forum SignWriting List Forum
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From:  Cecelia Smith
Date:  Wed May 19, 1999  6:50 pm
Subject:  Re: Researching...


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

One thing that I find exciting about it is the possible development of a good

One of the reasons we have such detailed grammars of languages like English
is that they are written. Native users know where to put the comma's to
indicate clauses and where to put a sentence to say "that's it" and when a
new paragraph has started, or even a new chapter.

We don't have that in ASL, or most other signed languages. However, as more
and more native users of ASL start using SignWriting, they will naturally
break the sign stream up into clauses, sentences, paragraphs, etc. Then,
once there is a definite body of work available, we can then decipher the
grammatical structure of ASL much easier, and actually use it to teach the

Another ramification is that the language cannot only be preserved but passed
on. Many people are familiar with the words "A rose by any other name would
smell as sweet" but if it had not been written and preserved, would it have

Writing the English language (or any other language) did not prevent the
natural changes to occur, but it sure make it possible for us to know what
our predecessors said, at least while on stage. <smile>

Cecelia Smith
Gallaudet University (Grad student in Linguistics)

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