Research into Digital Representations of Sign Language

Stuart Thiessen sw at PASSITONSERVICES.ORG
Mon Oct 10 22:00:15 UTC 2005

I hope you won't take my comments personally. I was not intended at you 
or at Valerie, but just a reminder in general for how we represent 
SignWriting itself and the software tools we have available. We have 
some very good tools for SignWriting, but we all acknowledge that we 
have further to go before we have the "functional equivalence" of 
software that is available for spoken languages.

I have encountered well-meaning people who misunderstood one point or 
another as it related to sign languages because they had no firsthand 
experience with sign languages. These misunderstood points could cause 
problems in the future. For example, many people made a big deal about 
the fingerspelling glove.  While that was an impressive technical 
challenge, I also would say that it is a long way from being able to 
represent ASL (or any other sign language) because there is much more 
to ASL than fingerspelling or even what is done by the hands. The 
facial expressions, body shifts, and all those non-manuals are equally 
important to communicating the sign language accurately. So I don't 
mean that to disparage what the researcher did, but I did get the 
impression from some hearing people that this would somehow solve the 
interpreter problem in the near future. I felt that conclusion was a 
bit premature because they weren't considering the whole linguistic 
picture. I like to help make sure we are giving a realistic picture of 
what we can do.



On Oct 10, 2005, at 16:28, Saduf Naqvi wrote:

> Hi Stuart,
> thank you for raising your concern and I do understand your point.  I 
> can sign,
> and am upto level 2 however I am also aware that this is still very 
> limited, and
> I need to move onwards and upwards to level 3 and beyond, to fully 
> understand BSL.
> That is also why I wanted to contact you all, I dont want to make a 
> mistake and
> misrepresent the information I am trying to put across in sign 
> writing.  I will
> attempt this, with the consultation of some BSL instructors but would 
> also like
> to check it over with this mailing list if I am moving in the right 
> direction.
> best wishes
> Saduf
> Quoting Stuart Thiessen <sw at PASSITONSERVICES.ORG>:
>> Hi, Valerie! Just a mild correction here. Unless a person is aware of
>> the syntax and morphology of BSL (or any sign language for that
>> matter), a person using the SignPuddle will not necessarily be sending
>> an email with BSL.  They will be using BSL signs, but that isn't the
>> same as sending an email in BSL. It would be like my grabbing a Danish
>> dictionary and sending you a letter using Danish words but probably in
>> the wrong word order and without the necessary word endings.  Now, you
>> probably will understand my letter, but it won't be properly called
>> Danish.
>> It probably isn't best to tell people that they can send an email in
>> ASL or BSL (if they haven't the understanding of the language) because
>> it will either give the mistaken impression that SignMail actually
>> translates the spoken language to the sign language, or the mistaken
>> impression that the sign language is simply the spoken language on the
>> hands. Of course, someone who truly understands the sign language will
>> be able to use SignPuddle to produce a grammatical message in that 
>> sign
>> language.
>> Perhaps Saduf knows BSL well enough. I can't say because I don't know,
>> but that could be an issue for a person who is totally new to the deaf
>> experience but liked the idea of a computer project with sign language
>> and they misunderstood this point.
>> Just thought I would throw this out.
>> Thanks,
>> Stuart
>> On Oct 10, 2005, at 15:34, Valerie Sutton wrote:
>>> SignWriting List
>>> October 10, 2005
>>> Saduf Naqvi from the UK wrote:
>>>> Let me introduce myself, I am a research student from Goldsmiths
>>>> College
>>>> University of London, and am researching Deaf views on Digital
>>>> Representations
>>>> of Sign Language.
>>> Hello Saduf and Everyone!
>>> Welcome to the SignWriting List, Saduf....Your research sounds very
>>> interesting (full message pasted below)...
>>> Have you visited this web page before?
>>> SignWriting in Great Britain
>>> You will find a great article on writing BSL in SignWriting. You can
>>> download it on that web page. Plus there are other SignWriting sites
>>> that come from Great Britain, which you will also find on the above
>>> web page...
>>> Next message I will write an email in SignWriting...I will use
>>> American Signs, and place an English translation below. Anyone can do
>>> that now. Maybe later you might want to try to send us an email in
>>> British Sign Language?
>>> Go to the British SignPuddle on this web page...and then click on
>>> SignMail to send an email in SignWriting:
>>> SignPuddle on the Web
>>> scroll down to find the British Sign Language dictionary on that
>>> page...
>>> Val ;-)
>>> Valerie Sutton
>>> Sutton at
>>> 1. SignWriting
>>> Read & Write Sign Languages
>>> 2. SignBank
>>> Sign Language Dictionaries
>>> -----------------------
>>> On Oct 10, 2005, at 1:09 PM, Saduf Naqvi wrote:
>>>> Let me introduce myself, I am a research student from Goldsmiths
>>>> College
>>>> University of London, and am researching Deaf views on Digital
>>>> Representations
>>>> of Sign Language.
>>>> When I say Digital Representations of Sign Language (DRSL) I mean
>>>> methods of
>>>> communicating to the d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing community without 
>>>> the
>>>> use of a
>>>> an actual physical signer.  It is with the use of other systems, 
>>>> such
>>>> as Video
>>>> systems where you have full recordings of signers, animation systems
>>>> that use
>>>> Avatars (Virtual Humans) to sign information, or notation systems
>>>> that depict
>>>> signs or pictorially represent information.  All three of these
>>>> systems keep
>>>> within the visual style and nature of sign language, however they 
>>>> are
>>>> all rated
>>>> very differently.
>>>> I am currently in the final year of my thesis and am going to 
>>>> conduct
>>>> my major
>>>> study, this will be comparatively evaluating DRSLs.  Obviously I
>>>> would like to
>>>> include a notation system, and I thought a very widely used and
>>>> popular system
>>>> is the SignWriting system.
>>>> So this leads me to what I am doing here.  I would like to know more
>>>> about
>>>> SignWriting, do you all view it as a method of representing sign
>>>> language
>>>> through a series of graphics/images.  Also when I do get to 
>>>> including
>>>> this in my
>>>> research, I would like some advice on how to best represent the
>>>> information I
>>>> would like to show through SignWriting, how to write it correctly
>>>> etc.  I don't
>>>> want to make mistakes, I would like the consultation of the experts
>>>> (you all!!!)
>>>> I will have more details of the information that will need
>>>> translating into
>>>> SignWriting early next week, and more information on the study 
>>>> itself
>>>> by early
>>>> next week aswell.  Anyone interested please let me know and I'll be
>>>> more than
>>>> happy to send information.
>>>> Also if anyone is interested in participation in this research,
>>>> please email me
>>>> I would love to have as many participants as possible to give a wide
>>>> range of
>>>> results, it should be a very interesting study.
>>>> I look forward to hearing from you all.
>>>> take care
>>>> Saduf
>>>> -- 
>>>> Miss Saduf Naqvi,
>>>> S.Naqvi at
>>>> Research Student,
>>>> Goldsmiths College - University of London,
>>>> New Cross,
>>>> London,
>>>> SE14 6NW,
>>>> 020-7919-7462
> -- 
> Miss Saduf Naqvi,
> S.Naqvi at
> Research Student,
> Goldsmiths College - University of London,
> New Cross,
> London,
> SE14 6NW,
> 020-7919-7462

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