Report on 1st European SignWriters Symposium.

Honza honza at RUCE.CZ
Tue Aug 23 18:20:55 UTC 2005

Hi Barbara,

thanks for your report.
Nice to read about it and nice to get to know that next symposium is in 
I thought next symp. is in 2006


Barbara Pennacchi wrote:

> Hi to y'all signwriters!
> I apologize for the looong delay in translating (and expanding it, 
> too)  the small report I and Alessio di Renzo (the other Italian 
> participant to  the ESWS -- we were only 2 people) we wrote for out 
> bosses.
> Sorry if it is a bit longish, hope it may satisfy the curiosity of all 
> the  people that couldn't attend the symposium.
> -----------------------start------------------------
> 21 JULY (1st day) --
> In the morning, after the usual stuff (registration, opening and so 
> on),  Kathleen Heylen, from belgium, and Stefan Wohrmann, from germany 
> (sorry  stefan, I'm no good at hunting diacritic marks under linux), 
> presented  their talks on "education and sign writing techniques".
> Ms. Kathleen's talk was centered mostly on her experience in teaching  
> children how to write down belgian sign language, within the context 
> of a  bilingual primary school. She started 2 years ago, with the aim 
> to give  children the chance to learn how to read and write in their 
> own sign  language. It seems that the implicit objective of her 
> project is to help  them reinforce awareness and knowledge of their 
> own sign language. In her  talk she showed not only some of the 
> exercises she gave children, but also  5 relevant points of her work 
> with the children:
> 1) phonology (i.e. use of colors and "minimal couples" to mark 
> different  elements of a sign)
> 2) morphology (i.e. the use of polysyntactic signs, as kathleen 
> defines  what we'd call roughly "classifiers")
> 3) syntax (i.e. making visible the change of meaning between two 
> slightly  different SL sentences)
> 4) semantics (i.e. marking the differences between synonyms and/or  
> homonyms)
> 5) pragmatics (i.e. awareness of different linguistic registers such 
> as  formal/informal signs)
> Stefan Wohrmann's talk was apparently similar to kathleen's but his 
> aims  are a bit different: he uses signwriting and/or 
> "mundbildschrift" to  reinforce knowledge and understanding of 
> written/spoken german, by using  elements of german sign language as 
> starting points for learning written/ spoken german as a second language.
> After lunch (btw, the subs were good! :), two discussion groups were  
> formed. One was focused on SW spelling,, led by Stefan Wohrmann and 
> Sara  Geudens, the other on SWTechnology and Computer, with Trevor 
> Jenkins as  moderator.
> Alessio attended the first discussion group, Barbara the second.
> SW Spelling discussion group:
> Initially, the moderators (stefan and sara) tried to teach us how to 
> read  and write SW symbols, but since most of its participants already 
> knew how  to read and write SW, we split into 2 sub-groups: one for 
> people that  really didn't know much about SW and another for people 
> with more  experience in SW.
> I (alessio) attended the latter group, where we discussed on what 
> would be  the best learning process for SW and children. Some people 
> in the grouplet  disagreed on using SW only as a "supporting code" for 
> written languages.  Then we discussed on how to write into SW a 
> dialogue between 2 people, as  in other written languages that have 
> punctuation symbols. An agreement was  somehow found: each sentence 
> uttered should be preceded by the signer's  sign-name.
> During this discussion, Juliette from Toulouse (France) described her  
> recent experience of working for about 1 or 2 months with a very 
> small  group of deaf children in a bilingual school in her town: the 
> aims of her  project were quite similar to Kathleen's project, but 
> differing in the  "educative process", as Juliette never used PC for 
> printing or writing SW  and, to make children more acquainted with SW, 
> she gave them not only  reading exercises but also  lot of writing 
> exercises.
> SW Computer/Technology Group:
> It initially started as a lesson by Daniel Noelpp on how to use 
> SignWriter  DOS to write down signs, since it shares a lot of features 
> with SW Java  and SW Tiger. But the lesson soon became a discussion in 
> itself, since  there were some participants that didn't know SW at 
