common criticisms of signwriting?

Valerie Sutton sutton at SIGNWRITING.ORG
Thu Nov 5 21:50:57 UTC 2009

SignWriting List
November 5, 2009

Hello Erika!
Thanks for this question. The controversial nature of all new ideas  
can be puzzling sometimes, but I think it is a part of human nature to  
be skeptical of anything we do not have familiarity with...

I actually do not think that comments from people who do not know  
SignWriting should cause too much is only natural that  
certain reactions "it looks like Chinese"....

You are right that people do say that it looks like  
hieroglyphics...but i see that as a positive thing, although I try to  
explain why it is not hieroglyphics from a technical point of view and  
most of them immediately say that they didn't realize that SignWriting  
wrote body movement...most people compare it to Chinese very fast, but  
that is only because it is written down in vertical columns and  
because they see visual clusters of symbols in both writing systems,  
but when I point out that SignWriting is not writing concepts, but  
instead we are writing body parts moving in space, and the people who  
know each sign language have to attach to those movements, the  
meanings that go with them in their specific language, where in  
Chinese a person who speaks a rare dialect far away, can still write  
concepts in Chinese, and there is no connection in their writing, to  
how they pronounce their words...therefore SignWriting is alphabetical  
and not logographic...but all that conversation is too complex for  
most people...most people say something like it looks like Chinese or  
heiroglyphics only in passing...but as soon as they sit down for five  
minutes and learn the dark and light palm facing and a few movement  
symbols, they realize it is different...

I am printing books on my home computer right now...the first 7  
chapters of the Gospel According to John in ASL are being printed and  
bound with laminated covers...I am doing them all myself in two  
sizes...big book size and a half-size that is more like the size of  
Bibles, and I am sending copies to the Vatican for a conference on  
November 19th. I have already sent copies to Malta to Marie and Maria  
to take with them to the Vatican for the conference. Once I am done  
printing, I will be happy to send a few of you some copies of the  
book. It will also be available for download and for sale shortly on  
the web and I will announce this when it is ready -

Hope others will answer Erika's question -

Thank you Erika!

Val ;-)


On Nov 5, 2009, at 12:40 PM, Erika Hoffmann wrote:

> Hi! I mentioned the last time I posted that I'm working on a paper
> about SignWriting for presentation at the American Anthropological
> Association meeting in December.
> One of the things I'm thinking about is the ways in which Signwriting
> and Signwriten documents can be used to critique dominant ideologies
> about language and writing that are common in Linguistics and related
> disciplines. At the same time, I want to note that the radical nature
> of the script can sometimes be a social barrier to its adoption by
> signers (particularly because of the historical relationship between
> the Linguistic validation of sign languages with the social validation
> of Deaf signers).
> I'm wondering if any of you would be willing to share some of the ways
> you've heard people criticize or dismiss SSW (or point me to places
> where these opinions are aired). I'm looking for people's concerns
> about the script itself (i.e., "it looks like hieroglyphics") rather
> than the other common arguments about the need for a script at all
> (i.e., "Deaf people can just write in English").
> Thanks!
> Best,
> Erika
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