USA Informing ASL Teachers About SignWriting

Valerie Sutton sutton at SIGNWRITING.ORG
Mon Jan 30 05:09:58 UTC 2006

SignWriting List
January 29, 2006

to a List member who thought SignWriting was a foreign language and  
not a writing system for ASL...and who mentioned Dr. Stokoe...Here  
was my reply:


Val wrote:
I can see that you truly love ASL, and I do too. I respect it so  
much, that I want to write it on paper, just as it is, without  
changing ASL at all, but preserving in on paper so we can learn the  
grammar of ASL on paper...A little like a video that captures ASL  
just as it is, we are writing those ASL videos on paper, so we can  
analyze the movements and try to understand ASL better...Writing ASL  
is not another language. ASL is the language. Writing it with symbols  
is simply a doumentation of the same language.

It is the same with written English...written and spoken English are  
not two separate languages...they are just two forms...the written  
and the spoken...

I was very fortunate to know Dr. Stokoe a little. My first  
presentation on SignWriting in the USA in 1977 was with Dr. Stokoe.  
We shared the podium together at a conference in Chicago. He would  
write a sign in his system. And then I would write the same sign in  
SignWriting. We presented to a full room that was so jammed, people  
were standing in the back, pushing to get in...It was a great memory...

Dr. Stokoe told me that he did not invent his system for everyday was for his linguistic work. SignWriting, on the other hand,  
was invented specifically to record storytelling, giving us ASL  
Literature, novels and books, used by people outside of the  
linguistic fields...SignWriting started with facial expressions, but  
the Stokoe system did not have facial expressions when it began, and  
cannot write facial expressions and mime the way SignWriting can...

So Dr. Stokoe agreed with me, at this presentation, that our two  
systems were not developed for the same reasons, and therefore should  
not be compared, since their purposes are totally different -

Val ;-)

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