Design for SignPuddle 3: parts-of-speech and morphology of sign language

Rachel Channon rchannon1 at VERIZON.NET
Thu Dec 12 20:32:01 UTC 2013

First, as Maria and Valerie says, the open sign puddles cannot be used
for any kind of detailed statistical study as they stand.  Some of the
puddles could probably be used to check hunches, or look for certain
exceptions, but very carefully.  I believe there are ways to download
the name of the person who entered the data, so that it might be
possible to select just those persons whom you had information about.
Second, adding a field for morphology would never mean that that field
was required.  If you look at any sign puddle entry now, I am sure you
can see fields that are not used. So Stefan and Charles could go ahead
and write what THEY want to write.
The primary benefit of such a field is for researchers and
lexicographers.  One benefit of having it in the general sign puddle
is to keep research puddles similar to open sign puddles, so that
Steve doesn't have to juggle two different versions, and so that
someone who was hired to work on a research puddle because of their
experience with the open puddles would already be familiar with the
fields.  In other words, the field does no harm to the open puddles,
some writers might like to use some of its possibilities, and it would
be very valuable to researchers.  
Sign language morphology is important because different kinds of signs
behave different phonologically. To take a simple example, if you
sorted all the signs in a puddle by whether or not they used the R or
W handshape, you should find that most of these signs are
fingerspelling.  If you have a field that you can mark off
"fingerspelling"  then you can ignore all the fingerspelling and focus
on the unusual signs that are not fingerspelling and have those
handshapes and ask why they are happening.
From: SignWriting List: Read and Write Sign Languages
[mailto:SW-L at LISTSERV.VALENCIACOLLEGE.EDU] On Behalf Of Valerie Sutton
Sent: Thursday, December 12, 2013 2:37 PM
Subject: Re: Design for SignPuddle 3: parts-of-speech and morphology
of sign language
SignWriting List
December 12, 2013
Hello Maria and Steve -
Thank you for this discussion, and Maria, please excuse my delay in
working with you - I look forward to more contact soon ;-)
Regarding the sources of writing in the public SignPuddles, it is
important to realize that SignPuddle Online, the part that is free and
open to the general public, was never meant to be a database that is
closed to the public and therefore controlled, with all elements known
.Beginners are welcome to start writing something in SignPuddle
Online, as a training experience, not because they want to be tracked
and a part of any project, but just to learn some SignWriting symbols
- some users have never even seen SignWriting before and are just
"playing" with the software. and learning the symbols by experimenting
with writing for the first time, is a wonderful experience and
therefore too valuable for us to deny anyone. It would actually be
detrimental to SignWriting to take away the feeling that a beginner
can start to learn to write online for free and enjoy looking at
other's writings too.
So the public part of SignPuddle Online should not be compared to a
controlled database.I want SignPuddle Online to be friendly for the
general public and I enjoy conversing with people about how they wrote
signs and the many issues that arise when learning how to write.Think
how valuable it is here on the SignWriting List to be able to write
something in SignPuddle Online and be able to direct people to see the
sign there, and to then discuss it. 
Now, we DO have controlled SignPuddles, called Private WebPuddles,
where only some writers are allowed to contribute writing, but the
general public is always welcome to view and read and even copy what
is in the Private WebPuddle.but only certain people are allowed to
contribute writing to those databases. Those databases would be
wonderful to study, because we know who the writers are...
So, Steve, if you want to build in more fields for tracking different
people, under Source we could have:
source of sign language, such as "signed by."
source of spoken language text such as "New Living Translation NLT"
source of sign language author, such as "composed directly in ASL and
written in SignWriting by ___"
source of translator from spoken language to sign language, such as
"translated from ___ to ___ by___"
source of transcriptionist from video, such as "transcribed from the
video_____, and written in SignWriting by___"
source of the SignWriting copyist, who copies signs without knowing
the signs.etc.
or maybe just a few generic fields more under Source will give us more
opportunity to record multiple sources, or maybe a pull-down menu for
more fields when needed -
Regarding my nephews and their childhood friend as the source of the
Spanish Sign Language Literature puddle - We never expected, when I
asked my nephews to copy old Spanish Sign Language documents from
SignWriter DOS and from old printed materials, to be considered
the"source of the sign language itself" the time of the
SignWriting Document Preservation Project in 2009 and later, which you
can read about online: . I asked three
boys to do the copy work symbol by symbol, into SignPuddle - at the
time I needed their names in the Source area so I could see which boy
had done the work, but then over time I never got back to putting in
the correct sources for the actual sign language documents - Most of
them are the Parkhursts but there are some that are an exception - so
that is an example of why we cannot count on the public SignPuddles
Online to be good sources for research - we would need a team of
people to create clean databases - which could be done with funding,
but if we had the funding, I would move the data to a Private
WebPuddle open to visitors to read and enjoy...
So let me suggest, if you want to have a good Symbol Frequency Search,
Maria, I would suggest studying Nancy Romero's private web puddles -
there are two of them:
ASL BIBLE Dictionary
<> &sgn=28
ASL BIBLE Books (English to ASL Translations based on the NLT, by
Nancy Romero)
and then there is:
ASL BIBLE Books (Deaf Missions Videos transcribed by Shores Deaf
These are private databases with only a few writers - you can still do
the Symbol Frequency searching on these databases.
Those are some of my thoughts ;-)
Thanks everyone -
Val ;-)
On Dec 12, 2013, at 9:35 AM, Stephen E Slevinski Jr
<slevin at SIGNPUDDLE.NET <mailto:slevin at SIGNPUDDLE.NET> > wrote:

On 12/12/13, 10:17 AM, maria galea wrote:
Could I just point out an issue that has come up recently when
investigating SignPuddles and using them as a tool to extract
information about the writing system for different sign languages..
You see, some reviewers have been very critical about the symbol
frequency count - not in itself naturally, but with the lack of
information it provides about the inputters (writers), their expertise
and even the lack of having an exact figure of how many people have
written in a given Puddle. 

This is a fair criticism.

Without such information not much can be concluded from the results,
since you would need exact figures of how many writers have inputted
into a given Puddle, dates of when they inputted, and some information
about their level of skill, whether they are native signers or
Some of this is available.

it would be a pity not to include such information (if it is possible)
for the sake of future research.
This would require tracking additional information.

Just to give an example, say you would like to investigate the writing
system of the Spanish Literature Puddle (for instance you are
investigating the symbols/glyphs used for Spanish sign language) -
without information about the number of writers, whether they are
native signers or hearing students, and dates of when the writing was
created - there is not much you can conclude about the writing system
of Spanish sign language (because if if it was written by one person
this would be much more different than if it were written by say 15
people) you see my point?

>From the raw user data, I can pull this list.
Anonymous: 67
AndrewSutton: 16
DavidCorreia: 14
msutton: 346
sutton: 12

However, the user who entered the data isn't the same as the original

I have no idea if such information can somehow be stored, as i have no
expertise with programming at all; i can also see the problem with
data-protection acts (but hey- what happened with the boom of
social-networks such as Facebook!) but it would be great to somehow
store such information for future research...
This would be an interesting and valuable addition to the SignPuddle
project, but not the core focus.  

I have a few ideas that will answer some of you questions, but it will
not answer them all.
Thanks Maria for your input.

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