SIgnwriting and L2 literacy

Nancy E Emery nemery at U.WASHINGTON.EDU
Tue Dec 16 01:02:51 UTC 2003


this is a response to Tamar's question about whether SIgnWriting could
serve as a bridge to L2 literacy more easily in a language like Spanish in
which the spelling is, like SW itself, more "transparent" - or phonetic -
than English spelling.

I'd think that L1 literacy in a language like Spanish would be easier than
L1 literacy in English, for hearing children, for that reason.  And that
literacy in a signed language using SW would be much easier than using a
less transparent, linear system like Stokoe or HamNoSys.

But as for the more phonetic spelling of Spanish vs. English making a
difference for Deaf children learning to read the written forms of spoken
languages... maybe it would depend on whether oral skills were part of
what they were studying, along with the signwriting?  If they were
practicing orally pronouncing or speechreading, maybe with the help of
something like Stefan's system for mouth movements, I think it would be a
lot easier to associate the spelling and the mouth movements in a spoken
language with regular, transparent/phonetic spelling than in a language
with irregular spelling like English.  (I am NOT trying to take any
position about how much time Deaf children should spend on oral skills

But if the children are using SignWriting to understand the concept of
writing, and the meaning of the spoken-language words and sentences,
without any additional speaking/speechreading component, I wouldn't think
it would make a difference how closely the spelling of the spoken language
mirrored its pronunciation - that part of the loop wouldn't matter,
they'd just be associating the look of the string of letters to the
meaning and use.

As a hearing person, I "hear" what I read inside my head - but if I'm
trying to read Chinese, which is not alphabet based, sometimes I recognize
the shape of a character enough to know its meaning but don't remember how
it's pronounced at all, just like there are some things I know how to say
in Chinese but not how to write.  (Most things in Chinese I can neither
say nor write, mind you.)  (But maybe I'm "hearing" my English translation
in my head?)  Anyhow, I think the meaning/writing connection can be made
without sound, so the accuracy of the spelling system for representing
sound may not matter.

Interesting question!

Nancy Emery

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