Four SignWriting Levels...Goldilocks and Snow White

MARIA AZZOPARDI maria.azzopardi at UM.EDU.MT
Wed May 5 21:16:46 UTC 2010

Thank you so much for describing the process of creating levels of
signwriting. Very interesting. Yes - exactly - transcribing and writing
are two different processes, but I totally understand your reasons for
transcribing the higher levels. It is so interesting. Thanks again.

> SignWriting List
> May 5, 2010
> Hello Maria and everyone -
> Please excuse my tardiness in replying to this message - See my answers
> below...
> On Apr 21, 2010, MARIA AZZOPARDI wrote:
>> Can I just ask two small questions? Did you consider asking a Deaf
>> person
>> to write directly level 3 and level 4?
> Sure. I guess it doesn't matter whether they be Deaf or hearing...anyone
> skilled at writing advanced documents, without transcribing from video,
> but writing directly from their knowledge of the sign language being
> written, could write Levels 3 and 4 directly without video...
> But let me describe the reasons as to why we have chosen to transcribe
> from Deaf storytelling videos for Levels 3 and 4...
> First, I am not Deaf nor am I that skilled in any sign language, so the
> only way I personally could write good ASL is to transcribe it from
> video...and with limited funds and no Deaf staff at the time, I went ahead
> and transcribed Darline's wonderful storytelling videos...
> Second, we are all very new to writing our sign languages, and there are a
> lot of grammar points that native signers, or very skilled signers, do not
> think of, when they are writing directly, but when they see themselves on
> video, they realize that they did this or that...and had not thought of
> writing that, since they didn't even realize they signed that
> this is the real reason why I based the advanced documents on videotapes
> of Deaf storytelling, because it was the only way, with a brand new
> writing system, to realize what we needed to was our stage in
> our historic development that really influenced that decision...
> Third, basing a big document on a video is helpful for other
> reasons...Editors can refer back to the video to check the work, and if
> the video is signed well, then there is no criticism on the quality of the
> ASL or grammar least the issue as to whether we are writing good
> ASL (or not) goes away, because we can point to the video to say that the
> signer chose to sign it that way, and we are just transcribing what they
> said...then the editors just need to edit the actual SignWriting, and not
> the grammar, and this process helped me personally, because I was able to
> ask Kelly Jo Boal, for example, to transcribe Darline's storytelling of
> Snow White, and it was easy enough, because I could give Kelly Jo Boal the
> video and then the job was just to write what you see, without making
> linguistic decisions...
> But having said all this, there is a new development on that front...
> Nancy Romero, a hearing interpreter in ASL, and a very skilled signwriter,
> recently started to translate Bible sections into ASL and has been writing
> them directly in ASL without any video as a basis...So Nancy is doing just
> what you suggest with your question, Maria, because she is writing
> directly in three lanes, in Level 4, in a very simple style of writing.
> She is not writing all the detail that we do when we write video
> it is a very different process...but I like Nancy's
> simple style of writing, and with the Deaf ASL editor, Lucinda O'Grady
> Batch, I feel they have created good books.
> Recently Nancy completed the written translation of the entire book of
> Romans, in ASL. It is in the ASL Bible Puddle. And of course, the Gospel
> According to John:
> Book of Romans in ASL
> Gospel According to John
>> As I'm going through the Library on the website, from the material the
>> following differences emerge. There is signwriting that is:
>> 1. written directly into sign language (by native/ non-native)
>> 2. transcribed from video
>> 3. translated directly into sign language
>> 4. interpreted and then transribed into sign language
> This is true! I think all processes have value and I am glad to see such
> variety...
>> The processes involved in writing and transcribing are different.
>> Writing
>> is a cognitive process where you have time to think about the language
>> you
>> are using and re-edit, etc. Just like writing literature in spoken
>> language. A written book is very different to a story that would be
>> transcribed from someone saying a story there and then.
> That is very true. I hope more signwriters will become that skilled, to be
> able to write directly at advanced levels, without forgetting important
> grammar is just a matter of time I believe...
>> My second question is: I can see there is literature that is written
>> horizontally and vertically. What's the history of this, and it seems
>> like
>> there are certain countries (Brazil and France) that still write
>> horizontally - what's your opinion about this?
> Smile ;-))
> When my Deaf co-workers Lucinda O'Grady Batch and Meriam Ina Schroeder
> requested, in a meeting, in 1984, that we start writing in the Expressive
> in Vertical Columns, believe me, it was a shock and took us years to
> change all our software and textbooks and it was the best thing we ever
> did! They were absolutely correct. It just took a long time to change the
> software to write vertically.
> When SignWriting began, in 1974, it was Receptive in Horizontal
> Left-to-Right style, because in 1974, I based the invention on watching
> videos of Deaf people signing Danish Sign Language, and the Receptive mode
> was easiest when transcribing from videos...this was at the University of
> Copenhagen in 1974-1975.
> But by 1984, we had hired 10 Deaf native signers of ASL, in California, my
> homeland, to write the SignWriter Newspaper articles in was an
> historic research project because the SignWriter Newspaper required that
> the Deaf reporters write all their articles in ASL...Most articles were
> written with full stick figures, receptive, from left to right, but over
