common criticisms of signwriting?

Charles Butler chazzer3332000 at YAHOO.COM
Sat Nov 7 23:12:48 UTC 2009

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Brazil, where the tireless efforts of Marianne Stumpf, Ronice Quadros, and many others has created a ready pool of SignWriting being used at all levels of education.  Brazilian Sign Language is considered to be a native language (as of 2002) and native Deaf are required to be the primary teachers of interpreters.  SW was adopted by the Deaf Community at its national conference in 2000 and has taken off all over the place since.  The social validation of Deaf clubs has really made a difference.

When I taught a seminar on SignWriting at Deaf Way II, the criticism that was often heard was that the conference was overwhelmingly ASL-centric and I was one of the few presenters that "assumed" that not only did more than one sign language exist, but that they all deserved to be treated as "native languages" with their own writing systems. 

Neither HamNoSys or SignType are used as everyday tools by the Deaf in their own cultures, they are linguistic tools only.  Only SW has actually been welcomed, once the Deaf have learned it, to become an everyday writing system, based on the usage of the Deaf as primary users.

Charles Butler

From: KJ <kjoanne403 at>
To: SignWriting List <sw-l at>
Sent: Sat, November 7, 2009 1:10:29 AM
Subject: Re: [sw-l] common criticisms of signwriting?

I've run into most of the criticisms mentioned; one 
other that I've heard (and I realize it's completely wrong, but it is the 
opinion of one of the top people in Deaf education in Alberta) is that trying to 
learn SignWriting as well as the majority spoken 
language is "cognitive overload".
Another "issue" brought up by a teacher I spoke to 
is that a lot of the hearing-impaired kids she teaches have no language when 
they start school; their hearing parents don't (and often won't) sign.  
Since they're not starting with a signed language knowledge base, and 
because the hearing parents generally don't want their kids involved with 
the Deaf community and have no desire to sign with them, this teacher 
really doesn't see any point in using SSW in her classroom.
----- Original Message ----- 
>From: Erika 
>  Hoffmann 
>To: sw-l at 
>Sent: Thursday, November 05, 2009 1:40 
>  PM
>Subject: [sw-l] common criticisms of 
>  signwriting?
>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").
>  SignWriting List
>Post Message
>SW-L at
>  Archives and Help
>  Email Settings
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