> all, while others  already knew bot SW and SW-DOS. After the short 
> afternoon break, those  participants joined the abovesaid sub-group to 
> learn more about SW itself,  so the remaining people continued 
> discussing on where and how is going  software development for SW in 
> the near future... (I, Barbara, must admit  that I might have been a 
> bit monomaniac on the problem of using SW  software for Sign Language 
> research purposes :p)
> 22 JULY (2nd day) --
> The morning talks were given by Daniel Noelpp and Lars Majewski, who  
> described their work on, respectively, Sign Writer Tiger and Sign 
> Writer  Python.
> Daniel has briefly explained what Sign Writer Tiger can do at the 
> present  stage of development (e.g.: it can read and write SW 
> documents, but it  can't yet print them and it can't manage 
> dictionaries) and explained that  this is due to the fact that it 
> isn't YET finished. Then he described what  would be the future 
> features of SW Tiger, as its development proceeds.
> One of the "snags" of SW Tiger development, if I understood correctly, 
> is  the fact the symbol set of SW is still in evolution, it hasn't 
> been carved  into stone like Moses'tables.
> Lars Majewski, in presenting his SignWriter Python, has explained 
> that  this too is still under development, and for this reason his 
> project has a  "modular" nature, with 5 small programs, each doing a 
> specific task  related to SignWriting. Of those 5, only 2 are already 
> ready and  downloadable: the Dictionary Browser, a program that loads 
> and displays SW  dictionaries made with SW-DOS, and the SignFile 
> Viewer, another programs  that can load, display and export as graphic 
> files old SignWriter files.  The other 3 would be called SignFile 
> Creator, SignEditor and SignWriter.
> After lunch, we gathered back into the same discussion groups as  
> yesterday.
> The SW group discussed over the following topics:
> - Why SW is already perceived as written language, even if it's not 
> yet  "recognized" by deaf community? Even if SW contact happens with 
> deaf  children first?
> - How would SW evolve with its usage with one's own sign language 
> within  the deaf community?
> Obviously, due to the nature of the topics raised, no conclusion was  
> reached... yet :-)
> The other group of discussion expanded upon the morning talks, 
> especially  on what would be necessary to help both Daniel Noelpp and 
> Lars Majewski,  who are actually working alone on their programs' 
> development. Some beta- testers (people that don't panic if their 
> program freezes or crashes and  can send back to developers what they 
> did do to crash the program and what  actually happened) and some 
> other people that can write code in Java or  Python would be surely 
> appreciated by Lars and Daniel. We then discussed  of the need not 
> only of programs that can write/display/print SW texts,  but also of 
> programs that can ease up SL researchers's work (like  transcribing 
> and analyzing different features of signed texts, but using  SW 
> symbolset and not various conventions/artifices "borrowed" by roman  
> alphabet).
> Then, after group discussions, we gathered back together for a 
> collective  discussion on the idea of creating an european 
> organization of sign  writers (ESWO), but the discussion didn't reach 
> a reliable conclusion  maybe due to the apparent "suddeness" of this 
> ESWO idea, in some of the  participants' perception, and to the fact 
> that we were all tired (some DID  celebrate the 175th anniversary of 
> belgium the evening before...). So the  details and the nitty-gritty 
> work of estabilishing ESWO and how will be  discussed later, by email.
> Another point of discussion raised was to decide how would be the  
> frequency of subsequent european symposiums on SW, yearly or every 2  
> years. After some arguing and discussion, the majority of the 
> participants  agreed on "every 2 years". So there. Next symposium will 
> be in 2007,  probably in London. Not in august, hopefully :)
> ------------------------end-------------------------
> any error, omission, misunderstanding is solely our own 
> responsibility,  mine and of Alessio :-) And any error in translating 
> is my responsibility  only. So sue me :)
> P.S.: our deepest thanks to Val for donating the cd-rom of "lessons 
> in  signWriting"!!!

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