Typing in SignWriting

Stephen Slevinski slevin at PUDL.INFO
Wed Mar 31 16:33:14 UTC 2004

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

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.

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?

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
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

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
"I'm fine"
"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.


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