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

Stefan Wöhrmann stefanwoehrmann at GEBAERDENSCHRIFT.DE
Thu Jun 16 19:15:35 UTC 2005

Hi Valerie - and everybody - 

first of all - I feel very sorry for you to understand that this kind of
emotional discussion must be not good at all - 

There is no reason whatsoever to put any pressure in whatever direction! 

I understand your invention as a wonderful, wonderful support to improve
literacy in my students - and believe me there is a difference!!! smile 

Of course the use and feedback of SW on a daily basis may lead to problems
and spelling needs. This is a great chance to look carefully at the strength
and weakness of this notation system.

Ha - if it would nit work - I would not use it at school. 

So you think that we need an additional interpretation of the wrist-flexing
symbol- with the focus on the wrist - while the fingers keep in touch. 

What would I have done without that? 

Well I tried out another series of spelling variations and all of them
"should" describe the same performance - 

well #1 is different but looking at my hands while performing this "wallet"
sign fluently I perceived a little backward - movement of my fingertips ... 

Hi Valerie - hope you are doing fine! 

Stefan ;-) 

-----Ursprüngliche Nachricht-----
Von: owner-sw-l at
[mailto:owner-sw-l at] Im Auftrag von Valerie Sutton
Gesendet: Donnerstag, 16. Juni 2005 18:11
An: sw-l at
Betreff: Re: [sw-l] Spelling of ASL Wallet (retry #3)

SignWriting List
June 16, 2005

Hello Everyone, and Charles!
I am sorry I am such a disappointment to you...I am doing my best,  
trying to balance everyone's requests the best I can... And I  
appreciate it, Charles, that you have stuck with SignWriting all  
these years!

And I think our work on the sign for WALLET is wonderful! And it is  
helping me define something new in the writing system related to  
Wrist movement...Is that so bad? It means that you are positively  
influencing the writing system, Charles. You should be proud of that.  
No one used the word wrong or right except for I hope you  
will not think that way. I don't. Give me a chance to develop my  
description of wrist flexing, ok?...

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 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 much is happening so fast with  

Back in the early 1980's, as a hearing person, I naturally thought  
that we should write receptively because I did not think like a Deaf  
person native to signing. Then it took our native signers around four  
or five years using SignWriting to realize that they thought  
differently than I did. They wanted to write from their own  
perspective. Was it wrong of them to ask me to change the writing  
system from Receptive to Expressive? No. Not if it was better for the  
writing system. I think it was. But it was a horrible transition for  
me too, and for all of us who started Receptively...So Charles, you  
are not the only one who went through those hard times...I did too...

So no one is criticizing anyone! I am very grateful to you for your  

So I will post my attempt to describe the wrist flexing better and  
then everyone can give me their feedback...I look forward to it!

So now let me answer your concerns one by one...

> 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.

Just because in English, we write COLOR and COLOUR, to mean the same  
thing, does not mean that one of them is we do have  
flexibility within the rule structure...

> One can change point of view, but the handshape does
> not change, and if it flexes, it MUST be shown as a
> flex, if it moves diagonally, it MUST be shown to move
> diagonally.  If it moves directly forward, the arrow
> must show that movement as if it were photographically
> reproduced, else it's wrong, at least in my opinion.

That is not the way it is, Charles. We write BOTH phonetically and  
phonemically. You have a misunderstanding if you think that the  
development of the IMWA forces people into one spelling...that is not  
true and that is not the purpose of SignWriting. There are both  
simplified and detailed spellings and there always will be...that is  
the beauty of the writing system...and that is the way spoken  
languages are too...we have our daily writing system, and that daily  
writing system is different than the IPA we have simiplified  
and detailed writing systems working hand in hand...

> If one shows less in quick writing, because it's
> easier for those who know the system, that's fine, but
> a standard spoken language dictionary includes the
> International Phonetic Alphabet, based on what actual
> sound comes out of a person's mouth, and that is an
> agreed upon alphabet for where a vowel is formed,
> where a consonant is formed, and how to write that
> particular combination of sounds.   If the IMWA is to
> parallel that, it must have as strict a set of
> guidelines.

No one writes with the IPA on a daily basis! We do not use the IPA to  
write a letter to a friend. So what you say above is not true. The  
IMWA is just a closet where I have placed all the symbols used around  
the world...but how we apply those symbols depends on the  
language...In English we only use the IPA to show pronounciations in  
dictionaries, but everyday spellings use the Roman Alphabet, not the  
IPA. SignWriting is like the Roman Alphabet. The IMWA, or Sutton  
Movement Writing, is like the IPA.

> I go to a dictionary to get a standardized spelling,
> an I'm glad to be a part of a standardizing project,
> but in this case, the inventor and her eyes are the
> final authority, unless Valerie is going to allow us
> to create handshapes willy nilly and movements on the
> fly, which really doesn't seem right.

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  

The IMWA is a closest filled with symbols that are correct within all  
sections of Sutton Movement Writing, but the rules to apply those  
symbols, for writing on a daily basis, is called  
SignWriting...SignWriting and Movement Writing are the difference  
between phonemic and phonetic writing, and we have both...

> Why else would you put up photographs of a signing
> person to ask, "how would you show THAT movement" and
> then compare and contrast until ONE and only ONE shows
> ALL the movement in context.

Photos help. And I enjoy using photos to teach SignWriting. But then  
people start to write letters to friends in SignWriting, and the  
writing becomes more cursive and is not always connected to photos  
any longer...we used photos as an aid, but daily-used writing systems  

> You have often put on black and white gloves, Valerie,
> to show what one is writing with Sign Writing.  All
> right, put on those gloves, and get a photographic
> tracer to show EXACTLY what those hands are doing for
> Wallet, once the movement itself is agreed upon.

I have to explain the rules on flexing motion...please give me a  
chance, ok?...I am just a person and you are so critical of me...No  
one was criticizing you, so why are you so hard on me?...

> Then the answer is settled. How does one show THAT
> movement, and no other, using your methodology, and
> you Valerie, are the ONLY person who can determine
> that.

wow...what a pressure. I think I will go back to bed and hide!

> I can't read a movement if you keep changing the
> rules.  I have at least one friend who learned the
> system when it was receptive, and she cannot easily
> relearn the system.

Yes. But thousands of Deaf people are now reading SignWriting and  
before, when it was receptive, they could not. So I am sorry for your  
friend, but that is the way it is...

> I learned this system 25 years ago, and have had to
> change perspectives and handshapes at least 5 times.
> Can't you settle on one set of rules, that are clear,
> and are absolute, for the moment, and let it gel for a
> while?

I am trying, Charles. You are so critical of me...

> 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.

Have a wonderful day everyone!

Val ;-)
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