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

Tomáš Klapka Tomas.Klapka at RUCE.CZ
Tue Jun 21 13:48:21 UTC 2005

I don't mind if you forward my message(s) ;)

Two differences between sign languages and spoken languages comes to my
mind right now, but if I think about it more...

1. Iconicity

There can sometimes be visibile the meaning in the SW sign and cause of
that it could be called ideographic
It is because of the transparency of some signs, but it is the meaning
of the morpheme, which is compounded of more atomic symbols (IMWA).

It is simillar in spoken languages... some words are so simillar to the
real, they can be understood even you don't know the meaning. For
example english word "moo", which means the sound, which cows do.
Czech word "haf" which means dog's barking (in english "woof").
Or english word "scratch". The pronounciation of the word does sound as
you scratch something.
English is special in this. "crunchy" is another example.
I know one Japanese word "fuu" which means wind, but it sounds as blowing.

It is something what we can call "transparency/translucentness" in
spoken languages (i think it is called semantic transparency).

Well, I think there is no difference between sign

2. Simultaneity

Spoken languages are linear... they must have linear writing system.
Sign languages are simultaneous... there must be writing system which is
able to write simultaneity of the signs - write more symbols in the
dependency of location.


I've just found in wikipedia something about featural writing systems
and SW is there:
"Featural writing systems - In a featural writing system, each part of
each symbol corresponds to a phonetic feature. That is, sounds that are
phonetically related have symbols that are related, and different
phonetic features, like place of articulation or voicing, will be
represented the same way for different sounds. The most prominent
featural writing system is Korean Hangul, which also incorporates
aspects of logographic writing systems and alphabets in addition to
features. There are also systems for recording sign languages, such as
SignWriting, where symbols stand for particular features of signs, the
symbols often resembling those sign features they stand for." --source:

It is interesting, that there is script for spoken language, which has
simillar to the system of SW. More information and links about Korean
Hangul can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hangul

I have never heard 'featureal' in the sense of writing system. I even
don't know how to translate the term into czech because "feature" has so
many meanings in czech language and none can describe the meaning.


Lucyna Dlugolecka wrote:

>> 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
> In my humble opinion, with regard to SignWriting, you're right. But
> I'm not sure it's the same with signed languages. May I forward your
> email to Professor Swidzinski, the best Polish grammarian?
> Lucyna

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