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

Rachel Channon rchannon1 at VERIZON.NET
Fri Dec 13 22:27:05 UTC 2013

Hi Steve,  I'm going to cut and paste your email a bit here.
Regarding the morphology details, these can be enabled or disabled on
a per puddle basis.  So Stefan, if you didn't want this in the German
Sign Language dictionary and others agreed, we would not enable this
feature for you to use.
That sounds like a good/perfect solution to enable or disable the
feature as people want.  And even if most people voted to have the
feature in that puddle, that still doesn't force anyone to fill in the
1) a simple set of choices that allow multiple choices, so that I
could select for example classifier AND compound. An initial list: 
Classifier, compound, fingerspelling - one handed, fingerspelling -
two handed, fingerspelled loan sign, character sign, assimilated
compound, compound, negative incorporation, clitic, affix, initialized
sign, phrase, inflected verb, uninflected verb, locational verb,
noun-verb pair, repeating or non-repeating signs, numbers, gestural,
pantomimic, iconic. Classifiers are subdivided in many ways by
different linguists, so some linguists might want to add to the list
of classifiers - for example, classifiers for handling objects vs.
motion vs. drawing-in-the-air and so on.
Would a alphabetically sorted multi-select list work?  Instead of one
gigantic list, we may want several smaller multi-select lists.  
Smaller multi-select lists would probably be better!  

2) a second set of choices specifying number of morphemes that
defaults to 1 and allows numeric write-ins plus the choices
innumerable, uncertain, and many, 
I can understand the utility for the number of morphemes, but I'd like
to discuss the other choices list.

"Numbering of morphemes" list
* innumerable - This is a weird concept when considering a written
sign.  Is there a spoken language equivalent?  
I don't think there is a spoken language equivalent.  This possibility
comes up when looking at classifiers.  For example, consider a
classifier for a vehicle. Suppose that you wanted to show just where
the car was dented in a recent accident.  You could circle with your
finger on almost any place on the hand to show the dent.  Should each
place qualify as a separate morpheme?  I would probably say no, but
under some theories, you might be forced to claim that each place is a
separate morpheme, and since you can't really say how many such places
there are, you would have to list this as having innumerable

* uncertain - What does this choice mean?  If a specific answer is
impossible or unknown for the number of morphemes, is there a range
instead?  Are there any spoken language equivalents?
A spoken language equivalent for uncertain is when you have parts of a
word that people no longer clearly recognize as having separate
morphemes.  For example, most people now don't really think of
"ruthless" as having two morphemes - ruth and less. For them this is a
one morpheme word, but for some people this is a two morpheme word.
So in terms of the language in general, you might want to say this is
"uncertain".  In sign languages, some people still recognize WOMAN as
being GIRL + FINE, but most people think of it as one morpheme.  So
again, "uncertain" might be a good choice.

* many - How is this different than innumerable? If we can number the
morphemes, why not use the actual number?
This might occur again in classifiers.  Even if your theory rejects
the idea of innumerable morphemes, you might want to say that a
classifier has many morphemes.  Suppose we have something showing a
car moving up a hill, hitting another car, and then overturning.  The
possible morphemes could include:  the directions, orientations,
motions, handshapes and locations for each hand.  That can add up
pretty fast, and you might just want to say many, without claiming
innumerable.  However, a choice such as "many or innumerable" is
probably adequate. 
3) a fixed choice set for either simultaneous or sequential, 
Is this always an either/or choice?  Could a complex sign fulfill both
Good question.  I cant think of an example off the top of my head, but
you are probably right that it is at least possible.  So maybe four
choices: simultaneous, sequential, mixed, and unknown/unclear would be

Valerie Sutton SignWriting List moderator sutton at
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Valerie Sutton
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