> time, from 1981 to 1984, the Deaf reporters realized that they preferred
> to write vertically and expressively and without stick figures, and so
> that historic SignWriter Newspaper project really gave us outstanding data
> - that is - experience for Deaf people to tell us what they needed...
> So I am grateful to the Deaf Community for requesting these historic
> changes...You can read about some of this on the web, plus, i would
> strongly suggest watching the SignWriting History videos, which we call
> "Deaf Perspectives on SignWriting"...
> SignWriting History
> Evolution of Writing Styles
> Deaf Perspectives Video: How SignWriting Changed
> On the above video, Lucinda explains how we changed from receptive to
> expressive and from horizontal to vertical...
> So you will see old documents written hortizontally because they are old,
> and also because the old software, SignWriter DOS, which is excellent
> software, sadly can only write from left to right, so that is the reason i
> do not use SignWriter DOS, because it does not write vertically in lanes,
> like SignPuddle does...
> Hope this has helped -
> Val ;-)
> -----------
>> thanks again,
>> maria
>>> SignWriting List
>>> April 20, 2010
>>> Hello Maria!
>>> Thank you for this message, and as Adam has confirmed, your message
>>> made
>> it to the List...
>>> Regarding the four SignWriting Levels of Goldilocks...I am also coming
>> out
>>> with four SignWriting Levels for Snow White in ASL as well. Snow White
>> Level One is now a published book, although not posted on the web yet...
>>> I developed the four SignWriting reading levels for the SignWriting
>> Literacy Project in 1998 -
>>> SW1 - SignWriting Level 1: WorkBook and Coloring Book for Beginners
>> Individual signs that are used in later levels are presented on pages
>> with
>>> illustrations and some pages in the workbook ask beginners to write
>>> rows
>> of one sign...repeating the handwriting of one sign at a time...I do not
>> mean only symbols in rows, but actually writing a complete sign, like
>> the
>>> sign for SNOW, many times in a vertical row, to give the student
>> practice.
>>> So they learn vocabulary that will be used in later levels, and they
>>> can
>> color the illustrations that are used in later levels. Although Level 1
>> is
>>> obviously geared for children because it is a coloring book, actually
>> the
>>> workbook exercises are useful for all beginners, no what their ages...
>>> SW2 - SignWriting Level 2: Basic Storybook
>>> This is a shortened version of the story, not based on any video, but
>> written directly in SignWriting, in short sentences, with fairly simple
>> signs, and the sentences usually are written with only a Center Lane, to
>> give readers their first experience in reading full sentences. There are
>> no more than 2 vertical columns of writing per page. The sign language
>> sentences are then translated into simple spoken language. Both
>> languages
>>> are written with large type for beginning readers. All signs in the
>> sign-sentences can be looked up in a little dictionary in the back of
>> the
>>> Level 2 book, for reference. Darline wrote her stories directly in ASL
>> for
>>> this purpose. Writing directly in sign language, doing no translation
>> from
>>> any spoken language, and not basing it on any video, is the best way to
>> get simple writing of a shortened version of the story.
>>> SW3 - SignWriting Level 3: Intermediate Storybook
>>> This is a video transcription of ASL storytelling, with medium size
>> SignWriting symbols, medium size spoken language translation, and
>> colorful
>>> illustrations. The SignWriting sentences have full facial expressions,
>> role shifting, all three Lanes are used to show the grammar of the
>> language. Writing storytelling from ASL video provides an advanced
>> story,
>>> but at the intermediate level there are no more than three vertical
>> columns on one page and there is a spoken language translation on each
>> page.
>>> SW4 - SignWriting Level 4: Advanced Storybook
>>> The same video transcription used in Level 3 is now reduced to smaller
>> size SignWriting symbols, with at least 4 vertical columns to a page,
>> and
>>> NO spoken language translation. It is pure sign language reading
>> material,
>>> with fewer illustrations.
>>> As the sizes of the SignWriting symbols reduce, the reader starts to
>> read
>>> for meaning, rather than trying to figure out SignWriting symbols and
>> spellings...Whole signs are recognized for meaning quickly, without
>> analysis.
>>> To start developing these levels, you need to find an excellent
>>> storyteller in sign language, and videotape the story. From there,
>>> break
>> down the story into important vocabulary that the signer used in that
>> videotape, and from there you can start Level 1....Then ask the same
>> storyteller, to sit down and write the story themselves in SignWriting
>> directly without looking at any video, and ask them to write the simple
>> story using some of the same vocabulary...Then a skilled video
>>> transcriptionist transcribes the storytelling video, and the full
>> transcription is used for Levels 3 and 4. You can reduce the size of
>> type
>>> in SignPuddle using ColumnMaker, or drag and drop the sentences into
>> programs that do auto reduction. That is how we developed the four
>> SignWriting reading levels -
>>> Hope this helps!!
>>> Val ;-)
>>> Valerie Sutton
>>> Sutton at
>>> -----------
>>> On Apr 20, 2010, at 2:19 PM, MARIA AZZOPARDI wrote:
>>>> Dear Valerie,
>>>> I was wondering if you could explain to me how you worked on the
>>>> different
>>>> levels for Goldilocks? It's very interesting. I can see that level 2
>> was
>>>> written directly by Darline. What technique was used for the other
>>>> levels?
>>>> I would love to write something for four levels of LSM signwriting,
>> perhaps using the same format, would this be possible?
>>>> Thanks
>>>> maria
>>>> ps: could you confirm that this email got to the signwriting list
>>>> also?
>> i've never received any confirmations and i've sent perhaps two or
>> three
>>>> emails since we moved to new server

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