did not invent his system for everyday
use...it was for his linguistic work. SignWriting, on the other hand,
was invented specifically to record storytelling, giving us ASL
Literature, novels and books, used by people outside of the
linguistic fields...SignWriting started with facial expressions, but
the Stokoe system did not have facial expressions when it began, and
cannot write facial expressions and mime the way SignWriting can...
So Dr. Stokoe agreed with me, at this presentation, that our two
systems were not developed for the same reasons, and therefore should
not be compared, since their purposes are totally different -
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