Encyclopedia in American Sign Language

Valerie Sutton signwriting at MAC.COM
Sun Mar 11 08:34:47 UTC 2007

SignWriting List
March 11, 2007

Hello Sandy and thanks for the very nice message below...

Are you saying that I would be allowed to re-write the comments of  
others on Wikipedia? Wouldn't the authors be angry? I would be! How  
can they control people hurting each other? Anyway, if that is the  
case then of course I could post something, but I thought that would  
not be ethical...I haven't had the time to read all their guidelines...

Regarding the issue of copyrights, I am completely baffled. Where  
does it say that SignWriting is copyrighted?

I think people have a lot of misunderstandings as to what a trademark  
is, and what a copyright is...

We do have trademarks, but that is not a copyright. A trademark (the  
™ or ®) relates solely to the "name" SignWriting. If someone else  
invents a separate notation system, they can call their new system  
anything they want, except the specific name SignWriting, because  
that name is connected to our non-profit organization because of the  
registration of that trademark...but that has nothing to do with the  
symbols themselves..only the name of the writing system. I think  
people may think the trademark symbol means copyright and it doesn't.

Meanwhile, copyrights are only applied to specific  
publications...like a textbook has a copyright on the copyright  
page...and our books have those too...but where does it say that the  
symbols themselves are copyrighted?...I do not know of place where  
that is true...

For example, the copyright notice that is on the front page of our  
web sites at the bottom of the home page, are copyrights related to  
the web site design and publication, but are not related to the  

So anyway, I certainly do not want people to think that they cannot  
use the writing system!

If placing some kind of a Free License notice would help, I would be  
glad to do that, although it would not mean anything is more free  
than it is now...we are literally giving it away for free with no  

Do other people feel the need for a Free License notice? I want  
people to feel that SignWriting is free for them...because it is!

Val ;-)


On Mar 11, 2007, at 12:11 AM, Sandy Fleming wrote:

