Wikipedia article

George Veronis george.veronis at YALE.EDU
Fri Jun 3 22:21:08 UTC 2011

A number of people responded to my suggestion about signwriting (SW).   
Only two of them understood where I was coming from and why I made the  
suggestion that a simpler, more straightforward piece is called for in  
the Wikipedia article.  Valerie Sutton mentioned the origins of SW and  
how it arose from someone without a background in sign language.  I  
think that all of the respondents should read and think about what she  
wrote because at the time she was also not involved in SW as it has  
developed.  The other person who made very pertinent remarks is Stuart  
Thiessen, who went through the same experience that I have, viz., very  
little knowledge at a very early stage of learning ASL.  He, too,  
needed responses to questions that arose from very little experience  
with ASL

I think that communication itself must be handled with care.  One has  
to take the time and trouble to understand the basis and the reason  
for remarks made and questions asked.  The article in Wikipedia is in  
the English language and the topics contained therein are intended for  
English speaking people.  I wrote as an English speaker and relatively  
ignorant ASL user who was trying to understand an esoteric
topic.  All of you must have been confronted with "Why signwriting -  
why don't they just use the text?".  That's a very understandable  
question for someone with little or no training in sign language and  
with no experience with deaf people. I have attended a total of 12  
classes in ASL; for my final exam I decided to try to convey to the  
class that something called signwriting exists.  No one in a class of  
fifteen, not even the teacher, had ever heard of signwriting.  So  
those of you who have been involved with SW for a long time should  
keep in mind that there is a world of people who might want to know  
about SW and who will probably ask very simple and elementary  
questions, as I did.

Given what I just wrote, I would like to suggest that a statement like  
the one that Adam Frost made:
Having a literal translation will actually be seen as an insult,  
especially to native users, and will make SignWriting seem to be an  
oppressors tool to limit how Sign Language is used  must be directed  
to an audience very different from the vast majority of users of  
Wikipedia.  I was completely perplexed by it
and it was only after thinking hard about how in world anyone could  
misconstrue my simple suggestion that I realized how delicate the  
issue of communication is and how hard we have to think about the  
source of the question.  Without giving the issue serious  
consideration, the two sides, experienced SW users and those seeking  
to understand what SW is all about, will never make contact and that  
would be a pity.  But as long as people like Thiessen and Sutton are  
involved, there is hope that the issue will not get too far out of  

With serious good intentions,
George Veronis

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