[sw-l] Spelling of ASL Wallet (retry #3)

Barbara Pennacchi barbara.pennacchi at ISTC.CNR.IT
Thu Jun 16 16:39:28 UTC 2005

On 16.06.05 18:11, Valerie Sutton wrote:

I was about to reply to Charles, then I thought better... :-)

> The English alphabet started as Rebus writing and other symbols. The A
> symbol used to be cow's head, if I understand it correctly...and then it
> changed to A. Were they wrong to make it an A? I bet an A was easier to
> write than the original cow's head symbol...so that was why the change
> was made...The cow's head writers were all dead and buried before the A
> was developed, so they did not have the overwhelming feeling that we all
> have...so much is happening so fast with SignWriting...

Actually, you smooshed a lot of writing systems'evolution into a overly
simplified narrative for children. But in one thing you were right: all
the changes to the various writing symbols in the various writing systems
were made by people across time and space, driven by various needs (both
personal and technical) that can ultimately be resumed into "I feel it is
better/easier this way".

>> If I have a flat hand at position x, and it moves with
>> movement Y, there should be one, and only one way to
>> write that specific movement in Sign Writing.  All
>> others are WRONG or incomplete at best.
> I do not think that way. And to say that two different spellings are
> wrong would be wrong.

The problem is that Charles talks as if actually there is only ONE
specific movement and only ONE handshape/orientation/place for each sign.
The truth is that our production/understanding mechanisms in both signed
and voiced languages is actually "fuzzy".

Not everybody signs or pronounces the same sign/word in the same way every
time, heck, it even varies across people.

And the same can be said for handwritten languages... with the notable
exception of occidental medics: they all seem to have agreed upon a
worldwide unintelligible "scribble-scrabble-scrawl" for their
prescriptions!!!!!! :)

(never seen japanese or chinese medical prescriptions, mind you)

> When you go to the dictionary, you are not getting standardized
> spellings in the IPA. You are getting them in the English version of the
> Roman Alphabet (the English alphabet)...which is not the IPA. The IPA is
> too detailed for daily writing. The IPA in the dictionary is only
> showing the pronunciation, and most people do not read that...they look
> at the spellings in the English alphabet first and foremost.

erm, I beg your pardon. I *do* look at IPA in dictionaries. It helps me in
guessing the correct pronunciation, especially in english. :-)

>> I'm sure that there are plenty of people who will help
>> you to take photographs, and do tracers, but this is
>> NOT the 10,000 years of the development of the English
>> alphabet, this is the 21st century in which we are all
>> working with a common technology and can actually GET
>> a final answer within the limits of the writing system
>> as it currently exists.
> True. I am not God.

No, neither is Charles. :-) Neither do we.

Writing is not for technology or for machines, it is ultimately for us. It
is US (Deaf people and all native signers) that have to feel comfortable
with one or another spelling, with one or another set of rules. Not them,
the darn friggin' computers.

Yeah, technology helps us, but it doesn't rule us... And it should NEVER
rule us.

Sorry -- bad day at work :-)

| Barbara Pennacchi               barbara.pennacchi (at) istc.cnr.it |
|                 Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche                 |
|         Istituto di Scienze e Tecnologie della Cognizione          |
|       Via S. Martino della Battaglia 44, 00185 Roma, Italia        |
|                      http://www.istc.cnr.it/                       |

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