> Val,
> Ah, that's why you're having trouble!
> The whole point of a Wiki is that you _can_ change other people's  
> words!
> This is how the encyclopaedia gets written, one person writes an
> article, others add or improve on it.
> Of course there's often a problem with people vandalising pages,  
> but the
> people who do the good work make sure that this sort of thing doesn't
> prosper!
> So go ahead and make it right if you want to. I'm sure when the
> administrators check who updated and see that it was you, they'll be
> honoured  :)
> I remember on a separate mailing list someone complained that
> SignWriting was copyrighted, and I believe it is. I wonder if a lot of
> people find this discouraging? You could consider issuing things on an
> open licence, but of course just because a system's copyrighted  
> doesn't
> mean other people can't _use_ it. The question is whether people
> understand this!
> Sandy
> On Sat, 2007-03-10 at 23:43 -0800, Valerie Sutton wrote:
>> Pharos and everyone!
>> Just want to be sure you understand that SignWriting is free to use
>> and is fully capable and fully free for use, as a translation and
>> writing system for any signed language. I saw there were some
>> comments on Wikipedia that need to be clarified, and of course I
>> wanted to respond personally, but unfortunately, although I created a
>> user name and password to post on Wikipedia, I simply cannot figure
>> out how to post a response. If I click on Edit it looks like I would
>> be changing other people's words? and that would not be proper...when
>> all I want to do is comment to what was said...so I feel a little
>> frustrated right now....
>> You are welcome to post this message for me on Wikipedia...as you did
>> before...thanks for that! And I am also sending this to the
>> SignWriting List, which anyone can join by the way!
>> To join the SignWriting List, go to:
>> http://www.signwriting.org/forums/swlist/
>> To clarify some misunderstandings in previous posts on Wikipedia...
>> SignWriting is free for anyone to use daily, and they do! SignWriting
>> is used around the world by thousands of people, to write some 40
>> signed languages...It is not just for ASL!
>> SignWriting is used, for example in Belgium to write both Flemish
>> Sign Language and French-Belgian Sign Language, in Germany, to write
>> DGS, in Norway, to write NTS and so forth...so ASL is only one of
>> many languages written freely and openly and without restriction
>> around the world, using SignWriting symbols.
>> Plus our non-profit organization donates free SignWriting materials
>> to classrooms with deaf students, if the teacher or administrators
>> request the materials. And I print the books myself, and prepare the
>> materials myself and ship them myself...it is a privilege for me to
>> be able to share and give freely...
>> SignWriting has never been restricted to anyone, and you all are
>> welcome to enter our web site for free right now, and start writing
>> documents and dictionaries. Go to:
>> SignPuddle Online
>> http://www.SignBank.org/signpuddle
>> and scroll down and you will see flags for different countries. Click
>> on a flag to start using dictionaries and writing your own documents
>> in SignWriting.
>> And NO ONE owns any language...languages are free for everyone to
>> use...otherwise they would not be used!
>> Writing systems are not languages themselves. Writing systems simply
>> write languages that already exist. English was a spoken language
>> long before it could be written...so the Roman Alphabet is not a
>> language...it is an alphabet...that can be used to write languages
>> such as Spanish and French too...and that is what SignWriting is
>> like...it is an alphabet that can be used to write Danish Sign
>> Language or ASL or other signed languages too...
>> SignWriting is a way to write body movement, and is not specifically
>> for any one sign language. It just writes the way the body looks
>> while we sign, and it can be applied to any signed language in the
>> world, or gestures or body language too..and as you know, we can also
>> write dance and sports...last year I wrote skateboard moves...they
>> were cool!
>> Skateboard moves
>> http://www.movementwriting.org/sports/skateboarding/ollie/
>> A lot of people assume that SignWriting started by writing ASL...but
>> that is not true! It was developed to write Danish Sign Language
>> first, at the University of Copenhagen in 1974 and 1975....Later we
>> started writing other signed languages. The first writers of ASL were
>> ten native signing Deaf people who worked with me as a team in the
>> 1980's...In 1988 we formed the Deaf Action Committee for SignWriting
>> (the DAC). All our materials that are published are signed by or
>> written by or edited by Deaf skilled ASL signers.
>> SignWriting does not change ASL...it preserves it by writing it down
>> on paper. And I never personally write ASL unless it is from a
>> videotape of a skilled ASL signer...I leave writing ASL directly to
>> the skilled ASL signers...
>> We have close to 500 SignWriting PDF files you all can download
>> freely on our web site...did you know that? This year we are coming
>> out with several new publications, including several children's
>> stories written in ASL, and possibly the book of John, from the
>> Bible...we have John chapters 1, 2, 3 and 14 completed, ready for
>> editing now...that is exciting!
>> And I believe the concept of writing or translating some encyclopedia
>> or Wikipedia articles sounds like a great project to me! Maybe we can
>> get some funding to give ASL authors and interpreters some part time
>> employment...I hope so!
>> Our new software, SignPuddle 1.5, is coming out shortly and we will
>> announce it as soon as it is ready around April 1st...We are
>> displaying the new software at the CUNY Sign Language Linguistic
>> Conference held here in La Jolla, California, March 29-31, and I am
>> teaching a free SignWriting software workshop on April 1st to anyone
>> who would like to attend...
>> If someone reading this on Wikipedia is attending the CUNY Conference
>> anyway, and would like to attend the free SignWriting workshop on
>> April 1st, contact me at:
>> Sutton at SignWriting.org
>> I look forward to meeting you!
>> Thanks for your patience with me not being able to post to
>> Wikipedia...I hope to learn one of these days!
>> Val ;-)
>> ----------
>> On Mar 9, 2007, at 4:42 PM, Pharos wrote:
>>> Yes, we are hoping for a Wikipedia in written American Sign Language
>>> in SignWriting, as you say.  I agree with you that this this  
>>> would be
>>> a very historic development, and am gladdened at your enthusiasm for
>>> the idea.
>>> Your offer of directing funding toward developing the ASL  
>>> Wikipedia is
>>> very helpful, and will probably make approval much more likely  
>>> (an ASL
