Tamar Bernfeld tamarjb77 at YAHOO.COM
Mon Feb 16 19:18:20 UTC 2004

Actually, the primary reason I am interested in SignFont is because of the work Sam Supalla has done using a modified version.  What I would really like is to see the system he has used as a transitional system for teaching children to read English.  Does anyone have access to this information?
(I have contacted Sam Supalla but I haven't received a reply from him yet)


Stuart Thiessen <smt_sw at> wrote:

I have some information about SignFont on paper, but I too have noticed
that there is very little if anything out there on the Web ... just
dead links. From what I have understood, Sam Suppalla (sp?) in Arizona
was using the SignFont system (or a modified version of it, I don't
know) as a transitional system for deaf children but then apparently
abandoning its use as they acquired English. That is the only usage of
SignFont that I am aware of. I know of one hearing interpreter who
prefers the SignFont system because of its linear nature and because it
is a good compromise between Stokoe and HamNoSys. But he is the only
person I know who is actively using the system. I am not aware of any
deaf communities that are presently using the system.

It is essentially obsolete in comparison to Stokoe (and its variants),
HamNoSys, and SignWriting which still have active users today. I too
did a comparison of writing systems and, so far, my observation has
been that all linear systems of writing signed languages break down
particularly when it comes to the facial expressions and use of the
body (particularly the mime segments of ASL). This is because those
elements step outside of the rigid structure necessary for expressing
signs in a linear fashion. This ability to represent facial expressions
and use of the body continues to be a significant advantage of
SignWriting as a writing system for signed languages. SignFont did have
some generalized facial expressions, but Don had set up symbols for the
face as a whole which limited the ability of the writer to select other
variations of facial expressions than what he had set up. I have not
noticed any formal descriptions of facial expressions in the HamNoSys
system, but it is also important to note that the purpose of HamNoSys
seems not to be an everyday writing system, but to be a research
notation system. So even if they did add facial expressions, etc., I
believe the system would be too cumbersome as an everyday notation

When I teach SignWriting, I always show my deaf friends the writing
options they have for expressing their language in writing.
Invariably, once they understand the usage of SignWriting symbols, they
prefer the SignWriting system over linear systems because of its
clarity. Last summer, I had a workshop at the Iowa Association of the
Deaf. After a 2 hour workshop, they were able to identify written
signs for common items in the room (floor, door, ceiling, man, woman,
etc.). They saw the potential of the system and they saw how it was
relatively simple to map their movements to the written form itself. I
continue to see that as a marked advantage to the linear systems for
everyday use.

So, in short, whatever the advantages or disadvantages of the SignFont
system, for better or for worse, it appears at this point to be merely
a footnote in sign notation history rather than an active writing
system for signed languages. If you have access to a fax, I'd be happy
to dig out a few pages and fax you some example pages from the
information I have. I don't have access to a scanner at the present or
I could send it via email.


Stuart Thiessen
Pass It On Services
Des Moines, Iowa

On Feb 16, 2004, at 10:54 AM, Tamar Bernfeld wrote:

> Hi :)
> I'm writing a paper comparing notation systems for signed languages.
> One of the systems I want to review is SignFont developed by Don
> Newkirk in 1987(?).
> Does anyone have any information on this system?  I would like a list
> of the graphemes, etc...however, I am having trouble finding any
> publications.
> If you know of anything it would be greatly appreciated!!!
> Thanks.
> Tamar
> Do you Yahoo!?
> Yahoo! Finance: Get your refund fast by filing online

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