Deaf Residential Schools in the US...

K.J. Boal kjoanne403 at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri Jan 12 20:52:26 UTC 2007

Hi Val,

Thanks for your answer!  Please scroll down . . .

>From: "Valerie Sutton" <signwriting at MAC.COM>
>Reply-To: sw-l at
>To: sw-l at
>Subject: Re: [sw-l] Deaf Residential Schools in the US...
>Date: Fri, 12 Jan 2007 11:58:03 -0800
>SignWriting List
>January 12, 2007
>On Jan 12, 2007, at 11:09 AM, K.J. Boal wrote:
>>>It's all about RESPECT.  Children should see from day one that their
>>>teachers respect sign language as a language, and showing respect  for 
>>>written form is about that.
>>Which will be a more convincing argument once SW is more generally  
>>recognized as a valid writing system . . .  sorry, but right now  there 
>>are too many "experts" and, honestly, too many Deaf who  either don't know 
>>about SW or are against it.  I don't think I  could argue yet that SW is 
>>"the written form" of sign language  until it has been accepted and used 
>>by more of the Deaf community.
>Kelly Jo!
>I know you are playing devil's let me play angel's  advocate 
>and give you my point of view on writing and what it means...

"Angel's advocate" - I like that! :-)  My mom and I were discussing what I 
was saying on that posting, and at one point she asked me how I would 
respond to one of my "devil's advocate" points . . . that's actually why I 
wrote what I did about the difference between labeling and language, and how 
Language Arts skills need to be taught in a first language and can then be 
transferred to a second language.  That is where I think SW is most needed.

>Why put the ignorance of others as more important than the thousands  of 
>people who are writing sign language daily and reading in it right  
>now?...To discount their accomplishments and say they are not writing  or 
>reading the language, which is the implication, is just as unfair,  as 
>ignoring other people's complaints about it. Both sides deserve  equal 

Excellent point!

>I learned the other day that 70 per cent of Pakistan's population  cannot 
>read and write, but there is still a written form for the  Pakistani spoken 
> numbers of users is not the issue...if  one person can write 
>a newspaper in a writing system, then there is a  written form for that 
>language...even if only 30 per cent of the  population can read it...or 2 
>per cent or whatever...but if you  interview a person in Pakistan who 
>cannot read and write, I bet he or  she would not be able to tell you what 
>he or she is missing...because  they would never have imagined it as a part 
>of their own lives to  begin with...

True of most of the Deaf community here, too!  I do think that's one of the 
biggest hurdles to get over . . . the fact that most Deaf have never 
imagined reading and writing ASL as part of their lives.  What could make 
things more difficult . . . most Deaf don't like to read or write because 
they've only been exposed to written English, which they find difficult to 
understand!  Most Deaf don't read for pleasure . . . an attitude I can't 
even begin to imagine, since I can't remember ever not being able to read 
(been doing it since the age of 3) and have loved reading ever since.  I'm 
not sure quite how to cross that chasm. . .

>The majority of the population in England in Shakespeare's day, were  
>illiterate and did not even understand what reading and writing was,  but 
>none the less,  when Shakespeare wrote a play, he was using the  written 
>form for English... What was he writing with? chicken  scratches? 
>smile...there were a small percentage of people in his day  that could read 
>and write and that was all that mattered, to make it  a written form for 
>the language...but believe Shakespeare's  time many many people 
>were against reading and writing...the majority  in fact...that was for 
>rich people...and there were arguments against  creating schools because 
>everyday people did not need to learn to  read and write...that was their 
>argument against reading and writing...
>Meanwhile Shakespeare wrote his plays, no matter what, in a written  form 
>for English...while this debate was going on...

True! and I have thought of that myself . . . how long it took for written 
English to be accepted and the value of universal education recognized . . . 
the difference is, in Middle Ages England illiterate people could get jobs, 
earn money, live quite comfortably and never (or rarely) run into a 
situation where they needed to be able to read a single word. . . in 
modern-day America, illiteracy is a serious handicap in nearly every aspect 
of life.  Nobody today argues that Deaf people don't need to learn to read 
and write!  But educators only see the value of reading and writing English; 
they don't see the value of ASL literacy.

>James in Nicaragua has written some 40 books for his students  (yes...a 
>very long list) in Nicaraguan Sign Language in  SignWriting...Did he not 
>write it in a written form for the language?  if not...then what was he 
>writing in?

Well, sure, but that's Nicaraguan Sign Language!  (sorry... a little devil's 
advocate showing up there... but that is a common attitude in 
English-speaking North America, as I'm sure you know - the idea that if it's 
not specifically here, it's not worth discussing.  We are awfully arrogant 
here, aren't we!)

>Just because other Nicaraguans may not know right now that there is a  way 
>to write, does not mean the written form does not exist...and  there is no 
>other writing system that can write literature in sign  language other than 
>SignWriting...the Stokoe system has never  published a story with 
>punctuation...only SignWriting has punctuation  for there 
>isn't another one for writing literature in  the world that I personally 
>know of...

Actually, punctuation isn't required for literature . .  the Hebrew Old 
Testament is written not only without punctuation but also without vowels!  
But has the Stokoe system published a story at all?  ever?  I can't imagine 
it has . . .  and from what I've seen of HamNoSys, I can't imagine it being 
used for anything more than individual signs or short sentences . . .  so I 
agree, Sutton SignWriting is the only system that has ever been used for 
publishing literature in any signed language.

>Just my place the fact that people are afraid of put 
>their opinion first, when they have never have been  properly introduced to 
>the writing system at all... and ignoring the  vast amount of work already 
> not a balanced picture...

Speaking of pictures, I know another argument people have used against SW is 
that it's not writing at all but drawing . . . of course the most obvious 
answer to that is Egyptian hieroglyphics . . . nobody in the linguistic 
community would dare suggest that's not a writing system, even though it is 
pictoral!  (I was just thinking about that yesterday at work . . . I was 
wiring pins together and once you have the technique on that there's lots of 
time to think . . . smile.)  Of course, many Asian writing systems are also 
based on pictures.

>Others do this all the time and I have to vent - ha!

Not a problem - what you were saying is constructive, not just complaining! 

>There are many definitions of what "the written form" means...for me  it 
>means that for the first time we have the chance and the choice to  be able 
>to read and write Sign Language Literature if we choose to,  and people who 
>are against that just need to have a little more  contact with it and they 
>will agree and be pleased...
>So yes...there is a written form for any signed language in the  world, and 
>I use it everyday...and more people will in time...
>My two cents!

And worth it at twice the price! :-)

>Val ;-)
Thanks for your comments, Val - I certainly didn't mean to upset you or 
anyone else on the list . . . I'm just looking for ideas that I might not 
have thought of to answer these objections!  After all, since I'm relatively 
new to SignWriting and I know you must have run into every objection I'm 
running into, I appreciate your answers - whether they're confirming that 
I'm on the right track, or totally off-base, or just another, clearer way of 
saying something!

Thanks again,
Kelly Jo

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