Valerie Sutton sutton at SIGNWRITING.ORG
Tue Feb 17 00:01:45 UTC 2004

SignWriting List
February 16, 2004

Dear SW List, Tamar, Stuart, Angus -
What a great discussion of the differences between systems...Thank you 
for this excellent write-up, and the offer to help Tamar...We have a 
good List!

When it comes to Sam Supalla's method of introducing some writing 
systems for signs, in the beginning of a Deaf child's learning 
experiences, and then taking the writing of signs away, once the child 
learns English, does bother me a bit. It leaves the Deaf student 
without a written form for his or her native signed language. So there 
is one major difference with SignWriting...SignWriting was not 
developed for that purpose. Whether it is used in the educational 
system or not, it provides a written form for the language, preserving 
its historical signs, and producing a library of Sign literature for 
the next generation. So when SignWriting is used in Deaf Education, the 
Deaf students can grow with the literature, and when they graduate, 
they will have a written form for both English and ASL, placing both 
languages equally on library shelves. A student who can read both 
English and ASL literature, can become truly bi-lingual. Taking the 
writing of signs away, and replacing it with only English, could leave 
the students with a feeling that it is not "ok" to read and write 
signs...I suspect that happened partly because of a need for funding. 
It is a little controversial to see ASL and English as equals...funding 
was probably more available if learning English was the focus...

I am working on a new posting of SignBank right now, because tomorrow I 
teach on a conference call to Albuquerque...I am really looking forward 
to this new experience! The teachers in Albuquerque use SignWriting 
daily with their students...and more teachers are starting, and some 
are Deaf themselves, which I think is great...

Val ;-)


On Feb 16, 2004, at 9:56 AM, Stuart Thiessen 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 system.
> 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.
> Thanks,
> 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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