common criticisms of signwriting?

Trevor Jenkins bslwannabe at GMAIL.COM
Mon Nov 23 09:48:56 UTC 2009

Hi Kim,

I'm not convinved that we do live in what your called a "text centric highly
literate world". Various pundits (Neil Postman "Amusing Ourselves to Death"
(1985) for exampe) have long argued that the late 20th and early 21st
century are an unliterate society and meaningful debate has ceased. Twenty
years ago I was in a seminat with a communication/marketing expert who said
that "85% of the (British) population is a-literate". (That is they can read
but chose not to.)

The celebrity culture --- evidenced by TV shows such as "America's Next Top
Model", "America's Got Talent" --- has many people clammering for the easy
life; if they can't get it themselves then they will ride the coat-tails of
those who do make. Postman prophesied the rise of such TV shows back in
1985. I would also cite the work of Ziauddin Sardar and Merryl Wyn Davies
("Why Do People Hate America?", "American Dream, Global Nightmare") for a
interesting piece of "cultural exegesis" on the American TV market and its
(negative) influence on society in general and Postman-esque decline in real
I would argue that Deaf people not wanting a written form of their language
is the same a-literacy response. The immediate and quick in preference to
the worked for and lengthy result. It's simply the zeitgieist.
On Mon, Nov 23, 2009 at 1:09 AM, Kimberley Shaw <skifoot at> wrote:

> Hello all:
>     what a great thread this is! I'd been wanting to respond to it
> all last week (and am now supposed to be working on my manuscript,
> ahem), so am now stealing a moment to add my own two cents.
>     One of the early replies mentioned that some Deaf people appear
> to feel a sense of pride in belonging to a language that "cannot be
> written down", and I suspect there may be something to that.
> Especially since we belong to such a text-centric highly-literate
> world. Especially since there has been so much emphasis on Deaf people
> becoming as much like Hearing people as possible ... perhaps having
> signed languages captured on pages and books feels like another Audist
> grab for control?
>     I myself get contradictory reactions when using SignWriting
> around two of my ASL-Deaf friends.
>     I belong to a women's chorus, and have begun to interpret some of
> the performances over the past year. Since I am not yet a fluent
> speaker of ASL, these particular Deaf friends have been advising me as
> I prepare ASL versions of the chorus' songs. And so, as we work out
> versions of the songs in ASL, I'm transcribing the translations into
> SW. Both of them are quite interested in what I do, and will follow
> what I write as I write it, and one of them has begun to notice when I
> *don't* write something correctly. And when someone else joins our
> song-translation sessions, she always shows off how I write down her
> signing. My other friend will sometimes ask to see the page after I've
> finished writing, and does a good job of reading it on the fly,
> without even had any lessons in reading SW. But then they will both
> almost always finish with some sort of disclaimer along the lines of
> "not for me, but if it works for you, great!" or "what chickenscratch.
> I could never do that!"
>     Best,
> Kim from Boston
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Regards, Trevor.

<>< Re: deemed!
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