SignText - Creating sentences directly in signed languages
sutton at SIGNWRITING.ORG
Tue Feb 7 01:51:40 UTC 2006
February 6, 2006
Cherie Wren from Georgia School for the Deaf wrote:
> Once you institute standardized spellings, you lose a
> lot of the variability that is inherent in sign
> language: unless you come up with a way to include
> all the 'inflections' possible for each sign...
Not everyone will know ASL well enough to be able to write the
sentences directly in SignText, so different programs will be useful
for different people...
Years ago, SignWriting was written by hand. There was no software and
that was that...The flexibility of the writing system is enormous,
when it is not restricted by software...
Then, when we first developed the SignWriter Computer Program, it was
for the Apple 2 e and 2 c, before it became SignWriter DOS later. The
first SignWriter program was just a typing program...there was NO
dictionary to access, and no signs already written for you...that was
back in 1985...
Then as time went by, SignWriter was transferred to MS DOS, and we
added the dictionary features. When the programmer/designer, Rich
Gleaves, created the feature where people could paste signs already
written in the dictionary, into a document, I expressed concern
because I was afraid that people would start depending on the
dictionary and would never learn how to type...And that is exactly
what happened...But there was also a positive side to
this...SignWriter DOS with its 3000 ASL signs in a dictionary gave
people a way to start...It was hard for them to learn to type in
symbols that were so new to them, and so pasting signs from the
dictionary into a document helped spread the writing system and
taught people how to read the symbols as they searched the dictionary...
They would add the signs to the document and then change them in the
document to make it flexible...
But then rightly so, others complained that people were depending on
the dictionary too much...so I would explain that they could type
directly in symbols, without searching the dictionary...no one was
forcing them to use the dictionary..but it was so much easier for
everyone that it became the norm in creating SignWriting documents
anyway, even though the direct typing method was there for them all
So when Steve Slevinski started SignMaker and SignText, where we drag
and drop symbols on the web, it is clear that it is pretty easy for
people to create new signs...a little easier than typing in
SignWriter DOS...so it opened up the potential to create documents
directly again, with no spoken language involved...
Of course we could have a lot of inflections in a dictionary someday,
but I agree that creating sentences directly, without accessing a
dictionary, is absolutely wonderful and requires that a person is
really fluent in the language...it is a great tool for teaching ASL!
I am impressed with how fast you have taken to it - Thank you!!
After I get Todd working on our SignBank program tomorrow, I will try
once again to focus on creating the manual for the new SignText!
> Because so much information is carried in the head and
> body movements... but then again, written English
> can't convey the 'tone of voice' and lots of the
> emotional meaning. I am thinking of all the TeachASL
> folks who want to challenge everything--- "well, can
> you write THIS?" As of right now, we can, but if we
> go to standardized spellings, some of that would go
> away, except in the research version...
Ha! Don't worry...we will always be able to write THIS or anything
else they throw at us! But of course you are right that
standardizations will have to be coupled with the flexibility of
changing a sign when you have to...and we can do that with
SignText...did you know that? The little Sentence Adjustment symbols
on the left of each sign make it possible to move signs into
different positions in a sentence, and to even replace one sign with
another...See attached diagram...
> English has relatively standard spellings, because
> there are relatively standard pronounciations... You
> say the word 'fly' the same, whether you mean an icky
> bug; getting on a plane, terrified; getting on a
> plane, eagerly; or RUN AWAY!
Actually English did not have standardized spellings for
centuries...Writing English was very flexible in spellings in the
beginning and varied widely, until dictionaries were published and
over centuries, standardizations crept in...but to this day spellings
are changing all the time....
light is becoming lite
through is becoming thru
you is becoming u
there are changes a foot!
> In Sign, If I use a
> different facial expression, I change the meaning of
> what I sign. Facial Adverbs for example... If I sign
> 'drive' with my tongue sticking out and my head cocked
> to the side a little bit, that changes the meaning to
> 'drive carelessly.' How would standardized spellings
> incorporate things like that?
> Does that make sense?
Yes! This makes sense! The only way a standardization for that could
happen, is if over time, people pin down how many possible facial
expressions could occur with that sign depending on the position in a
sentence, and then you would have to give a person a choice of which
one they want at this specific instance...That would lose the speed
in creating sentences that we have right now with SignText...
Right now I am thrilled at how easy it is to create sentences
directly in SignText..- I love your sentences, Cherie - Congrats on
See attached...the Sentence adjustment symbols are the colorful
little things to the left of each sign
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