Report on 1st European SignWriters Symposium.

Shane Ó hEorpa oheorpa-s at ULSTER.AC.UK
Tue Aug 23 22:21:41 UTC 2005


Many many thanks for getting back to us with ur report - you got everything
in one go - I was busy running the conference with Kathleen and others...and
time-keeping (oh dear)

Thank you very much!


> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-sw-l at [mailto:owner-sw-
> l at] On Behalf Of Barbara Pennacchi
> Sent: 23 August 2005 14:27
> To: sw-l at
> Subject: [sw-l] Report on 1st European SignWriters Symposium.
> 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"!!!
> --
> +--------------------------------------------------------------------+
> | Barbara Pennacchi               barbara.pennacchi (at) |
> |                 Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche                 |
> |         Istituto di Scienze e Tecnologie della Cognizione          |
> |       Via S. Martino della Battaglia 44, 00185 Roma, Italia        |
> |                                   |
> +--------------------------------------------------------------------+

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