Summary of writing steps for SignWriting

Stuart Thiessen sw at PASSITONSERVICES.ORG
Fri Oct 7 17:51:29 UTC 2005

See comments below ...



On Oct 7, 2005, at 11:06, Bill Reese wrote:

> Stuart,
> I don't see mention of facial symbols.

I tend to group facial expressions, body shifts, etc. into a category 
that I call "non-manual markers." When we get into phrases, sentences, 
etc., there are more influences from the non-manuals that need to be 
considered. This is especially true for situations where a facial 
expression or body shift or head shift will continue over a phrase or 
sentence. I guess my approach is to start with the lexical item and 
then consider its context and apply the necessary non-manuals. In some 
cases, I might apply the non-manuals earlier if they are a part of the 
anchor (like facial expressions to the head symbol, etc.). I assume 
that with fluency and habit, this process may not be rigorously 
followed, but I think some process is needed for instructional 

> Also, locations left and right of an "anchor" seems to imply an anchor 
> that is centrally placed.  Since most signs are done at chest level, 
> perhaps, for purposes of writing a sign, the spatial anchor would be 
> the center of the chest, corresponding to the center of the sign frame 
> space.  Even if the sign has an anchor on a location of the body, that 
> location, in turn, needs to be anchored, thus making the center of the 
> chest a convenient reference point.   Maybe this is too simplistic, 
> but it would give a standard reference point that would be readily 
> understood.

This is true. However, if I was signing my name, my anchor is actually 
the dominant side of my head. If I were signing the old ASL sign for 
Russia, my anchor is actually my hips. So that was why I mentioned both 
neutral space (near the central region of the chest) and/or a specific 
location on the body for the anchor.

> My first reaction, though, was that after a period of time, we 
> progress beyond the construction of the sign by it's individual 
> symbols to just the sign itself and, further, to phrases and 
> sentences.   At that point, we may not be constructing a written sign 
> based on the recording of an observed sign but more on rote 
> memorization of written signs accepted as standard.  In which case, 
> the writing of the sign may very well take on a type of construction 
> that's very close to what you have listed but in a standardized 
> manner.  Perhaps Valerie's pronunciation rules could be used here.

Agreed. The purpose of my description is to help people who believe it 
is impossible to write a sign or who want to learn how to write a sign 
to see how to break down the steps. Once they see how a sign can be 
broken down and written, then they may be more willing to go the next 
step to learn how to write it. I just want to be sure that I am 
following a good process for writing it down. If you all have a 
different process, I am interested to learn it because maybe my process 
needs refining or maybe like Perl programmers say, "TMTOWTDI" (There's 
More Than One Way To Do It). If I teach my process and a student 
doesn't get it, maybe another process will help them.

> Bill
> Stuart Thiessen wrote:
>> I was just looking for a way to describe in basic, simple terms how 
>> we move from a sign we see to a sign we write. Any feedback on these 
>> steps as a way to describe this process? It would be much 
>> appreciated. I came up with these steps. I am not sure about the 
>> timing of #6, but I just put it there for now. I wanted to think of a 
>> way to help people visualize the process. This is what I catch myself 
>> doing. What about you all?
>> 1. Identify the sign’s “anchor.” This could be neutral space in front 
>> of the body or it could be some location on the body.
>> 2. If hands are involved (we should never assume always), we need to 
>> identify the handshape(s) and orientation(s) and select the 
>> corresponding symbol(s), placing the symbol(s) in 2D relationship to 
>> the anchor.
>> 3. If the hand(s) contact the body or each other, we need to select 
>> the appropriate contact symbol to represent the contact.
>> 4. Unless the sign is stationary or only consisting of simple 
>> contact, we now look to identify the movement of the hand(s) and 
>> select the appropriate movement symbol(s).
>> 5. If the hand(s) change to another handshape(s) during the movement, 
>> we select those handshape(s) and note their location(s).
>> 6. Finally, we note any particular dynamics (fast, slow, tense, etc.) 
>> and any non-manual markers that are essential to the sign.
>> Thanks,
>> Stuart

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