|SignWriting List Forum|
Date: Tue May 19, 1998 9:54 pm
I am writing this as an open letter to Valerie Sutton as it has to do with a
suggestion for the arrangement of the "new" Sign Writing dictionary she is
proposing to construct in the near future. The reaction to this suggestion by
the members of this list should be of interest and of value to her.
It has long been my contention that the Sign Language dictionaries currently
available contribute to the attitude that ASL is an off-shoot of the English
Language rather than an independent language . Most, if not all of them,
arrange the signs by the alphabetical arrangement of the sign's English
glosses. This is not only insulting to ASL, but awkward to those constructing
such a resource. Choices must be made from the many glosses a single sign may
have to keep the size of the resource within bounds at the sacrifice of
Most dictionaries used in teaching a foreign language, on the other hand, are
"two way". One can search for a foreign word and find the English meaning or
search for an English word and find the foreign translations. Shouldn't we
have the same for ASL and English? In the dictionaries mentioned above there
is no way one can look up a sign and find its English meanings! What is
needed to accomplish the desired "two way" dictionary is a logical method of
ordering of the signs that is easy to learn and meaningful to apply.
Alphabetical order is not the answer to this need. A morphological or
handshape order is called for that incorperates number, placement, movement
Gallaudet University Press has announced just such a dictionary, "Handshape
Dictionary", in its spring catalog. A review of this "two way" dictionary,
which will becoming out next month, appears in this catalog. I believe the
application of the morphological order used here to the proposed Sign Writing
Dictionary would be very worthwhile. For the first time the writing of ASL is
possible, thanks to your devotion to the construction and dissemination of
Sign Writing. It will therefore be doubly important that there exist a source
where one can find the meaning of a sign appearing in an article, story, etc.
one is reading. You will want your dictionary to provide this need.
Before constructing this new dictionary I would hope that you will be able to
study the order used in this "Handshape Dictionary" and consider its
usefulness in what you are compiling. I will send you a copy as soon as I get
my hands on one.
With much affection and appreciation,