Mystery Novel: Message from Madrid, Spain....

Valerie Sutton Sutton at SIGNWRITING.ORG
Wed Oct 30 07:44:14 UTC 2002

From: "Steve and Dianne Parkhurst" <steve-dianne_parkhurst at>
To: "Valerie Sutton" <Sutton at>
Subject: RE: mystery novel
Date: Tue, 29 Oct 2002

Dear Valerie,

Greetings from sunny (but getting chilly) Spain. Yes, we are back in Spain
after spending 6 months in the US. This summer we, along with Dr. Albert
Bickford, taught a set of three sign language linguistic courses at UND.
Several of the list's members were also there. It was great to get to know
them. One of the classes that Dianne and I taught was called Signed
Languages and Literacy. It was a comparison of different writing systems for
signed languages, an in-depth look at what all needs to be written (facial
expressions, punctuation, all the different kinds of movements, etc. etc.
etc.) and then several weeks on literacy theory and how to develop a
literacy program. The other two courses were on SL linguistics and

As you are well aware, SW is controversial in the US. Some of the Deaf who
were there (especially some who visited for several weeks and sat in on the
courses) were very opposed to SW, but that opened the door for some good
discussion on the value of writing (all eventually agreed that there was
some definite value to writing signed languages), and that first and
foremost Deaf communities need to be respected. If one community does not
feel that writing is appropriate, then as an outsider I should not force it
on them. If a Deaf individual decides to use a system, it is not the place
of other Deaf or hearing persons to put him down or discourage him from
doing so. Likewise, if a Deaf community (in Spain, for example) does like it
and is using it, then other Deaf need to respect that and not condemn them
for using a writing system. Since there were strong opinions on all sides, I
felt like it was a very good introduction to our students regarding the
issues involved in SL literacy.

One experiment that we conducted in class is worth passing on to you.
According to reading theory, when we read words in English (or whatever
language) we do not read each symbol but rather the shape of the word as a
whole. We tested this theory like this: I flashed up the letter "g" (using
Power Point, I was able to flash a graphic on the screen for just a few
fractions of a second). I asked the 14 students if they could recognize the
letter. They all got it right on the first try. Then I flashed a well-known
word ("apple"); all but one got it on the first try. Then I flashed a
nonsense word that follows English spelling rules ("blick"). Most got it
right on the first try. At least one person thought it was the word "black"
but it didn't quite look right; that person got it right on the second
flash. Then I did a combination of letters that is not pronounceable in
English ("nlabk"); only a few got it right on the first try and there were
several who still didn't get it after the third flash. The point is that we
don't decipher words by recognizing each individual letter (otherwise nlabk
and blick and apple would all take equal amounts of time).

OK, now on to SL. First I flashed a photo of me signing a simple two-handed
sign. They had all seen the photo in their homework many times before. After
the third flash only two or three correctly identified the sign--there was
just too much to look at. Then I flashed a line drawing (which they had also
seen a time or two in the homework). Again most did not get it on the first
try but after three tries more than half had it correct, but still not
everybody was able to read it. Then I flashed the sign "CAR" in SW and
immediately everyone got it right. There was a HUGE difference in
recognition time. (The students knew the basics of SW and had seen the sign
several times but were not yet fluent readers of SW.) Moral: SW makes
reading fast. I can read SW faster than I can physically sign it. (Likewise,
I can read English faster than I can pronounce it.) A literacy specialist
told me that slow readers have more comprehension problems because their
minds want to go so much faster, that when they read slowly, their minds
tend to wander and comprehension goes down. SW allows a reader to read much more quickly than line drawings or photos ever can. Interesting, huh?

Valerie, you asked about the mystery novel "The Moonstone". Yes, you may
purchase the novels. We're kind of in a quandary about how much to charge.
The book actually cost us between $7 and $7.50 to print, but we listed it
inside the back cover as $4.00 (or 4 Euros) so that is what we will charge.
Since our list price is well below cost, unfortunately we can't give any
discounts. Shipping to the US will cost about $4.50 or $4.60 for one book in
an unpadded envelope (a padded envelope might weigh too much and push the
weight into the $8 shipping cost; we'll check it before we send any); for 10
books, $33 to $34, assuming the packaging won't weigh more than 80 grams.

Valerie, if you want to send this message to the list, you can.

For the people on the list who might be interested, write and let us know.
We'll need you to send us a name and address and we will let you know how
much it will cost to send it where you are. At the moment we are NOT ON THE
LIST so please send all requests personally to us at:

steve-dianne_parkhurst at

The mystery novel consists of 141 pages of natural Spanish Sign Language and
there are no glosses or summary or anything. If you don't know Spanish SL,
you won't understand much of the story. But if you want an example of what
can be done with SW (something more than just children's stories) and what
is being done in Spain, here is an example. In addition to the mystery novel
we have 20 other small 16 - 20 page magazines with stories, jokes, poetry,
etc. in Spanish SL written in SW. As far as I know it is the largest body of
literature ever written in a signed language. The complete set of 20
magazines and the mystery "The Moonstone" costs $20.00 plus shipping. Again,
all income goes to produce more literature.

That's it for now. Have a super day,

Steve :-)
Steve and Dianne Parkhurst
c/ Miguel de Cervantes 8
28890 Loeches, Madrid

steve-dianne_parkhurst at

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