Hello All -
I've been on the road since I left Taiwan on June 23 and have just
gotten around to reading all of the messages posted in the past couple of
weeks. I had a couple of comments to make:
On Thu, 27 May 1999 I had written:
Could there be a Ctrl-Something key that will completely reverse a given
sign or (better yet) a given group of signs or even a complete document so
that it would reflect how a left-handed signer might produce the signs?
On June 18, 1999 Valerie responded:
What an interesting suggestion :-)
Actually, to program an "automatic switch", in SignWriter 5.0, from
right-handed signs to left-handed signs, might be expensive and
time-consuming to program...and I don't even know if the feature would be
that useful. We can always re-type the left-handed version the slow way if
we need to.
I would be worried that the "automatic switch" from right to left would not
always leave you with an accurate document. For example, the hands would
flop, but the facial expressions would not...or would they? So...it might
open up programming problems and some linguistic problems as well.
Meanwhile, there are not that many left-handed documents, since there are
not that many left-handed signers :-)
When I first made that suggestion, I was referring to taking signs out
of a ready-made dictionary using the Alt-D command. As it is right now, the
SW001 (ASL) dictionary has a right-hand bias (which is reasonable,
right-handedness being the default). Yet I'm sure that if I were
left-handed, I would want to express myself in ASL left-handed, and would
want my SW to allow for that without having to re-type every single sign
from the dictionary. I was suggesting an expansion of the Alt-< function
(which reverses individual symbols) to perhaps a sequence of Alt-S (select)
Alt-< (reverse) which would reverse the entire selection, be that a portion
of a sign, a whole sign, or the individual signs in a sentence or document.
I still think it's a good idea.
As to "there are not many left-handed signers" I say: Being a member of
a minority group myself (Gay) I'm tired of always being expected to conform
to the majority view, and feel very strongly about "Left-Handed Rights"
(pardon the pun).
Later Valerie asked:
The western languages have "cursive writing" where they connect letters in
handwriting....do the Chinese and Japanese writing systems also have a
There are cursive forms of individual characters wherein the individual
strokes which comprise individual Chinese characters are blended together
into a flowing style that is quite aesthetically pleasing and frequently
used in calligraphy. However, it is rare to see entire characters blend
into the adjacent characters.
Finally Greg Noel wrote:
Unicode is an international agreement on what numerical values to assign to
glyphs(*) in the various alphabets. There's a set of values for the English
(well, Latin-1) alphabet, which happen to be exactly the same as the ASCII
values. There's another set for the Greek alphabet, Crylic, Arabic, Hebrew,
and so forth. The values are disjoint (that is, the don't overlap) so that
it's theoretically possible to use all of them in the same document.
(*In this context, a displayable shape is called a glyph. It could be a
letter, number, punctuation, or just about anything---including whitespace;
it doesn't have to be something visible. For example, the Dingbat glyphs
have been assigned Unicode values, so you could theoretically use them in
any application that's Unicode-aware, just as you could the letter G or a
This makes it relatively easy to display languages like English, French,
German, Russian, Arabic, and Hebrew---languages where the words are built up
out of glyphs displayed linearly. It's more problematical for languages
like Japanese and Chinese---and SignWriting---where words are a single
symbol. I recall reading that Chinese has 300,000 words; it's likely
infeasible to include all of them as individual Unicode values. (If the
words are composed out of smaller pieces, those pieces are candidates for
inclusion in Unicode, but there still needs to be some way of combining them
into the composite symbol.)
A lot of the technical information presented in this series of mailings
was lost on me, but I can relate to this previous paragraph:
The correct number of individual characters (not compounds of two or
more characters) would certainly not be 300,000. The largest Chinese
dicitonaries have a maximum of about 40,000 individual characters. The
average college graduate know (recognizes) about 6,000 different characters,
and a knowledge of about 2-3,000 is sufficient to read a newspaper (albeit
there may be a few characters on each page that exceed that figure). Each
Chinese character is coded with 2 (not just 1) Unicode numbers [numbers that
were already assigned to different symbols], and special programs are out
there that reassign a particular set of dots and squiggles to each
**pairing** of Unicode numbers so as to produce Chinese characters on the
screen or on the page.
Having been warned once, I won't go into any more detail on this here,
but you're welcome to ask me for further info privately at:
- Wayne (back in Maine!!!)