[sw-l] LESSONS in Transcribing a Poem from Video

Nancy Emery nemery at U.WASHINGTON.EDU
Tue Nov 16 22:50:03 UTC 2004

hi all,

I think there are a lot of open questions here, about receptive vs.
expressive signing and about level of phonetic accuracy (e.g. whether to
show the tilt on "H" etc).

I have been trying to teach myself SignWriting specifically in able to be
able to transcribe ASL texts from video.  As most of the available materials
are for expressive view, that's how I've learned it, both to write and to
read.  I do remember reading about receptive view, but frankly I find it
easier to mirror and then look at my hands than to transcribe right off a
video, because it often takes me awhile to figure out just how a sign is
really made.

If I were trying to transcribe a language I didn't know I might be less able
to mirror, so I can see that receptive view would help for that.  And I know
this is an international list.  And I understand Charles' point that seen
side by side with video stills, receptive view is easier to compare.  But
for a long transcription, I can't make transparencies of everything anyway
nor is it always easy to segment a video into stills.

If we're going to transcribe in receptive view, then if what we transcribe
is for anyone besides ourselves, the reading audience will also have to be
able to read in receptive view.  As I understand it, the SignWriting
transcription of "Little Red Riding Hood" on the web was transcribed from a
video.  But it's published in expressive view.  So it was either written in
expressive view, even though the transcriber was not the original signer, or
it was "flipped" afterwards.

If we want to make extended transcribed texts available for a larger
audience, do we really want to ask the audience to learn both expressive and
receptive views depending on what the source of the text is?  Or do we want
to go back and "flip" our whole transcription from one form to another
before publishing?  Or, can we agree that some people can transcribe in
expressive view if it works better for them?

As for level of accuracy on things like tilting the H, I think that's also
open for discussion.  Are you trying to transcribe to the highest degree of
phonetic accuracy, or are you trying to produce something with the relevant
phonological distinctions, which can be read and understood by people who
didn't see the video?  I know that when I fingerspell my name, N-A-N-C-Y, my
little finger starts coming out for the Y as soon as I start the C.  (For
those who don't know the ASL alphabet, that distorts the handshape into one
which has no official place in ASL.) If I were studying handshape
assimilation I might try to transcribe that (though I don't know that the
IMWA has such a handshape), but not if I were transcribing my name for any
other purpose.  Of course, sometimes signs are changed for artistic effect
and we want to be alert to that.  But I don't think we can avoid making a
certain number of judgment calls, if only in where to segment a stream of

Again, if you don't know the language you're transcribing, you don't know
what distinctions might be relevant.  So there can be different
transcriptions for different purposes.

This is an interesting conversation (to me anyway), and I don't mean to say
that Charles is wrong, just that I think other perspectives are possible.


on 11/16/04 9:16 AM, Charles Butler at chazzer3332000 at YAHOO.COM wrote:

Dear Sign Writers,

Perhaps it's just me, but I really think that in transcribing a video, one
should learn and use "receptive" sign writing.  You are writing, NOT your
own hands, but those of someone else.  The man's left right hand points to
right, but in the sign writing, written right next to the slide, it is YOUR
hands pointing to the left, not HIS.

The switch from receptive to expressive Sign Writing has made it very
difficult to show that BOTH are valuable, and in the context of writing
sign, it makes it very difficult, as the videos show, to compare what are
back-to-front mirror images.

I understand the desire to write one's own hands, because that it what you
can see, all the time, but if I'm writing, in court, or in the classroom,
someone else, i write what I see, which is resolutely NOT my own hands in
motion.  I want to be able to print my writing, on transparency, and lay it
right down on the video.  If the hands don't match shape, and orientation,
then it's not transcription, it's mirroring, which is something entirely

Right now, one has to mentally flip the sign writing over to match the
video, as if the signer is printing his hands on the video and you are
folding it over and opening the page like an ink blot, not actually have a
sign-to-sign comparison of someone else's hands written and what those
"someone else's hands" are doing.

This is the only time when I feel that receptive writing is appropriate,
when you all are looking at the same subject, and it is NOT you signing.  We
need to compare what is actually THERE, not our own hands, HERE.

Plus, if it is literal transcription, the handshape of the H should be
tilted slightly upward, not presumed to be an H and written horizontal.
That is editing the orientation, not writing exactly what is seen, which is
what I thought this class was to be about.

Charles Butler

Valerie Sutton <sutton at signwriting.org> wrote:
SignWriting List
November 16, 2004


LESSON ONE continued...
Stefan's complete transcription of the first 8 photos:

> ATTACHMENT part 2 image/jpeg name=OneHarbor02.jpg; x-mac-type=4A504547;
x-unix-mode=0644; x-mac-creator=3842494D

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