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

Tue Jun 21 16:55:28 UTC 2005

this is interesting, I just wrote about this topic yesterday in a paper for my linguistics program!
So here's what I said:

"SignWriting is an interesting combination of a phonetic and an iconic writing system.  In that it
encodes the articulation of the sign rather than the meaning of the referent, it is phonetic or
phonological (depending on the narrowness of the transcription).  But since both the articulators
and the writing system are perceived visually, it can represent much of the phonological form
iconically, using considerable visual analogy for faces, handshapes and locations.  More arbitrary
conventions are needed for distinguishing, for example, in which plane a handshape is being
viewed, since three dimensional signing space must be compressed onto two-dimensional

You're right that "pictographic" is a bad choice, Ingrid, not just for political reasons but becuase
it's inaccurate -in SignWriting,  we don't draw a picture of a cloud to write the sign for "cloud".
But I would NOT call SignWriting ideogrammatic, because that would mean that how we write a
sign represents the *idea* that the sign stands for - which it doesn't.


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