Encyclopedia in American Sign Language

Valerie Sutton signwriting at MAC.COM
Sun Mar 11 13:49:17 UTC 2007

SignWriting List
March 11, 2007

Hello Sandy and Everyone!
Thanks for this great message...you are very kind to take such time  
explaining all this...

Programmers are FREE to use SignWriting anytime for software  
development right now, and if it is their software, they are welcome  
to sell it...I am not controlling other software development using  
SignWriting! It truly is free to use for programmers!!

I am glad you developed the software design you designed years ago  
Sandy. Obviously you didn't feel impeded years ago to do that and I  
am only sorry there was no one to give you financial support in the  
effort to continue it at that time...have you continued developing  
your software? If so, you are free to do so!!

So I was already thinking like the free license you are talking about...

I am very grateful to work with Steve Slevinski and I am honored he  
is devoting so much time to developing SignPuddle and SignText...I  
consider our collaboration golden in the history of SignWriting  
development...they are brilliant programs...thank you, Steve!

But there are other wonderful programs being developed in other  
countries using SignWriting, such as Brazil...and others too...and I  
couldn't be happier!

If other programmers want to post information about your programs  
using SignWriting, please do so! I can place them for download on our  
web site...we already have the Brazilian SW Edit program, and  
SignWriter Python from Germany...

SignWriting Downloads

And you can download our source code for SignWriter DOS and Java with  
a link there...so I am giving out our source code for the old  
programs to any programmer who wants it...for free!

And...did you know that one SignWriting program, that was developed  
by Daniel Noelpp in Switzerland, called SignWriter Tiger, is on  
Source Forge as Open Source?....for the link, go to:

SignWriter Tiger

That is Daniel's site, not mine....notice it is signwriter.org not  

So feel free to program with SignWriting everyone!

Meanwhile Steve and I are bringing out a new version of SignPuddle  
and I am totally in love with it!

Have a wonderful Sunday, and thanks once again Sandy - you are a good  

Val ;-)


On Mar 11, 2007, at 1:40 AM, Sandy Fleming wrote:

> Hi Val!
> Most people (including me, for about five minutes!) suffer a sort of
> culture shock when they first hear what a Wiki is all about. Yes, you
> edit other people's writing but copies of all versions are kept so  
> that
> it can be returned to a previous version if somebody messes it up.
> You need to think of it as collaborative writing - imagine if you were
> writing a book with someone - you might send them a chapter you've
> written and ask them to do some work on it - they change what they  
> think
> best and you can still change it if you want. Wikipedia is like a huge
> collaborative writing effort where anybody can change anything, and we
> just hope that in the end the truth will prevail  :)
> This is why the accuracy of Wikipedia as opposed to printed
> encyclopedias is such a big issue - it's a question of whether the  
> whole
> idea works or not!
> A free license isn't what you might think, just from the word  
> "free". It
> doesn't mean a thing costs nothing. What it would mean for SignWriting
> is that anyone would be able to take the system and change it in  
> any way
> they want and republish it (even sell it!), provided it was also  
> issued
> under the same free license. Copyright prevents from this sort of  
> thing.
> It's really up to you to decide what you want - do you want to keep
> control of SignWriting as a standard, or do you want to let people
> develop and change it, as long as they allow other people to do the  
> same
> with their changes?
> Well, is there a lawyer in the house? Cos I'm not a lawyer! Do you
> remember the police "average speed" camera system? It's now  
> appearing on
> the roads but it was delayed for months because some lawyer noticed  
> that
> the company who invented it decided not to patent it, so he decided to
> patent it for himself! You have to protect your intellectual property.
> But copyright is different from patents - it exists on your work  
> whether
> you say so or not.
> I see now that the copyright on the front page applies to the website.
> Well, it's not clear to everybody, it's a shame I didn't realise this
> when that posting was made to the mailing list.
> Maybe, when you've got time, you could think about all that and  
> clarify
> on the website what sort things people can and can't do with the  
> system?
> I know it's a hassle but SignWriting is worth looking after, so you
> might want to read up on free licenses and whether the difference they
> would make is something you want. My opinion is that, if nothing  
> else, a
> free license might do something towards bringing SignWriting to the
> attention of the open source community and some volunteer programmers
> might decide it's something they'd want to work on.
> As Calvin (of Hobbes fame) would complain, "Everything's gotta have
> rules, rules, rules!  :)
> Sandy
> On Sun, 2007-03-11 at 00:34 -0800, Valerie Sutton wrote:
>> 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
>> symbols...
>> 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
>> income...
>> 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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