embedding ASL in pdf/html

Alan Post alanpost at SUNFLOWERRIVER.ORG
Tue Mar 23 17:15:34 UTC 2010

Thank you Valerie!

Using Adam Frost's website as a reference, I've uploaded the swis
software to my website and created my first few written signs.  I
wrote a blog entry about this here:


I got the basic software working last night, and polished it enough
to publish this morning.  Uploaded the swis software took a bit, and
I had to make modifications to other parts of my blog to deal with
the fact that I was suddenly dealing with 70 megabytes of data for a
website that had been a few megabytes before.  Those problems are
all solved, however!

Speaking of cultural and social ramifications of written sign
languages, I'll briefly describe my own website.

The title is "lo do ckiku ma zvati," which is a Lojban[1] phrase
meaning "Your keys, they are where?"  Or "Where are your Keys?"

"Where are your Keys?"[2] is a language fluency game designed by Evan
Gardner.  He is working to revitalize endangered languages,
particularly First Nation languages in the United States, where often
there is no cirriculum, or when there is a written material for a
language, it isn't in a form available to non-linguists.  Many of
the people he works with come from oral cultures--there is no
written form of their language.

An essential feature of "Where are you Keys?" is to sign what you
are speaking.  In this way you engage multiple senses in learning
new words.  It is also more obvious to other players when you make a
mistake, because there is a difference between what you speak and
what you sign.

I've been working with Evan Gardner and his partner Willem Larson
for several months now on "Where are your Keys?"  My own focus is
developing material for the constructed language Lojban, but it is
my hope that some of what I'm doing will be useful in a more general

I've spoken directly to one person in the Deaf Community about "Where
are your Keys?"  The game didn't really engage him, and he mentioned
feeling a bit like "Where are your Keys?" was appropriating sign
language.  I don't have a well formed opinion on this, though in
action I'm clearly working with the game, and I know personally I
would not have been exposed to ASL or be excited about learning to
sign where it not for this game.

I would love to hear the perspective of you or other people on this
list.  SignWriting solves a problem in a near-ideal way for me, as I
discuss in my blog entry.  I'm not certain whether my using
SignWriting creates problems of its own.


[1]: http://lojban.org/
[2]: http://whereareyourkeys.org/

On Mon, Mar 22, 2010 at 08:28:23AM -0700, Valerie Sutton wrote:
> SignWriting List
> March 22, 2010
> Hello Alan!
> Welcome to the SignWriting List. Thank you for this message...
> It is great to know that you are enthusiastically working on a project that uses SignWriting!
> Questions regarding software development are Steve's territory...so we will wait for Steve to answer your technical questions about SignPuddle and the SignWriting Image Server...
> Meanwhile, if you need to learn how to write a sign in SignWriting, or want to know what a symbol means, or would like instruction on how to use existing software, or would like to discuss the cultural and social ramifications of written sign languages, I and others, like Adam, can help you here on the List...
> And Bill Reese is so right - take a look at Adam Frost's vlog - it is amazing!

> -----
> On Mar 22, 2010, at 8:05 AM, Alan Post wrote:
> > Hello Steve, Valerie, and the rest of the list,
> > 
> > My name is Alan Post.  I was introduced to Sign Writing last night,
> > doing some research for a creative commons project of mine which
> > involves recording ASL signs both in print media (pdf), html, and
> > eventually physical signposts.
> > 
> > I don't think I can adequately express how wonderful it is to find
> > Sign Writer.  My previous plan for recording ASL signs was to
> > purchase a copy of Poser, which is character modeling software, and
> > animate the signs myself.
> > 
> > I have suddenly found the scope of my project go from "learn Poser,
> > make a convincing pose for every word I need, render to an image,
> > and annotate the image to add gesture hints." to "figure out how to
> > talk to the Sign Puddle server."  Building on the work you've done
> > is easily an order of magnitude less work for higher quality results.
> > 
> > Thank you thank you thank you thank you.
> > 
> > I spent last night learning as much as I could about Sign Writing,
> > and I could really use some orientation.  I have the following "next
> > steps" that I would like to perform, to teach me how to interact
> > with the Sign Writing infrastructure and to begin integrating it
> > into my own project:
> > 
> > * I would like to display ASL sentences on my website.  I'd like to
> >   construct these sentences from individual words and control the
> >   word layout locally.  I'd like the layout of individual gestures
> >   making up a word, however, to be whatever sign puddle is programmed
> >   to say they are.
> > 
> >   I think I can use the dictionary to look up the word and copy the
> >   created glyph to my server.  It seems I could also download a
> >   copy of the server to my website and transcribe the CSS rendering
> >   instructions directly onto my page.
> > 
> >   Is there same way in which I could embed an ASL word into a URL
> >   that when retrieved returns the image/glyph I'd like from sign
> >   puddle server?  Can you help me better understand how all of
> >   these pieces fit together?  Teach me to fluently access single
> >   words from you server programmatically.
> > 
> > * I would like to render ASL sentences to embed in a pdf document.
> >   The source for the document is TeX, and in my perfect world I'd
> >   embed an SVG graphic in my document.  In this usage, I have three
> >   different font sizes and would like to scale my ASL sentences to
> >   match my English font.  As well, I need to display these
> >   sentences in right-to-left order to match the flow of non-ASL
> >   text in the document.
> > 
> >   I see that there are SVG base glyphs available.  Is there a way I
> >   can mix these together like the PNG base glyph files can be turned
> >   into a word by arranging them in space using css?  Can I generate
> >   SVG graphic files of words and sentences?
> > 
> >   The rest of my pdf document will scale, so I can print them four
> >   to a page, poster size, &c and the fonts will still look nice.
> >   I'm hoping I can embed ASL words into these documents in a
> >   scalable format to preserve the ability to scale my documents, but
> >   I haven't figured out whether this is possible yet.
> > 
> > I would be delighted if, by the end of the day, I had my first page
> > with ASL sentences uploaded to my website, and by the end of the
> > week had succeeded in embedding svg or png graphics of signwritten
> > ASL words into my pdf.
> > 
> > May I have some guidance understanding where to go from here?  My
> > fingers tremble to write some ASL!
> > 
> > -Alan
> > 
> > PS: I'm a software developer, and really don't mind as many
> > technical details as you would like to provide.  I'll understand
> > things better if you literally describe the technology, rather than
> > trying to simplify it through metaphor.  No detail of how this stuff
> > works will bore me: I'm tremendously impressed by just how well
> > engineered it is, from the study I've given it so far.
> > -- 
> > te djuno lo do sevzi
> > 
> > 
> > 
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