A couple of questions about SignWriting

Valerie Sutton signwriting at MAC.COM
Mon Oct 14 16:22:18 UTC 2013

SignWriting List
October 14, 2013

On Oct 14, 2013, at 6:07 AM, Fabrizio Borgia <fabrizio.borgia at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> I am writing the "SignWriting" Chapter for my Ph.D Thesis, and I was looking for the following paper:
> A Way To Analyze American Sign Language & Any Other Sign Language Without Translation Into Any Spoken Language
> Paper presented by Valerie Sutton to the National Symposium on Sign Language Research and Teaching in Boston, Massachusetts.
> I do not seem to find it on the SW website, can anyone help?


Hello Fabrizio!
The paper you mention above was presented in 1980. That is a long time ago (smile), before the time of the SignWriter Newspaper (when we really started to write more), and SignWriting looked quite different in 1980. We all used stick figures. We were starting to experiment writing without stick figures, but we had not made the transition yet… The next year, in 1981, we started to focus full time on SignWriting… before that time I was working as a Faculty member in the Dance Department of the Boston Conservatory, where DanceWriting was required for graduating with a dance degree…In 1979 I worked as a consultant to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) on a SignWriting project…and the paper you mention above was stimulated by that work at NTID.

I have to find the above paper and scan it for you, Fabrizio - I will do that as soon as I can - I would like to read it myself! It has been a long time….If I remember correctly, my presentation at the conference was packed, with standing room only, and there were many good and also controversial questions, questioning me as to why it was necessary to write sign language? and why would I think that a dancer had any right to write the language? It was a difficult but interesting time - I pointed out to everyone through interpreters, that I do not know sign languages, but instead we write body movement in general, without making any linguistic judgements, and signers who know their language choose to write their language using the SignWriting symbols - so my neutrality in not knowing any sign language is a good thing, because I am not trying to influence any language but just give the world the gift of a tool…

I will never forget that presentation, because I got to know some of the best and brightest in the upcoming field of sign language linguistics, and quite a number of them use SignWriting now, and the atmosphere is totally different today in 2013 - Now there is a feeling of acceptance and just an assumption that of course we all write sign language and that is the way it should be…. so new ideas take time, and the paper you mention was in the beginning of it all ...

Thanks for asking, Fabrizio - I will post it when I find it!

Val ;-)



Valerie Sutton
SignWriting List moderator
sutton at signwriting.org

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