SignWriting Shorthand and Handwriting

Valerie Sutton Sutton at SIGNWRITING.ORG
Mon Sep 29 00:10:28 UTC 2003

SignWriting List
September 28, 2003

Sandy Fleming in the UK wrote:
> ....Another good thing is that it's not really departing from Val's
> notation at all, it's just missing out elements that aren't really
> needed for comprehension.

Dear Sandy and SW List Members:
Did you know that years ago, in the mid 1980's, I used to teach four
ways to write SignWriting?....:

1. SignWriting Detailed for Research Use (can be compared to the
International Phonetic Alphabet, the IPA)
2. SignWriting Printing for Everyday Use (block symbols, like block
letters, that are typed or written by hand very perfectly for easy
3. SignWriting Handwriting for Everyday Use ( a cursive form of
SignWriting Printing that is written quickly by hand, but is NOT
4. SignWriting Shorthand for Sign Language Stenography (used by
professional notetakers for Deaf students or Deaf people in the courts)

We had three textbooks in 1982:

SignWriting For Research Use
SignWriting For Everyday Use (both Printing and Handwriting)
SignWriting Shorthand for Sign Language Stenography

Then, in 1984, SignWriting changed and improved rather drastically. We
switched from the Receptive to the Expressive Viewpoints, and made
writing vertically in columns, as our standard writing direction,
changing it from the horizontal. Every document and textbook was
out-of-date and had to be re-written. It took me a decade to do
this....Plus computers came into the picture, and sent our world
spinning in another direction...

I created a new textbook called "Lessons in SignWriting". I never
re-wrote the Shorthand book to match the new way of writing. Dr. Karen
van Hoek and I plan to do that someday...we have not gotten to that yet.

Sandy just wrote to me privately to ask me if we really didn't have a
handwriting book?...That is correct, Sandy. We do not. We only have one
workbook for young children, in which they write rows and rows and rows
of symbols until it finally becomes so automatic they don't think about
it anymore, like driving or typing for adults...

Deaf kids do NOT learn to write quickly. They learn to READ quickly. So
reading is quicker than writing, and writing takes as long as any other
writing system, such as the English alphabet. Learning to write English
takes about three years of schooling...there is no way to have "instant
gratification" when it comes to learning to write signs. Just do it,
and do it and do it, and don't stand in judgement of what
if it is messy or takes a long time?...If someone criticises you or
SignWriting, who cares? I double-dare them to try it themselves - ha!!
I think you are brave to try, and braver than any critics ;-)

My advice?...Just like the Deaf kids....Learn to read first, and then
writing comes with time...Standardized spellings for signs from your
country will evolve in time...None of us can work any faster than we
are doing, nor do I want to do that...I want to enjoy the adventure and
take it slowly...letting the writing of the languages evolve in a
somewhat natural is going faster than the development of
English writing, which took centuries....and it appears, Sandy, that
you are making a little history yourself, by being one of the first
people in the UK to start writing BSL in SignWriting...I hope you will
continue and build a dictionary slowly but surely...

I hope you will stick with it, frustrations and all ....

Val ;-)

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