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From:  Joe Martin
Date:  Wed May 19, 1999  9:54 am
Subject:  Re: researching

Hi leslie.
My name is joe and i am a Lx grad at Western Washington U in
Bellingham WA. here's .02 worth..

On Tue, 18 May 1999, leslie wrote:
> 1.What are the pro's and con's of sign writing?
> 2. Will sign writing effect/change hand signing in any way?

Re these two questions, I'm reminded or my perpetual mantra that "ASL is a
Language" People seem to pay lip service to that, but don't
follow up on the ramifications. It means that it also follows all the
rules and processes that all other languages do. For the effects of a
language adopting a writing system, consider: Along about the year 90
Irish monks taught the inhabitants of the British Isles to write their
language, which later came to be known as English.
Seems to have worked out pretty well.

> 3. What are the linguistic challenges or ramifications of sign writing?

SignWriting is the first writing system ever to catch on somewhat that has
been designed to represent non-spoken language. That alone should make
it of abiding interest to linguists. There is a lot of harping on the
idea of iconicity in writing systems, most of it pretty ill-informed. The
idea of a pictograph is well established, but what about a grapheme that
represents iconically not the referent itself, but the linguistic sign
that stands for that referent. Ain't never been done.

For spoken language you have a choice of drawing a picture of a cat, or of
some arbitrary symbol to represent the cat.
The third choice of drawing a picture of the
pattern of sound waves that makes [cat], is not viable. Sonographs come
close, in a way, but who can read them!?
The fourth choice, detailed drawings of the movements of the articulators,
*could* be done, I think, but never has. The closest we've come to that is
certain isolated features of the Cree/Inuktitut alphabet, and of Korean
(which is considered to be the worlds best writing system.

In the manual modality, the 3rd and fourth choices are one and the same,
and they are emminently feasible. Valerie used it.

> 4. Any additional comments....
No, for now I've tortured you enough; but if interested there's
more where this came from >:-)


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