signs in different cultures

Liz Harvey metaloma at SHAW.CA
Tue Jan 17 03:05:48 UTC 2006

Thanks Dr. Bauman!  I understand now where my confusion came from.

What significance does this have for researchers who map human or non-human
primate movements?  I understood that SignWriting in that regard was
universally understood. It would be unfortunate if researchers understood
mapped movements to mean different things. Or does the difference in
understanding only enter the equation when people are writing signed


-----Original Message-----
From: owner-sw-l at
[mailto:owner-sw-l at]On Behalf Of Neil Bauman
Sent: Monday, January 16, 2006 6:03 PM
To: sw-l at
Subject: Re: [sw-l] signs in different cultures

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

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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