signs in different cultures

Tue Jan 17 02:03:17 UTC 2006

Hi Liz:

> > I also have a question:  I have noticed that (being the cultural
> > animals  that we are), people from other cultures are adapting the
> > SignWriting system to work with their native sign languages.  If 
> this is indeed the
> > case, won't signs change from culture to culture?

For sure.

>   In other words, won't the  same sign in ASL possibly mean 
> something different in  Dutch sign language?


> > Does that not impede the international utility of the SignWriting system?

The sign writing system was designed to write down ANY of the MANY 
signed languages in the world. It is not just for one language such 
as ASL. This is similar in concept to the Roman alphabet. We use 
these same letters to write English, or Dutch or French or a number 
of other European languages.

> > What I  particularly liked was the idea that one system could be 
> read world-
> > wide,

Sign writing can be READ worldwide--but not UNDERSTOOD. Just as I can 
READ German letters/words--but not UNDERSTAND what is written.

>  but if people are changing the meaning of the symbols, does that
> > not negate some of its universal benefits?

There never were any universal benefits such as you envision. Each 
country has its own signed languages. For example, Canada has two 
major signed languages and some lesser ones. ASL and LSQ are the two 
main ones. So the people using sign writing to write ASL would not 
understand LSQ sign writing and vice versa. Of course, some signs are 
similar in several signed languages just as some words are similar is 
several spoken languages.

If you want a universal language--then the spoken/written one is 
Esperanto and the signed one is Gestuno. Neither is particularly 
popular as each "people group" want to use their own native language.

Are you starting to get the picture now?



Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
Center for Hearing Loss Help
49 Piston Court
Stewartstown, PA 17363
Phone: (717) 993-8555
FAX: (717) 993-6661
Email: neil at

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