ESWS - European SW Symposium

Charles Butler chazzer3332000 at YAHOO.COM
Wed Aug 3 17:23:52 UTC 2005

Hi Geoffrey,
Charles Butler here.
I know the feeling of being overwhelmed at the task of doing anything in an extra language, spoken or unspoken.  I am fluent in English, passably fluent in ASL, can read Portuguese fairly well, and am beginning (at 52) to learn Libras enough to transcribe it and compare it to ASL.
As a coordinator of Signed Language research, particularly a linguist, I would suggest that you focus on coordination more than day-to-day knowledge.  Helping to coordinate the various groups (such as the ESWS) with other groups working in signed languages for Europe would be a doable task.  Focusing on the linguistic need for documentation of the 63 languages will be a task in itself.  You don't have to do the work alone, yours should be a task of locating native users who would like to be involved in the linguistic research, much as you would with any other spoken language.
Remember that Valerie Sutton (the inventor of our system) knows only one Signed Language and that word by word (ASL).  She relies upon her Deaf friends to translate, communicate, and converse on linguistic issues.  

She posted a recent article on Verb forms in ASL, but that was relying upon other linguists work to show the differentiation between inflected forms of a verb.  Such a comparison between two signed languages, such as British Sign Language and Norwegian Sign Language (to name two) would be a task to involve linguists in two separated linguistic bases, as compared to French Sign Language and ASL (which incorporated major portions of it at its inception).
Coordination is a way you could strongly help users of separate linguistic communities to realize that their own communication skills are important in preservation and history.  Helping to start, and fund, a linguistic endeavor in the 63 currently used languages (and perhaps capturing the 7 moribund) would be fascinating, I would think.
Does that help?
Charles Butler

Geoffrey Hunt <geoffrey_hunt at> wrote:
Stephan wrote and asked me to contribute my impressions of the European
SignWriting Symposium. I'm a little reluctant to do this, because I am
probably the least competent person to do it. Let me explain why...

I am a member of SIL International, an organisation that in one way or
another is associated with work in over 1,300 languages worldwide, almost
all of them spoken languages. For twelve years I worked in Ghana as a
linguist/translator and, since then, have mostly been involved with the use
of computers for language work, but always for spoken languages. Then, two
and a half years ago, my then boss asked me, as an additional task, to be
involved with coordinating work in sign languages for the SIL Eurasia Area
(the whole of Europe, the former Soviet Union and parts of Africa and west
Asia). I decided I needed to find out what he was talking about, so set
about gathering a list of all the sign languages for which I could find
details. For the Eurasia Area I have a list of 70 SLs, of which 7 are
extinct or nearly so. So which one of these 63 SLs should I attempt to
learn in my part-time role? At my late stage in life, it does not seem
practical to start learning any of them, because I could not do it well.
(Let me know what you think.) So you see why I feel particularly
unqualified to contribute.

One thing that does interest me is how computers could be used to serve the
Deaf community, either for use by the Deaf or for use by those working with
the Deaf. So I came to ESWS because I wanted to link up with those already
involved in writing such software. We in SIL are starting such software
development using the Python programming language, so it was particularly
useful to meet Lars, whose own development work is using Python.

The best thing about ESWS was meeting the participants. Obviously, I could
not communicate with everyone, but I appreciated the general camaraderie. I
learnt a lot, particularly about SW and Deaf culture. And I made new
friends and look forward to meeting you at future events. A few of us tried
to decide on a sign for me, but it doesn't seem quite right, so perhaps I
will have to wait for another time.

Best wishes,

Geoffrey (Hunt)

-----Original Message-----
From: Stefan Wöhrmann [mailto:stefanwoehrmann at] 
Sent: 28 July 2005 22:38
To: 'Geoffrey_Hunt'
Subject: AW: [sw-l] ESWO

Hello Geoffrey, 

I am so happy to know you on the list - very welcome!!!
Of course - I will send some pictures -;-) 

Can you post your ideas , impressions, ?
What happened in your group from your point of view? 

I am very interested in any comment - just as we concluded at the end of the

Stefan ;-)

Just btw what was your name sign ? I forgot my notes in the restaurant. I
am sorry!

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