Typing in SignWriting

Stuart Thiessen sw at PASSITONSERVICES.ORG
Wed Mar 31 20:57:04 UTC 2004

ASL Gloss can have its place as a rough translation that could be
cleaned up later.  I don't necessarily have a problem with that.  The
challenge comes when ASL would use classifers, mime, or other tools of
ASL in that sentence.  Will the habit of glossing cause these valuable
features to be lost? That is my primary concern. Those features are very
valuable.  Much of the weight of English's description words and phrases
would be translated by a classifier that is moved in a certain way.  The
prepositional system of ASL is really spatial relations between the two
signs that are being related (the man is beside the car would be the
placement of the classifier for car and then a classifier for a person.
And it could be anywhere around that car.) So it is some of these key
elements of ASL grammar that are easily forgotten when we think about

But as a rough translation, it could be a starting place for those whose
first language or preferred language is English. But I'm still wondering
about the impact of that on true ASL literacy which should be our first

I added some other comments below to Stephen's comments which I hit me
as I read this whole email ....



Charles Butler wrote:

> As a medium for capturing nuance from English to sign, ASL Gloss
> (English words in sign order with some editions) may make a good
> bridge for a syntactically accurate translation program to work from
> English to SW.  The parsing for such a project will certainly be
> tremendous.  I am not so versed in ASL to be able to do so.
> Method meaning no no equal English sign exact compare compare ASL
> maybe maybe help communicate same same translate equal English result
> SW.  Break down list English word examine difficult WOW.
> That's my first attempt.  Any feedback.
> Charles Butler
> */Stephen Slevinski <slevin at PUDL.INFO>/* wrote:
>     Hi Val and list,
>     SignWriting is superior to the alphabet for capturing language
>     detail during
>     transcription. If you tell 10 people to sign "I love you", each
>     using a
>     different emotion, and faithfully transcribe what they sign, each
>     SignWriting will be different: the facial expression, the exact hand
>     placement, and other details. If you capture 10 people saying "I
>     love you",
>     each spelling would be the same, and anything not the same is a
>     spelling
>     error.
But ASL facial expressions is not simply emotion. It is also grammatical

>     And while it is possible to record an extraordinary amount of
>     detail with
>     SignWriting, you must consider the reason for writing and what is
>     adequate.
>     Purpose...
>     There is a great book that I would love to translate into
>     SignWriting. "How
>     to read a book" by Mortimer J Adler and Charles Van Doren. It
>     talks about
>     the four levels of reading: elementary, inspectional, analytical, and
>     syntopical. Reading is not merely starting at the beginning and
>     finishing
>     at the ending. This book clearly explains the reasons to support
>     SignWriting over video.
>     When you read something, you need to ask yourself what you are
>     reading. Is
>     it practical or imaginative? Is it history, science, mathematics,
>     philosophy, or social science?
>     If you're reading a book on history, do you really need to see the
>     smile
>     when the author mentions America?
If it is part of the nuance of the sign, yes.  All of that brings to
life the signs and is one of the very valuable things of SignWriting
because it captures our language the way we use it.  Sometimes, it is
not a sign that conveys meaning, but a body movement.  I remember
reading (and it might have been on this list, I don't remember) about
someone who was taking questions on a stage.  And a very controversial
question was asked.  The speaker put his foot forward, hesitated, and
moved his foot back.  Then he moved on to the next question.  It was
clear what he said, "That is a very controversial question. I think I
will decline to answer that question."  But it was done and understood
without a "sign" or even a "sign sentence".   Those things are all
important when we translate into ASL in order to get the right picture.

Even today, I was talking with someone about the concept of "rich".
There is "rich" as in wealth, but there can be "rich" as in generous
too. The meanings are very different.  She used the concept in ASL for
wealth. But the person said, that doesn't make sense in ASL.  So she
analyzed the sentence more and realize the point of the word "rich" in
that sentence pointed to generosity, not wealth. So it was important to
be sure the concept was coming across.

Add to that things like verbal modifiers (changes in motion that change
the meaning of verbs).  I go.  I go a lot.  I go (and it's very boring).
I go once in a while.  I go all the time.   I don't go.  Are you going?
Wh--- are you going? All of these sentence can be signed with the same
verb, but different movement and/or facial expression accompanying the
verb to indicate the change in meaning.   In fact the last two questions
can be signed with YOU GO in ASL gloss, but the facial expression will
decide if it is a Yes/No question or a wh-question. Obviously a WH-sign
would clear up the meaning, but it is possible in the context of a
sentence to understand the wh-sign meant.

These are just examples of where facial expressions and/or body language
become important.  This impacts our input methods because how we think
when we input may determine how much we utilize the richness of ASL in
our writing .... or not.


>     Val wrote...
>     ---------------------------------
>     Pasting from the dictionary is not good for ASL or any signed
>     language.
>     Each sign in a real SignSentence, has facial expressions that are
>     specific to the placement in the sentence...in other words...in all
>     dictionaries...certain grammar details are not in the dictionary...
>     no dictionary replacement system, or ASL glossing system, can most
>     likely
>     capture every grammar possibility that will come up in a
>     sentence...That is
>     why
>     typing directly in the language is better than pasting...
>     ---------------------------------
>     For personal or poetic or persuasive writing, adding all of the
>     extra detail
>     would be worth the time and effort. For this SignWriter is such a
>     great
>     tool.
>     But for some types of writing, simple signs like those in the
>     dictionary
>     would be adequate. And these types of signs could be quickly typed in
>     SignWriter without pasting from the dictionary. I believe these
>     signs could
>     also be created with an adequate ASL gloss translator.
>     Speaking of the ASL Gloss. I was thinking of how fictional novels
>     capture
>     details that an English dictation cannot. This detail is added through
>     description.
>     -------------------------------------------
>     "I'm fine"
>     versus
>     "I'm fine," she said with a tear in her eye.
>     -------------------------------------------
>     And while the facial expression for "who" is intertwined with the
>     sign, the
>     facial expression for fine is not. Would it be possible to use facial
>     expressions separate from signs? And use the facial expressions
>     whenever
>     the emotion changes?
>     There is no official structure to gloss, so I'm trying to create a
>     structure
>     that I can use to program the translator. I was thinking that facial
>     expressions could be loosely classified as adverbs, and would
>     therefore end
>     in -ly.
>     So the SignWriting for "sadly" or "happyly" would be a facial
>     expression.
>     So "sadly fine" would be qualitatively different than "happyly fine".
>     SignWriter is superior, but a gloss could be adequate. And options are
>     always good.
>     -Stephen
>     www.pudl.info

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