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

Marc Girod & Anne-Claude Pr=?ISO-8859-1?B?6Q==?=laz Girod girodmarc at VTX.CH
Tue Jun 21 19:44:05 UTC 2005

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:

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...


> 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

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