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From:  Steve/Dianne Parkhurst
Date:  Wed Feb 24, 1999  5:11 pm
Subject:  Topic markers: an idea from Spain

Dear List,

Recently there has been some talk on the list regarding how to write topic.
Here is what we do in Spain. We are writing left-to-right, not in columns,
so this idea may not work for you column writers.

If only the first word of a sentence is topicalized (eyebrows raised), we
write that facial expression on that sign. When a phrase is topicalized,
that doesn't work as well. Here's what we do. Look at this example (taken
from videoed texts in Spanish SL) (the ----t----- means that eyebrows were
raised over each of those signs):




In the first example, three signs are topicalized, and in the second
example, five signs. It's a pain to put an eyebrows-raised face on each
sign. It is slow to write and slow to read. So what do we do?

At the beginning of the phrase we build a large square bracket that looks
like this: [
with the facial expression above it. At the end of the topicalized phrase
(when the eyebrows go back to normal), we put another square bracket facing
the other way: ]
This tells the reader that everything between the bracket signs is
topicalized. This saves a lot of time for both the reader and the writer.

This same idea of brackets can be used for lots of other things. For
example, we transcribed a folktale of an Emu and a Koala. Every time the
signer talks about the Emu, he moves his body to the right. Every time he
talks about the Koala, he moves his body to the left. Rather than writing
the trunk movement on every sign in the whole story (depending on who is in
focus), we write each section in brackets according to which way the signer
leans. This is easy to read. When I see the bracket with the trunk movement
over it saying "lean to the right," it is as if I read, "The Emu said...".
(If you are writing in columns there is a really cool way to do this not
using brackets--ask Valerie :-) )

Negative phrases, exclamatory phrases, etc., all can be written nicely
using the brackets. We have been doing this for some time now and I can't
imagine writing without it. Try it and see what you think.

By the way, written Spanish always puts a question mark at the beginning
and end of a question. So in writing SL we put a SW question mark at the
beginning and end of the sentence. (Thick line and thin line at the start,
thin line and thick line at the end.) We then put the appropriate facial
expression on the first sign of the question and leave it off all the rest.
We assume that unless told otherwise the facial expression carries
throughout the whole phrase. This saves us a lot of time in reading and

For what it's worth,

Steve :-)

Steve and Dianne Parkhurst

  Replies Author Date
1097 SignWriting In Austria Valerie Sutton Wed  2/24/1999
1098 Writing Gramma Joe Martin Thu  2/25/1999
1099 Re: Writing Grammar Valerie Sutton Thu  2/25/1999
1100 Hi all... Valerie Sutton Sun  2/28/1999
1101 Re: Topic markers: an idea from Spain Valerie Sutton Mon  3/1/1999
1112 Progress being made... Valerie Sutton Wed  3/10/1999

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