AW: [sw-l] Woehrmann's SpeechWriting System and Bell's Visible Speech

Stefan Wöhrmann stefanwoehrmann at GEBAERDENSCHRIFT.DE
Mon May 14 22:20:20 UTC 2007

Hi Valerie, Stuart, Adam, Sandy, Kelly ... sw list members, 

I am so grateful for your comments. 

In fact I feel pretty much excited to study literature about the work of
Alexander Melville Bell

Can you imagine that I did not know anything about Visible Speech but
invented Woehrmann's SpeechWriting System out of need to support my deaf
students ... 

Hi Valerie - your comments and description about what Woehrmann's
SpeechWriting System is supposed to be is absolutel correct! 

And Stuart I love to read your comments because they allow to check what I
am doing from a different perspective. 

Woehrmann's SpeechWriting System is a phonetic alphabet invented by Stefan
Woehrmann  (father of Johannes, Christoph and Gordian Woehrmann). Woehrmann
is a teacher of the deaf, and this SpeechWriting system is intended as an
aid to teaching the deaf how to pronounce words, by reducing sounds to a
supposedly unambiguous representation. 

(The paragraph above is taken from a description of Visible Speech - smile -
I only exchanged a few words ) - but it is almost the same idea! 

Well I am fortunate to meet the inventor of Sutton SignWriting and inspired
by the symbols for facial expressions of the mouth in the good old DOS
version - I started to develop my own set of symbols - I changed and worked
on the design and the number of the needed symbols for several years now -
and believe me or not - yesterday evening I understood that I should add
another symbol for a specific phonem like in the end of spee"ch" 

The result is a symbol set which is tremendously easy to understand - even
by very young children (age 3 ) 

The fact that we discuss this system on the SignWriting list is somehow
interesting because it almost has nothing to do with the transcription or
notation of SL. 

But there is a bridge to SignWriting. Lots of these symbols of Woehrmann's
SpeechWriting System are kind of meaningful and allow a strong associative
power because of the fact that they are derived more or less from the
"SignWriting" Motto - we write what we see. 

The differences between many utterances represented in Woehrmann's
SpeechWriting System are not to be noticed by your eyes but by your ears -
which seems to be a problem for deaf people at first glance. 

But the more you dive into all the aspects of articulation training the more
you may become aware of the fact that there is a great chance that
interested DEAF people will take advantage from this soundoriented writing
system. Compared to Mr Bells "Alphabet" Woehrmann's SpeechWriting System
seems to be more representing a real mouth in the face hence less difficult
to learn ... and to keep in mind. But it would have been sooooo much fun to
discuss with Mr Bell his ideas and our different tools which should lead to
the same goal. I will definitely start to study his theory and comments on
his invention. 

Once again thanks so much for your comments, hints, questions, doubts and -
ha Velerie too kind to mention the TV-program. Yes I agree it is a great

Stefan ;-)  

-----Urspr√ľngliche Nachricht-----
Von: owner-sw-l at
[mailto:owner-sw-l at] Im Auftrag von Stuart Thiessen
Gesendet: Montag, 14. Mai 2007 05:27
An: sw-l at
Betreff: Re: [sw-l] Mundbildschrift and Mundbild ;-)

Just to clarify ...

Is this SpeechWriting system really writing the phonetics like the  
IPA or is it writing the phonemics (what is perceived to be the  
sounds of a given language)? The IPA does cover a very large  
territory of sounds, so unless you have a one-to-one mapping of the  
SpeechWriting system to the IPA, it may not be best to advertise it  
as an equivalent of the IPA until that time. There are some sounds in  
the IPA that are not visible on the mouth or the face. For example,  
some African languages have clicks and other such sounds. Other  
languages have tones which alter the meaning of a word even though  
the mouth movements are exactly the same. So those elements will need  
to be considered before it can be accurately called the equivalent of  
the IPA.

Not to be a wet blanket or anything, but I tend to prefer precise  
language when it comes to things like this. I am not opposed to this,  
but as a Deaf person, I feel our first focus is enabling the Deaf  
person to read/write in their sign language. Using that, we can build  
bridges to reading and writing the spoken language. Whether or not  
this SpeechWriting will enable building a bridge to spoken language  
literacy or not would be an interesting study.

Just a thought.



On May 13, 2007, at 9:16, Valerie Sutton wrote:

> 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's SpeechWriting.gif>

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