Recently approved MA Thesis on SignWriting

Stuart Thiessen thiessenstuart.lists at GMAIL.COM
Wed May 11 12:58:02 UTC 2011

I think we will need to move to a more relative layout strategy. As I
mention in the thesis, there is some natural organization of the symbols
based on the layout of the body. There is also some natural relationships
between symbols such that certain types of symbols only relate to other
types of symbols. So, those relationships can also help us in finding ways
to organize the symbol relationships in how the layout is encoded. I think
that there would be no specific need to mark the location of the first
symbol in a sign box. It could be understood to be placed in the center of
the sign box. Then everything else is positioned either relative to the
previous symbol or relative to the body. There is more detail in the last
two chapters that describe some of my preliminary conclusions. At the least,
I think we should use polar coordinates rather than cartesian coordinates.

I wrote a computer program to help me do some of the analysis. Due to timing
constraints, I didn't tell the computer, "If they have the same location or
if the rectangles representing the two symbols overlap, then calculate
distances between symbols in a different way." My program just made the
assumption that no "outside pixels" of the symbols overlapped or were
superimposed upon each other. For a preliminary analysis, this covers most
of the symbols, but I knew a more detailed analysis would need to cover
superimposed or overlapping symbols. It's just a matter of recognizing the
situation and planning different calculations.

Marking the superimposed symbols as -1 would certainly work. Or one could
assume that no positioning information implies it is superimposed. In other
writing systems, it is my understanding that ligatures (like æ) are actually
handled as separate symbols in Unicode. I don't know if that would work for
SignWriting. For example, for head circles, one option could be to have one
head circle symbol + a series of face diacritics. The renderer could then
superimpose the face diacritics onto a head circle symbol. Then if it runs
out of room, it could add additional head circles and add the remaining face
diacritics to those head circles. But that is not the approach that we are
currently using. Our current approach of superimposing the various head
circles also works, but that approach requires us to think about opacity in
the definition of our symbols which is not usually used in most writing
systems (to my knowledge).

At this point, we have some time to explore some different approaches.
Hopefully, we will find one that will be well-accepted by the Unicode

On Mon, May 9, 2011 at 1:16 PM, Bill Reese <wreese01 at> wrote:

>  Great!  I'm glad they're working together on it.  I hope great things come
> out of the collaboration.
> I know I brought this up before but I'm wondering, Stuart, if a concept of
> relative coordinate systems was discussed in your thesis?   I did a quick
> scan so I'm not sure if it was.  What I mean by "relative" is a coordinate
> system that's related to a previous symbol in a sign according to that
> sign's signspelling sequence.
> The coordinate for the first symbol would be in absolute coordinates
> according to the signbox, then the second symbol would relate to the first
> symbol according to a coordinate system using a point of the first symbol as
> the origin.
> Doing it that way may allow establishing matrices of symbol pairing in a
> sign.   I would imagine this to be similar to "kerning" and possibly define
> distances according to the pairs rotation of not only themselves but to each
> other.  Similar to what you were saying about establishing minimum
> distances.
> About the overlap of symbols that you mention.  I was wondering if it
> couldn't also be solved by a matrix of symbol pairing so that a particular
> matrix value would indicate overlap - say, a value of -1.   On the other
> hand, do you think it would be possible to create totally different symbols
> that are overlaps of two symbols?  I ask this as that's what's done in other
> languages when there's an overlap.  For instance, "æ" which looks like "a"
> and "e" overlapped but is it's own symbol.  I would hazard a guess that
> separate symbols are only possible when there's only a few.
> Bill
> On 5/9/2011 1:06 PM, Valerie Sutton wrote:
> SignWriting List
> May 9, 2011
>  Hello Bill -
> Just want you to know that we have a group of Unicode-knowledgeable people
> working together on our SignWriting proposals that will be presented to the
> Unicode-related meetings over a period of years, and Steve and Stuart are
> both in the group, along with others as well - so we are all working
> together...The proposals have been separated into proposing the encoding of
> the symbols, or characters, first, (of the International SignWriting
> Alphabet 2010) and then once the symbols have been encoded, we will present
> a second proposal related to layout and symbol placement issues - so that
> second area is where different theories will be discussed until we can come
> up with a final decision for a second proposal - so we are taking this one
> step at at a time...
>  An exciting time for all of us - smile -
>  Val ;-)
>  ----------
>  On May 9, 2011, at 8:56 AM, Bill Reese wrote:
>  Stuart,
> Wow, that was a lot of work!  I do have one question.  How would the most
> recent work in Unicode and, more particularly, what Steve Slevinski has
> written to the list affect the portion where you talk about what may be
> needed for successful Unicode acceptance?   From what it appears, it's well
> on it's way to acceptance with what Steve and Michael Everson have done.
> Bill
> On 5/8/2011 1:02 AM, Stuart Thiessen wrote:
> Hello, all! I know it's been a long time, no see. I wanted to let you know
> that I have completed my MA thesis on SignWriting. For those of you
> interested in reading it, you can download a PDF from the University
> website. Just so you know, the PDF itself is about 22MB.
>  **
>  If you have any questions about it, just let me know.
>  Thanks,
>  Stuart
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