|SignWriting List Forum|
Valerie Sutton |
Date: Thu May 13, 1999 4:54 am
Subject: Re: learning to read
On Wed, 24 Mar 1999, Steve Parkhurst wrote:
>As we develop teaching materials for SW in Spain, we have been working with
>two guys to help us get the examples in good Spanish Sign Language (LSE).
>Here's what we noticed:
>1. The first time they see a sign, they "sound it out," reading each symbol
>and eventually putting it all together. Once they understand the meaning of
>the sign, they automatically put the appropriate facial expression with it.
>For example, the sign "there is" is always signed with the mouth open and
>the tongue touching the inside of the cheek. We chose at this point in the
>lessons not to write that (even though it is possible to do). However, now
>I think it is not necessary to write it at all. The facial expression comes
>naturally with comprehension of the written sign. So, how much facial
>expression is necessary to write? I don't know. But certenly not everything
True, but of course that means that you would have to know Spanish Sign
Language to know the proper facial expression, that automatically goes with
the sign. There is an assumption of the knowledge of the language, if you
do not write the details.
And of course, that is only logical for quick daily recording. We do that
all the time in the writing of spoken languages, after all. And if the
readers are native, or skilled signers, then of course they would not need
But are there ever two facial expressions possible for the same sign? That
might cause a conflict, but maybe not in context.
For foreigners trying to learn Spanish Sign Language using SignWriting -
they would need the facial expressions. So it depends on the audience I
Meanwhile....I learned something recently. At first, I was very worried
about writing too much detail in the facial expressions in my transcription
of the ASL video, that I used for the "Learn To Read ASL" book.
But because of time constraints, I had no choice but to go ahead and give
people a few copies of the book anyway, even though I did not know the
answer to my questions. I have no staff, as you know, and I didn't have any
feedback and I didn't know where to begin to "cut" the detailed facial
expressions I had written. When you have a writing system that can write
everything, it is hard to know what is important and what is not important.
I know that in time we will establish writing rules, and this will all
But meanwhile, I started to realize something...
Everyday, when we have conversations with each other in a signed language,
we see the entire face all the time. Our eyes tell us what is important
grammatically on the face in front of us. But we also "absorb" other
expressions and facial movements that are not grammatically important.
Somehow our brains decipher these differences.
I am so fluent in reading SignWriting, that for me, when I read a document,
it is as if I am seeing a real person signing on the page. So when I read
documents with detailed facial expressions, the extra information that is
not necessary grammatically doesn't bother me...just like in a real
conversation...I tend to focus on the parts of the face that are important
from a meaning point of view. The detailed faces "look" exactly the way
Darline looked when she signed the story on video, and in that sense it
"feels" fine. But the added detail does not distract my eye from the
I am not saying that people should write every detail - not at all!!
But I also realize that it is no sin to have detailed facial expressions
either - they are readable no matter what.....and it all depends on your
audience, and the purpose of the text at hand.
The DAC, Deaf Action Committee for SW
Center For Sutton Movement Writing
an educational nonprofit organization
Box 517, La Jolla, CA, 92038-0517, USA