forum SignWriting List Forum
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From:  "Wayne H. Smith"
Date:  Tue Jun 1, 1999  11:15 pm
Subject:  Re: New SignWriter Features?

Valerie wrote:
>In regards to typing Chinese and Japanese - of course I know that people in
>Taiwan, China and Japan want to type Chinese or Japanese along with
>SignWriting. That is understood. The only problem is technology.
>Developing methods for typing Chinese and Japanese has been a great deal of
>work for hundreds of programmers over decades.
The 9 European spoken languages already supported in SignWriter 4.3 are
easier because they use the Roman alphabet. When it comes to other scripts,
including Arabic, Chinese and Japanese, we will have to "hook into" other
existing software for those writing systems. That is only practical. So it
is just a matter of time. I doubt if we can do this in our first beta test
version of SignWriter 5.0. I will feel lucky if we just have a working
program for the 9 European languages by the Fall - just that alone is a huge
job. At the moment, SignWriter 5.0 can't even print - so the programmer has
a big job ahead.

Wayne writes:
I have absolutely no idea what is involved in making SignWriter
accessible to Chinese, Japanese, etc. scripts. I'll pass along what I do
know, and maybe that will help Rich make decisions about how to prepare
SignWriter for Chinese input.
Remember that I'm typing from a Chinese version of Windows 98. All I
have to do is push a button on the taskbar and a little window opens in
which I type whatever keys I need to type to make Chinese characters appear,
and the result looks like:


Unless you have a Chinese computer, or a program like NJStar or NJWin
(available at, all you will see is gibberish. What I see,
however, is a sentence which in phonetics reads (tone marks omitted):

Dajia hao! Wode mingzi jiao Shi Wenhan. Wo xianzai zai yanjiu Taiwan
Shouyu. (Translation: Hello everybody! My name is Wayne Smith. Right now
I am doing research on Taiwanese Sign Language.)

Each syllable in Chinese is represented by one Chinese character. Each of
those characters is encoded in a computer in one of several competing
encoding methods. The Taiwan standard is called "Big-5" (meaning an amalgam
of five previously competing systems into one big one). The feature common
to all of these methods is that two different symbols from the "extended
ASCII character set" (which includes all the alphabetic symbols that are
foreign to English, and quite a few other strange ones) are used to encode
each Chinese character. Although I can't see them myself at this time (all
I see is Chinese characters in the line above), I know that there are
upside-down question marks, u's with umlauts, o's with slashes, capital Y's
with circumflexes, and everything else. The way it works, every pairing of
one of those weird characters with any other weird character will be
interpreted by the various encoding programs as specific Chinese characters,
and when filtered in this way, the user sees Chinese characters instead of
the funny-looking symbols.
This gets interesting when I look at a website from, say, Brazil on my
Chinese computer. Portuguese uses the letter c with a cedilla (as does
French) to indicate an "ess" sound. I have ancestry from the Azores, but in
Portuguese it is spelled Acores with a cedilla under the c (I can't type in
in e-mail mode on this Chinese computer). Whenever the word Acores (with
the cedilla) is printed in a Portuguese language text, I see "A[]res" and in
place of the "c-cedilla o" combination, I see some weird Chinese character
that happens to have "c-cedilla o" as its code. The same thing happens when
my friend Yoel writes me and puts the umlaut on the "e" in his name:
"Y-O-Eumlaut-L". I see "Yo[]" with some strange Chinese character in the
"el" slot.
I **think** (and I do so without knowledge) that as long as SignWriter
is able to accept the entire set of characters in the extended ASCII
character set, then these characters can then be interpreted by the
individual computer as Chinese characters. I'm sure that there are at least
a thousand Chinese language computer programmers in California alone, and
perhaps one of them could be consulted about what would be required. I'd be
glad to do some of the leg work on this if it would help, but it may be that
Rich already knows someone who fits this category.
I don't know if I've cleared up or muddied over the issue of typing
Chinese characters. If there are any questions, let me know. I'd be more
than happy to help.
- Wayne

CC: Yoel Arbeitman

  Replies Author Date
1373 Hooking Into Existing Software Valerie Sutton Tue  6/1/1999
1374 Statistics on SignWriting Valerie Sutton Tue  6/1/1999

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