Mundbildschrift and Mundbild ;-)

K.J. Boal kjoanne403 at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon May 14 04:32:07 UTC 2007

>From: "Valerie Sutton" <signwriting at MAC.COM>
>Reply-To: sw-l at
>To: sw-l at
>Subject: [sw-l] Mundbildschrift and Mundbild ;-)
>Date: Sun, 13 May 2007 07:16:55 -0700
>SignWriting List
>May 13, 2007
>Adam Frost wrote:
>>Ok. That helps me understand what Mundbildschrift is. I could  possibly be 
>>called Speech Writing. :-) So what I was thinking is  called Mundbild, or 
>>maybe called in English Mouth Writing or Lip  Writing. Your explanation 
>>helps a lot. Thanks. :-)
>Hello Stefan, Adam, Sandy, Charles and everyone!
>You are correct, Adam, that you are interested in writing what Stefan  
>calls Mundbild...which are SignWriting symbols applied to writing the  
>movements we see on the mouth while signing...and writing Mundbild  should 
>be a part of the ISWA (the International SignWriting  Alphabet). I think 
>your name LipWriting is fun! Or Mouthing  Writing...or just plain 
>SignWriting Facial Expressions might be fine  too ;-)
>and you are right again, that Mundbildschrift is not the same...and  will 
>not be a part of the ISWA.
>I asked Stefan to choose an English translation of the term  
>"Mundbildschrift" for us, so we can understand it in English...and  Stefan 
>chose this translation:
>Mundbildschrift (Woehrmann's SpeechWriting System)
>Woehrmann's SpeechWriting System writes the sounds of the IPA  
>(International Phonetic Alphabet) using some symbols from SignWriting  
>Facial Expressions, but then developing those symbols further, to  create a 
>standard way of writing the sounds of the IPA.
>Here is an example...see attached...this is a sentence written in  
>Woehrmann's SpeechWriting System. This sentence writes the sounds of  the 
>English sentence at the bottom of the diagram. You can see there  are seven 
>words, read from left to right. If a person memorizes what  sound is 
>represented by each standardized facial expression, they can  produce the 
>sounds of of the IPA:

><< Woehrmann_sSpeechWriting.gif >>

I believe I read somewhere that Alexander Graham Bell had actually developed 
a SpeechWriting type of system, where anyone could look at it and see how 
the mouth, tongue, nose and even throat worked together to produce sounds.  
The story goes (if I remember correctly) that he demonstrated this system at 
some kind of Exhibition; he left the stage while his assistant wrote several 
suggestions from the audience.  When he came back on stage, he easily read 
the first few sentences, but he couldn't make sense of the last one.  He 
started to read the sounds, even though he didn't know what he was doing... 
and did a perfect impression of wood being sawn!

I've wanted to take a look at the system ever since, but I haven't been able 
to find anything else written about it.  I wish I knew whether it really 
worked as well as that story would suggest...  anyway, Stefan's system looks 
pretty understandable to me - at least for sounds that are pronounced at or 
near the front of the mouth!

I'm just not sure about the sounds produced way in the back of the throat, 
like G and K, or how voicing is represented.  I also notice that the R in 
"Speechwriting" and the OE sound in "Woehrmann" are represented by the same 
symbol... I would be surprised if they were actually the same sound.  But 
representing the retroflexed R that we use in English (and in every English 
accent I'm aware of, we would actually pronounce the R in a word like 
"Speechwriting" because it comes before a vowel)... I'm not sure how you 
would do that.  Just my initial impression...


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