forum SignWriting List Forum
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From:  Valerie Sutton
Date:  Tue Jun 1, 1999  2:09 pm
Subject:  Re: New SignWriter Features?

> I don't think that Wayne was suggesting that Taiwanese readers
>wouldn't be able to adjust to reading left-to-right. The whole reason why
>SignWriting is written in columns is that it was suggested by SignWriting
>users. If we're going to go out of our way to make it possible for
>American signers to read in columns at all, then we should also go out of
>our way, if it's shown that Taiwanese signers want to read right-to-left.
> -Angus B. Grieve-Smith
> Linguistics Department
> The University of New Mexico


June 1, 1999

Hi Angus -
Thanks for this comment. It inspired another thought altogether, because I
realize that Taiwanese signers are new to SignWriting. Beginning readers
and writers are oftentimes different than people skilled in reading and

For example, years ago we wrote signs receptively. We were beginners
ourselves. Then, as time progressed, Deaf people skilled in SignWriting
requested writing signs expressively. In the beginning they did not - it
took skill before the need for "the Expressive View" arose.

To this day, when SignWriting is first introduced to beginners, they want
to read it receptively, because that is what they saw in illustrations and
photographs in other sign books. But we have no choice but to help them
"adjust to the expressive", because in the long run it is to their benefit.

Meanwhile, SignWriting can technically be written from any viewpoint. We
simply made a decision - that "the Expressive View" is the world standard
for publishing in SignWriting.

When it comes to reading the vertical columns left to right or right to
left....this difference may just be an issue of western and eastern
cultures thinking differently. But it may also be a case of someone new to
SignWriting assuming that writing down has to be like written Chinese. That
comparison should not be made either, since signed languages are not the
same as Chinese.

So for now I agree that we should give everyone flexibility on the
direction of reading SignWriting. As Taiwan Deaf people become skilled in
SignWriting, they can give us feedback. And then someday, I suspect one
direction will become the world standard, and beginners will be required to
learn it - maybe 10 years from now - who knows! :-)

Valerie :-)

Valerie Sutton


The DAC, Deaf Action Committee for SW
Center For Sutton Movement Writing
an educational nonprofit organization
Box 517, La Jolla, CA, 92038-0517, USA

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