[sw-l] SW system type... alphabetic vs. others ( pictographic, ideographic, logographic)

Stuart Thiessen sw at PASSITONSERVICES.ORG
Tue Jun 21 23:28:52 UTC 2005

Hi Steve!

I understand what you are trying to express.  However, like any field 
of expertise, it contains technical terms to help the specialists of 
the field understand exactly what they mean. Computer programmers have 
their technical jargon, and so do linguists.  I don't agree that we 
need to throw out all the technical terms to "reduce bias."  If one 
reviews the research being done in sign languages, it is easily 
apparent that there is a lot to learn about our ability to learn 
language through either modality (speech or sign).

Also, like any specialists, we need to consider our audience and the 
purpose of our discussion. If we are discussing the proper linguistic 
definition of some aspect of sign languages, we should use the proper 
terms.  If we are only have a "lay" discussion of the topic, then using 
"lay" terms is appropriate.

In my case, I prefer the technical term "featural" to describe what 
kind of writing system SignWriting is.  To me, it is the most accurate 
term available for the writing system.  For "lay" terms, an alphabet 
may be one way to describe it, but it is not necessarily the best 
technical term. If we explain the terms then it has meaning.  For 
hearing, once they know that the Korean writing system is similiar in 
approach as SignWriting (because the symbols in the Korean system 
correspond with how the sounds are produced), then that helps them to 
see that SW isn't so strange after all.  For ASL deaf, I tend to point 
out some of the non-manual markers we tend to use in our conversations. 
  I explain how those can be included in our writing ... oh, yeah and by 
the way, we can write the signs clearly too ;) .  Most alphabets, 
syllabaries, abjads, etc. are symbols that represent the final product 
of the articulators.  SignWriting goes one level deeper and actually 
shows the articulators in motion (in a manner of speaking).  So does 
Korean as I understand it or at least that is the closest analogy we 
have from spoken languages.

I'm less inclined to "throw out the technical terms".  I think it is 
better for us to help clarify the terms and illustrate where sign 
languages are similar or different than spoken languages.  Over time, 
the bias will disappear.  If one studies the professional literature on 
sign languages, then it is next to impossible that they can truly 
retain the bias against sign languages.  And if they have the bias 
anyway, changing the wiktionary isn't going to do a whole lot to change 
things in my opinion. Personally, the more we use SignWriting to 
describe sign languages and the linguistic properties of sign languages 
_and_ to develop literature in our sign languages, the more people will 
begin to see the value of both sign languages in general and 
SignWriting as a system to record sign languages. When they see our 
professional discussions of the terms, then they will be more inclined 
to listen because we are pointing out clarifications in how they use 
their terms rather than simply throwing out the words because we don't 
like the meaning they attach to those technical terms.

But again that's my opinion. ;)


On Jun 21, 2005, at 18:53, Steve Slevinski wrote:

>  Hi all,
>  I love the term IMWA for many reasons.  I'm a self proclaimed IMWA 
> snob.  The IMWA is a true alphabet even though the dictionary 
> definition of an alphabet is outdated.
> Outdated Webster's definition of Alphabet - the letters used in 
> writing a language, arranged in a traditional order.
>  The IMWA does not contain letters, it contains symbols.  The term 
> "character" is sufficient to represent either a letter or a symbol.  
> So the new and improved definition of an alphabet should be...
> Alphabet: the characters used in writing a language, arranged in a 
> standardized order.
>  And that's the IMWA.  Sorting a sign language dictionary is only 
> possible because of the arranged order of symbols in the IMWA. 
>  As a lay programmer, most of the mumbo jumbo of academia is difficult 
> for me.  If you want to discuss "morphological sign primitives" I 
> immediately stop listening and try to figure out what you're talking 
> about.
>  I prefer simple and direct terminology.  However, all of the simple 
> terminology is biased towards spoken languages.  This is a problem 
> that we do not have to  accept. 
>  When I was discussing the ASL hand alphabet with a Deaf friend, he 
> immediately thought of fingerspelling the 26 letters of the English 
> alphabet.
> <unknown.jpg>
>  Then I explained the 74 symbols of the ASL hand alphabet as a subset 
> of the IMWA with their own standard order.
> <unknown.jpg> 
>  His idea of an alphabet expanded and his respect for SignWriting 
> increased.  And there was pride in his new understanding.
>  Lucyna had a challenge for programmers.  Well, I have a challenge for 
> linguists.  Update the spoken and signed languages of the world 
> without making it more complicated.  We need to eliminate the bias 
> against signed languages.  This will do more for our cause than 
> defining exact terms that describe exact meaning using fancy Latin 
> derivatives.  We should have an active campaign to update the 
> wiktionary dictionary..  (http://en.wiktionary.org)
>  I believe we do more if we challenge someone's preconceived idea of 
> an alphabet than if we try and get them to understand the terminology 
> that linguists use when writing peer reviewed papers.
>  But that's my opinion,
>  -Steve
>  Marc Girod & Anne-Claude Prélaz Girod wrote:Hello Tomas
>> I don't know if you've read the work of Joe Martin who writes on the
>> different notation system that do exist for sign languages... and 
>> compares
>> them (Stockoes...) with SW
>> (you can find his article on the web on:
>> www.signwriting.org/forums/linguistics/ling008.html
>> one of the interesting things he says is the this system is very 
>> iconic...
>> because what's seen on the paper do look a lot like the sign... (this 
>> fact
>> makes it realaly easy to read a document written in SW.... which is 
>> not the
>> cas with a document written with Stokoe's notation)
>> As Valerie said in a previous mail, this system is not a drawing 
>> system but
>> a writing system... in oral languages... we talk about alphabetic 
>> system...
>> I don'tknow what name we should use for sign languages.... but what 
>> is sure,
>> exactly as you explain in your mail, is that SignWriting writes down 
>> the
>> symbols which are called "chereme" (units of the second articulation 
>> of sign
>> languages, equivalent of phonemes in the oral languages)
>> and putting together the different symbols (the different 
>> cheremes)... you
>> get a sign with a meaning... these units are, in linguistics called,
>> "kinemes" (equivalent of monemes in the oral languages) and are the 
>> units of
>> the first articulation of sign languages... that's quite hard to 
>> explain in
>> a mail... but hopefully you'll understand what I mean!
>> in short.... I completely agree with you... but I'm not sure about 
>> the word
>> "alphabetic".... maybe it's not the way to call this writing system...
>> Anny
>>> De : "Tomás Klapka" <Tomas.Klapka at ruce.cz>
>>> Répondre à : sw-l at majordomo.valenciacc.edu
>>> Date : Tue, 21 Jun 2005 13:30:47 +0200
>>> À : sw-l at majordomo.valenciacc.edu
>>> Objet : [sw-l] SW system type... alphabetic vs. others (pictographic,
>>> ideographic, logographic)
>>> Hi, I have a question about type of SW writing system.
>>> People always tell me that it is pictographic, ideographic or ...
>>> I think it is alphabetic, because there is no pictogram, logogram,
>>> ideogram for a morpheme.
>>> Each morpheme (I mean sign in SW) is compounded of phonetic 
>>> (cheretic)
>>> symbols standardized in IMWA (and IMWA is just the alphabet). Those
>>> symbols don't have meanings. So do phonems.
>>> /
>>> Sometimes there is more phonems in a symbol, but it still has no 
>>> meaning.
>>> It is simillar as for example in czech letter 'á' (latin letter a 
>>> with
>>> Acute) which represents long vowel 'a'.
>>> So there is the sound quality (written as latin letter A) and sound
>>> duration (writen by Acute) - two phonems in a letter.
>>> But the letter has no meaning itself. It makes the meaning if it is
>>> component of a morpheme:
>>> czech word "ráda" - is glad, (feminine, verb)
>>> czech word "rada" - advice, convocation, council, counsellor, tip 
>>> (noun)
>>> /
>>> So it must be alphabetic.
>>> Is it right?
>>> Tomas
> <moz-screenshot-3.jpg><moz-screenshot-4.jpg>
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