[sw-l] SignWriting | Theoretical issues

Anne van Rossum a.c.vanrossum at STUDENT.TUDELFT.NL
Mon Feb 21 21:56:26 UTC 2005

Good evening,

Not used as I am to lists as these, I hope I am doing everything as it 
ought to be done. Can I use for example bold, italics, lists,  hyperlinks 
and horizontal lines?

To introduce myself, I am a guy, 24 years old, who is studying at the 
Technical University in Delft (Netherlands) and doing a master thesis 
"Iconic language & Cognitive Psychology". After a bachelor in Electronical 
Engineering I decided to do the master "Media & Knowledge Engineering" 
because I am very interested in issues that are at the border of 
informatics, psychology and mathematics: advanced algorithms, clifford 
algebra / networks; evolution of complex systems; hyper operators; 
inconsistent mathematics; linguistic modalities; semiotics. It's the new or 
interdisciplinary character of most topics that does catch my interest. 
Iconic communication falls into the realm of semiotics and linguistic 
modalities, and because gestural languages do have more or less the same 
position in regard to spoken languages as an iconic language.
As last introductionary remark I want to state that I am studying an iconic 
language, not a "pictographic" language. I am well aware of the 
impossibilities involved in such a language. My approach regards languages 
as <http://www.cs.wpi.edu/~nemleem/>VIL.
I hope you can help me with providing theoretical background information 
about the SignWriting project. I'd appreciate that very much.


Sign language is a real language | and I don't doubt that ;-)
I now of the struggle to let sign languages fall under the 'real' 
languages, and people that suggested that only spoken, 'natural' languages 
are worth the term 'language'. That's not where I come from.

SignWriting & corresponding issues with an iconic language
What I would like to know are the problems that we'll encounter with 
writing an iconic language:
    * What is the lexicon size of a 'common' sign language (say ASL) that 
is notated by SignWriting? What is the dictionary size of ASL if notated by 
    * SignWriting is a feature-based notation, so concepts can be arranged 
in some order. I saw five entrees 
(<http://signbank.org/dictionaries/pictdict/>link); why where these entrees 
    * If people write in SignWriting notation using a kind of editor, how 
can they input signs? Is there an application that uses a normal QWERTY 
keyboard with sign(-feature)s assigned to letters? (I think of e.g. 
coupling frequently used SignWriting units  to frequently used letters.) Or 
do you only use mouse drag-and-drop events or translation tools?
    * Notating a (sign) language does most often also lead to 
classification of the concepts in that very language. Did the scientists 
behind the SignWriting project classify, did they use some kind of 
conceptual hierarchy? Or was this hierarchy automatically derived from the 
'natural sign language' and had the experts nothing to do with classifying 
the language itself? (I think classifying is necessary if there exist a 
SignWriting editor, people should chose gestures / concepts easily from a 
library / dictionary)
    * Did some people - afterwards - study the notation itself? I know 
SignWriting arose out of the need to describe exactly what kind of 
movements / gestures people make. Did they improve parts of the SignWriting 
notation over time? Why and how? (I know of the comparison study with 
Stokoe Notation and HamNoSys.) Do you have studies about the specific 
representation used by SignWriting? And some side issue: how are the signs 
stored / represented digitaly?
Thanks a lot in advance. Eagerly awaiting a reply,


Anne C. van Rossum
<http://www.tudelft.nl/>TUDelft - 
<http://new.ewi.tudelft.nl/>EWI/<http://academics.its.tudelft.nl/nl/>ITS - 
Master <http://msc.its.tudelft.nl/mke/>Media & Knowledge 
<http://msc.its.tudelft.nl/mke/>engineering, Thesis 
<http://elektron.et.tudelft.nl/~avrossum/study.xml>Iconic Language & 
Cognitive Psychology
         languages: Nederlands + English + EspaƱol; nationality: Dutch; 
gender: male  
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