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

Charles Butler chazzer3332000 at YAHOO.COM
Wed Nov 17 00:20:27 UTC 2004

Hi Nancy, and list,

I couldn't agree with you more.  If this were a lesson in ASL, I'd say, by all means, show an H as a "standardized" "H" with the hand horizontal, and show the expressive view, when a video is later being viewed and dissected.

But because this is stills, not video, and the use of this lesson, I thought was to write what is "seen" (the orientation of the hands) not what is "felt" (as in grammar).  The concept "H" is a different handshape, orientation, and movement in LIBRAS, for example, so seeing a shape in isolation, and not knowing the context, I felt safer to write it expressive and its exact orientation as a "lesson in writing" not a "lesson in fingerspelling".

Different uses, different audiences.  We've had other SW phrases in ASL compared on this list, to see which "feels" right for the same movement, to create a "standardized spelling".  That is why these discussions are so valuable.

Thanks for the reply.

Charles Butler

Nancy Emery <nemery at u.washington.edu> wrote:
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 signing.

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:

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