Advantages of ASL GLoss for SignWriting

Stephen Slevinski slevin at PUDL.INFO
Sun Mar 28 07:38:01 UTC 2004

Hi Val,

A few of the recent topics have jogged my memory.  I'd like to try and
explain some of the advantages of using ASL Gloss to generate SignWriting,
rather than SignWriting directly.

There are three major problems with signed languages and SignWriting.
1) The sign languages rapidly change
2) The sign languages have many dialects based on geography
3) Finger spelling can be used for a word or concept until a sign exists

Rapid Change and ASL Gloss
Many signs in ASL change with time.  On the ASL Bible website, you can view
many portions of the Bible in ASL.  But what happens in 10 years when some
of the signs have changed?  Each of the sections of the ASL Bible will need
to be rewritten.

However, if ASL Gloss is used along with something like my translation
program, all of the changes are automatic.  If the sign for Jesus changes,
then the sign is changed in the dictionary, but the ASL Gloss does not
require any change.  The ASL Gloss is much more stable than the SignWriting.

Dialect Differences and ASL-Gloss
Dialects have significant differences.  If the ASL Bible is to be widely
used, each dialect would need it's own version.  Every section of the ASL
Bible would need to be written for each dialect.

However, if ASL Gloss were used along with a translation program that is
dialect aware then the ASL Bible would only need to be written one time.
And the ASL Bible would be available in any dialect that was in the
dictionary without any additional work.

Translating according to dialects is not something that my dictionary can do
right now, but it will be able to do this in the future.

This is how it works...
Every sign that is added to the dictionary is labeled general ASL, or
dialect specific.  Any request to the translation program would include a
specific dialect.  The translation program would first pick signs from the
specific dialect that was requested.  If no sign was found, then the program
would select a general ASL sign.  Otherwise, fingerspelling would be used.

Finger spelling and ASL Gloss
Finger spelling is used in SignWriting when a sign does not exist.  But if a
sign is later accepted as valid, the finger spelling is no longer used.  If
you write in SignWriting directly you would need to update every occurrence
of the finger spelling to the new sign.

However, with ASL Gloss, finger spelling is automatically used until a sign
is added to the dictionary.  Once a sign is added to the dictionary, the
sign is automatically used rather then the finger spelling.

Like the definition you added for arithmetic.  The word subtract does not
yet exist in the dictionary so it is finger spelled.  But once the sign for
subtract is added to the dictionary, the definition for arithmetic will use
the new sign.

-Stephen Slevinski

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