>>> Wikipedia was proposed once before but rejected).  The Wikimedia
>>> Foundation (which operates Wikipedia) probably cannot provide direct
>>> support (other than hosting it online, of course), but I'm sure they
>>> would be glad to help you in developing joint grants for the  
>>> project.
>>> I am only a volunteer editor, and not a member of Wikimedia's  
>>> Board or
>>> staff.  If you are interested in talking with higher-up people for
>>> grant purposes, I can direct you to the appropriate person.
>>> Wikipedia has encyclopedias in many different languages, including
>>> Chinese.  Developing a system to represent SignWriting would  
>>> probably
>>> not be a big problem.  It looks like you have a system at
>>> http://signwriting.org/forums/software/swml/swml01.html that would
>>> probably be appropriate for Wikipedia use.  We might even have a
>>> system for automatic translation between SignWriting and Stockoe,  
>>> for
>>> those used to that method.  We already have something similar on the
>>> Chinese Wikipedia, between "traditional Chinese" which is used in
>>> Taiwan and Singapore, and "simplified Chinese" which is used in
>>> mainland China.
>>> I have posted a summary of your statements to the proposal page.
>>> Thank you very much
>>> On 3/9/07, Valerie Sutton <signwriting at mac.com> wrote:
>>>> On Mar 9, 2007, at 2:00 PM, Pharos wrote:
>>>>> I just wanted to clear this up.  Wikipedia already has an
>>>> article on
>>>>> SignWriting, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SignWriting
>>>>> What is being proposed is an entirely new Wikipedia, covering
>>>> all the
>>>>> topics any encyclopedia would, in American Sign Language, just as
>>>>> there are Wikipedias in French ( http://fr.wikipedia.org/ ) and
>>>>> Spanish ( http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/ ).
>>>>> Please comment on the proposal page and sign up there if you are
>>>>> interested in participating.  It will only be created if a certain
>>>>> number of people written sign language-users express interest.
>>>>> Thanks.
>>>> ---------------
>>>> Hello Pharos -
>>>> Are you asking us to write the Wikipedia in written American Sign
>>>> Language in SignWriting? We can do that, and I would vote for  
>>>> that...
>>>> Signing up for it would mean that someone who knows American Sign
>>>> Language can write the articles in written SignWriting...and there
>>>> are skilled people who can do that ...
>>>> We have new software too, SignPuddle 1.5, that can produce written
>>>> Sign Language Literature documents, and perhaps we can assist in
>>>> creating the web pages needed...Is that what you are talking about?
>>>> It is a huge job to translate a whole Wikipedia into any language,
>>>> but it can be done ... we could start with a small portion of it  
>>>> and
>>>> go from there...
>>>> We have a little funding for producing written Sign Language
>>>> literature right now, and we could apply that towards writing some
>>>> articles for an encyclopedia and use that as a springboard for  
>>>> doing
>>>> more work in the future...Does Wikipedia have funding to help us  
>>>> with
>>>> the translation process? Or perhaps we could write a grant  
>>>> together?
>>>> It would certainly be a very important historic event, to have an
>>>> entire encyclopedia written in the movements of American Sign
>>>> Language!
>>>> I assume that Wikipedia can be written in Chinese and other
>>>> languages? So you are handling other written scripts other than the
>>>> Roman alphabet? You mention Spanish and French below, but those
>>>> languages use the same Roman alphabet used to write English, but  
>>>> our
>>>> written ASL uses SignWriting symbols, as you know.
>>>> SignPuddle software can write email in SignWriting and  
>>>> literature in
>>>> SignWriting...so we could work with your programmers to make sure
>>>> that our ASL encyclopedia would be something you can post with no
>>>> trouble...We are working towards the day when people can add their
>>>> own Sign Language literature on the web, so we could apply that to
>>>> Wikipedia someday...so that others can post their own SignWriting
>>>> corrections and comments just as they do right now with the Roman
>>>> alphabet in other languages...
>>>> So I say YES to the proposal if Wikipedia is interested...
>>>> I just went up on your web site on this link:
>>>>>> http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Requests_for_new_languages/
>>>>>> Wikipedia_American_Sign_Language_2
>>>> I can see that SignWriting was discussed there...
>>>> I clicked on EDIT, but it looks like a huge job to do the  
>>>> editing and
>>>> I am on a deadline right now to finish our software by next  
>>>> week...so
>>>> I would be grateful if someone else could propose to use  
>>>> SignWriting
>>>> to write an American Sign Language Wikipedia?...it could bring
>>>> SignWriting users funding for doing the translation and writing
>>>> work...
>>>> Perhaps in April I can add to the Wikipedia voting page above...
>>>> no matter what, please know we are interested...
>>>> And i hope someone on the SignWriting List can help too...go to the
>>>> above web page and click on the word EDIT in the corner to make  
>>>> your
>>>> statement that we could write Wikipedia in American Sign Language
>>>> using SignWriting...
>>>> Many thanks!
>>>> Val ;-)
>>>> ---------
>>>>> On 3/9/07, Valerie Sutton <signwriting at mac.com> wrote:
>>>>>> SignWriting List
>>>>>> March 9, 2007
>>>>>> Can anyone write an article about SignWriting for Wikipedia's new
>>>>>> section on American Sign Language?...Here is a message I just
>>>>>> received:
>>>>>> --------
>>>>>> From: pharosofalexandria at gmail.com
>>>>>>         Subject:        Encyclopedia in American Sign Language
>>>>>>         Date:   March 9, 2007 1:28:29 PM PST
>>>>>>         To:       Sutton at SignWriting.org
>>>>>> You may be familiar with Wikipedia, the free volunteer-written
>>>>>> encyclopedia, which exists in many languages.  The English
>>>> Wikipedia
>>>>>> is at http://en.wikipedia.org/
>>>>>> There is currently a proposal for a Wikipedia in American Sign
>>>>>> Language, and I thought that the members of the SignWriting
>>>> community
>>>>>> should be aware of this.
>>>>>> The proposal is here:
>>>>>> http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Requests_for_new_languages/
>>>>>> Wikipedia_American_Sign_Language_2
>>>>>> It would be great if you could share this information on
>>>> SignWriting
>>>>>> forums and mailing lists, and please comment at the proposal page
>>>>>> (just click "edit").
>>>>>> I am not a sign language user myself, but I thought I could
>>>> help in
>>>>>> informing you of this proposal.  Feel free to ask me if you
>>>> have any
>>>>>> general questions relating to what Wikipedia is or how it works.
>>>>>> Thank you

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