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

Antony Daamen adaamen at OPTUSNET.COM.AU
Wed Jun 22 00:57:24 UTC 2005

 To Steve: here here!I agree!  
-------Original Message-------
From: Steve Slevinski
Date: 06/22/05 07:00:57
To: sw-l at majordomo.valenciacc.edu
Subject: Re: [sw-l] SW system type... alphabetic vs. others ( pictographic,
ideographic, logographic)
Hi all,

I love the term IMWA for many reasons.  I'm a self proclaimed IMWA snob. 
The IMWA is a true alphabet even though the dictionary definition of an
alphabet is outdated.

Outdated Webster's definition of Alphabet - the letters used in writing a
language, arranged in a traditional order.

The IMWA does not contain letters, it contains symbols.  The term "character
 is sufficient to represent either a letter or a symbol.  So the new and
improved definition of an alphabet should be...

Alphabet: the characters used in writing a language, arranged in a
standardized order.

And that's the IMWA.  Sorting a sign language dictionary is only possible
because of the arranged order of symbols in the IMWA.  

As a lay programmer, most of the mumbo jumbo of academia is difficult for me
  If you want to discuss "morphological sign primitives" I immediately stop
listening and try to figure out what you're talking about. 

I prefer simple and direct terminology.  However, all of the simple
terminology is biased towards spoken languages.  This is a problem that we
do not have to  accept.  

When I was discussing the ASL hand alphabet with a Deaf friend, he
immediately thought of fingerspelling the 26 letters of the English alphabet

Then I explained the 74 symbols of the ASL hand alphabet as a subset of the
IMWA with their own standard order.


His idea of an alphabet expanded and his respect for SignWriting increased. 
And there was pride in his new understanding.

Lucyna had a challenge for programmers.  Well, I have a challenge for
linguists.  Update the spoken and signed languages of the world without
making it more complicated.  We need to eliminate the bias against signed
languages.  This will do more for our cause than defining exact terms that
describe exact meaning using fancy Latin derivatives.  We should have an
active campaign to update the wiktionary dictionary..  (http://en.wiktionary

I believe we do more if we challenge someone's preconceived idea of an
alphabet than if we try and get them to understand the terminology that
linguists use when writing peer reviewed papers.

But that's my opinion,

Marc Girod & Anne-Claude Prélaz Girod wrote: 
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?




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