[sw-l] SignWriting | Theoretical issues

Valerie Sutton sutton at SIGNWRITING.ORG
Wed Feb 23 02:51:27 UTC 2005

SignWriting List
February 22, 2005

Anne van Rossum wrote:
> It's a Dutch name - Anne - but on the internet and in foreign 
> countries I use quite often Andy, because I'm a guy. :-)

I think it is a good idea that you made that clear...We have another 
List member named Anne-Claude from French-Switzerland, and she is a 
mother of several children! But every language has its specific names 
and those must be respected ;-)

> Sorry if it looks as if I do ask novice questions, I spent a lot of 
> time on your sites, and did read many things, but wasn't able to pose 
> specific questions. I also want to apologize for having another goal 
> than you all. I want to use your expertise in describing a language in 
> a different modality (gestural) to use in creating an environment for 
> languages in still another modality (iconic).

No apologies necessary. I am glad you are on the List. We all learn 
from these discussions, even if we are in different professions...

> Thanks for mentioning SSS, I missed it and it's essential for 
> lexicographically ordering.

Smile. Yes!

> SignWriting notation does have to encode for 3,000 - 10,000 signs (on 
> the basis of "distinctive features" and "double articulation theory" 
> if I'm right). It's using for that a corpse of 50 symbol groups. A 
> feature-based notation system for spoken English (10,000 words) would 
> be based on lip movements, tongue position, amount of air flux... The 
> amount of symbols (per - different - feature) would be much larger 
> than the alphabet with 26 symbols. The same problem does exist for an 
> iconic languages (with e.g. 10,000 icons).

Sure. But do not get confused by the visual nature of SignWriting. It 
is technically phonetic/phonemic...an alphabet ...because we are 
writing how we produce the movements, not the meaning of the movements, 
which changes depending on the Sign Language...So I am sure you know 
this already...but just for everyone on the List...SignWriting is not 
an international way to express meaning...it is an international way to 
write body movement, which can be applied to Sign Languages around the 
world, by the signers themselves, without changing their own 
languages,,,,just describing how they move...and Deaf kids read it very 
quickly...without much memorization...so 26 letters sounds like it is 
easier that the number 10,000...but the truth is...Deaf kids read our 
10,000 symbol pieces in signs immediately, or very quickly...but those 
26 symbols from the spoken language alphabet are very very hard 
indeed...so the number of symbols is not the point...it is what they 
look like, when combined to write signs...and if they "fit the 
language"...fewer symbols does not automatically mean "easier"...just 
like the strokes of a drawing may be many, the drawing itself is still 
easier to see that a word description of it...

>  How to work with large sets of symbols (especially composing) is 
> therefore a very important issue.

I think the various typing systems we have developed are easy to use, 
and people who know Sign Language already do not have to memorize much, 
because the symbols look so much like their own hands, that they just 
see what it means without memorizing it...

>  I saw that in SignWriter Java a normal keyboard is used where the 
> digits 0-9, some extra keys, and the letters asdfghjkl are being used. 
> Actually I am looking for the theory behind the way the keyboard is 
> used to access the symbols. Is that investigated?

Ha! Yes of course. And we were just talking about the different typing 
techniques on the List a week ago...Let's give some of them names...

1. Sutton/Gleaves SignWriter Typing Designs (SignWriter DOS & Java)
2. Slevinski SignType and Movement-Writer Typing Designs (under 
3. Fleming SignPoster Typing Design...(under development)

And I bet in the next year we will have three more the way the software 
world is exploding in the use of SignWriting...We are soooo fortunate! 
Some people can type SignWriting very well with SignWriter DOS, for 
instance, and with training the typing experience becomes as easy as 
typing a spoken language...

>  This has also to do with my questions about used conceptual 
> hierarchies and so on. I see now that the symbols are used as a very 
> large alphabet. In that way composition of sentences can be done with 
> just adding (feature) symbols. Searching is in a lexicographical way, 
> not in a conceptual way. Now - thanks Antônio Carlos - I understand 
> fully what the consequences are of using a phonetic notation. Besides, 
> with an iconic* language, I mean a language with pictographic (iconic) 
> and ideographic parts; similar to a sign language or a spoken language 
> (with onomatopoetic words).

You bet! Our pleasure!

Val ;-)

Valerie Sutton
Sutton at SignWriting.org

1. SignWritingSite
Read & Write Sign Languages

2. SignBankSite
Sign Language Dictionaries

3. DanceWritingSite
Read & Write Dance

4. MovementWritingSite
Read & Write Movement & Gesture

5. SymbolBank On The Web
Archive For All Symbols

6. SIGNMAIL: Send SignWriting Email

Deaf Action Committee for SignWriting
Center For Sutton Movement Writing
an educational nonprofit organization
Box 517, La Jolla, CA, 92038-0517, USA
tel: 858-456-0098....fax: 858-456-0020
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: not available
Type: text/enriched
Size: 5890 bytes
Desc: not available
URL: <http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/sw-l/attachments/20050222/300fc201/attachment.bin>

More information about the Sw-l mailing list