Intro to the List - Charles Butler

Charles Butler chazzer3332000 at YAHOO.COM
Mon Mar 29 14:39:57 UTC 2004

Hello folks,

My name is Charles Butler, and I've been on this list for about 10+ years.  I am hearing and at one point was a free-lance intepreter (ASL/Pidgin Signed English) in the United States.

I became an intepreter because I fell in love with another intepreter (who moved out of state).  In 1978 I ran across the Sign Writer Newspaper in Washington DC and found that I could read it with little difficulty.  I began to self-teach myself SW and write Valerie about it.  With a local programmer we worked on an Apple IIe version of a Sign Writer program which we presented in New York City at a Dance Writing convention.  We were the only group to be talking about Sign Language as a movement language.  The rest of the presentations were various ways to present labonotation (one of the main standards of Dance), so people were quite excited.

I went on to show that program at Towson University and later to teach SW at Gallaudet College (later University).  Valerie later came and taught a course which helped me to brush up and expand my skills.

In the long conversations both by email and voice, I was able to travel to Brazil, first to meet with Fernando Capovilla in Sao Paulo, and then with the staff of the SignNet project in Porto Alegre (particularly Marianna Stumpf).  She took me to the Lutheran Elementary school that she was teaching at and having great success with SW as literacy for the kids.  We discussed various SW writing conventions and with her help I was invited to work in Porto Alegre and Pelotas the following spring (with Professor Antonio Carlos de Rocha Costa).  I lectured in Porto Alegre and Pelotas on SW as literacy, and was priveleged to be a part of the FENEIS (Brazilian National Association of the Deaf) meeting where SW was adopted in principle as the writing system for Sign Language in Brazil.  Part of the strongest argument was Marianne and two other lecturers preparing their notes for publication in SW directly for presentations.  Portions of our dictionary were hung in the hall for people to browse
 between classes.

I worked on a 750 SW dictionary (with Marianne Stumpf) that ordered signs both Portuguese-SW and SW (by a modified SSS) - Portuguese.  I helped to create a domino game in SW, and began to help with other input and feedback on the various computer programs being developed at the Catholic University of Porto Alegre (an animation program) and saw the beginnings of a Palm Pilot program using SW shorthand as a medium.  Simply from working every day with the Deaf and other users of SW I began to help edit the translation efforts (Marianne Stumpf was translating Lessons in Sign Writing into Portuguese and Brazilian Sign Language (Libras).  In the process we found one hand shape that was not currently in SW (a variation of the thumb-ring finger hand) and I created a poster of all the handshapes of Libras with examples for the school kids of Pelotas.  One wonderful conversation I had with a deaf family was about their attempts to become fluent in written Portuguese.  Their hearing teacher had
 had some difficulty in comprehending that Libras was a language without a written form.  With the poster of sign shapes and the various success stories, they were going to be able to go back to him and say "We will learn your written language if you learn ours.  Your written language has 26 letters, ours has 74 (just the handshapes) and they MOVE."

Marianne is now teaching at a school in Florianopolis with great success.  An overview of the Dictionary and its concepts is available as a link from the web site.

I hope to return to Brazil sometime in the next couple of years and continue my work there, refine it to make it more user-friendly and take the next steps toward dissemination.

I was able to lecture on SW and true Sign Language Literacy at the Deaf Way II conference in Washington DC in 2002.  The cluster of us who were conversant in SW from Brazil, Colombia, and Panama got together for several meetings and people were quite happy that I had brought posters in both ASL and Libras to show off SW to a very diverse Deaf and sign language using population.

My computer has had several crashes and make overs in the past year so I now do not have access to SW (except for my old files), so it is sometimes difficult to respond to the many questions on this list.

Among other projects that I have started is the beginnings of a Deaf Pagan sign language dictionary.  Working with Deaf folk of minority religions, we often come across concepts that are unique to the Pagan community, such as "witch" (as a wise person, not a Halloween crone), "aura" (as the field of energy surrounding a person), and several other signs.  One sign I ran across in Brazil was the local sign for Umbanda (an Afro-Brazilian religion).  This was shown me by a Deaf teacher who had gotten it from a Lutheran pastor.  Take the religious sign for Lutheran (an L hand on a flat hand) (L + Book) and change the L-hand to a Wedge-hand scattering herbs in a circle.  As Umbanda priests and priestesses often scatter herbs on to the fires of their worship services, this is a good mnemonic for their religion.

In addition, I have also published scholarly works on the use of Sign Language in the Society for Creative Anachronism (a medieval re-creation group).  As there are a number of Deaf participants, we looked to a way to translate the various terms of a medieval court into ASL-understood sign language and to document those in SW.  Some signs already exist in ASL and various European sign languages (King, Queen, Prince, Princess, Koeniga, Koeng, Roy, Rei, Reina), but some do not (Baron, Knight, Viceroy, Viscount, Count) so working with the Deaf and through concepts we have created name signs for these ranks and for the various groups in this recreation group (The Society for Creative Anachronism).  I published a short article (12 pages) in the scholarly magazine (The Compleat Anachronist) which has been picked up by several other publications.

I am also a contributor to the Sign Poetry and storytelling web sites.

I hope to continue to contribute to the various boards in any way that I am able.

Charles Butler

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