USA Informing ASL Teachers About SignWriting
slevin at SIGNPUDDLE.NET
Mon Jan 30 19:41:35 UTC 2006
Yes, you are correct. I was wrong to lump culture into politics.
Barbara O'Dea wrote:
> Hi Steve,
> I didn't expect to post anything else on this thread, but ....
> I would be careful about relegating the resistance of Deaf people to
> ignorance, pride, and politics. We are involved with deep-rooted
> cultural influences of oppression that continue to haunt the Deaf
> community (especially in language and education).
> If we think of the problem as one of ignorance, pride and politics
> that can be overcome with information, explanations and descriptions,
> we may be on the wrong road to change. I expect that a change in
> cultural views, that have evolved in a milieu of oppression and
> paternalism, will take a great deal more than providing information. I
> thing the task of getting Deaf communities to accept a written system
> for their signed langauges must include *dealing with* those
> deep-rooted cultural mores.
> Steve Slevinski wrote:
>> Hi Val,
>> These messages asking if sign languages can be written have really
>> troubled me. Every day people are reading and writing a multitude of
>> sign languages around the world. There is no way to deny that sign
>> langauges are written.
>> So I was trying to understand how someone could deny such a plain
>> truth. I came up with 3 possibilities: ignorance, pride, and politics.
>> The first reason is ignorance. They just don't know about the
>> existence or extent of SignWriting. This is the most common reason
>> and the main obstacle that we are trying to overcome. The best
>> course of action is to read, write, and share. What we do best!
>> The second reason is pride. Many signers take pride in their
>> language, and they should. But once they realize that it is possible
>> to write the language that they are so proud of, they must admit that
>> they are illiterate in the langauge they love. Becoming literate in
>> sign languages takes time and effort. If you consider yourself
>> fluent in a sign language, it can be easier to dismiss literacy than
>> admit you have a lot to learn. This is a very real problem and what
>> you may have experienced on the Teach ASL List. We need to appeal to
>> their love of the language. We need to express the view that we sign
>> writers are not superior. We need to reach out to them and let them
>> know they are desperately needed to help improve the existing
>> writing. Future generations of writers will be influenced by the
>> writing we do today. If we are to have good writing we not only need
>> people who are literate, but people who are fluent.
>> The last reason is the most insidious: politics. Some signers take
>> the view that it is better if their language is not written. They
>> consider it a defining characteristic. Other signers reject
>> SignWriting because it wasn't invented by someone who was deaf. For
>> these people, we need to discuss the benefits of writing. We also
>> need to explain the history of SignWriting and how the deaf have been
>> involved from day one. SignWriting is not a system that was
>> developed in isolation and then handed to the deaf from on high. It
>> is a living writing system that has been developed in a spirit of
>> cooperation that not only included deaf and hearing, but signers from
>> all over the world.
>> And so we come to the reason I become involved with SignWriting many
>> years ago. I love literacy. The question for me isn't "Can we
>> write?" but "Why do we write?" and "What are the benefits of
>> writing?" and "Why do we read?" and "What are the benefits of reading?"
>> One of my favorite books is "How to Read a Book" by Mortimer J.
>> Adler, Charles Van Doren. It discusses the 4 levels of reading:
>> elementary, inspectional, analytical, syntopical. . Being able to
>> make out the symbols and understand the syntax and grammar of
>> language is only the first level of reading. There is so much more to
>> learn and experience. But for the higher levels of reading we need
>> more to read. So let's get writing!
>> Anyway, these are some of the thoughts that have been on my mind,
>> Valerie Sutton wrote:
>>> SignWriting List
>>> January 29, 2006
>>> A MESSAGE I WROTE ON THE TEACH ASL LIST
>>> 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
>>> use...it 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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