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From:  Valerie Sutton
Date:  Sat Jul 3, 1999  2:22 pm
Subject:  SW Dictionary Project 2000

Wayne Smith wrote:
> When I first made that suggestion, I was referring to taking signs out
>of a ready-made dictionary using the Alt-D command.


Hello Wayne and Everyone!
Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I had no idea you were talking about
the dictionary! That is a whole different subject! Of course people could
add the left-handed versions of all signs to the dictionary files. That
would be easy and just a matter of time doing it.

It appears that you use the dictionary a lot. I know other people just type
the signs directly into SignWriter without copying from the dictionary.
That way you are really typing how you sign, rather than how someone else
signed when they pasted signs into the dictionary. And that way,
left-handed signers can really type as they sign it, which is very
important. The typist has complete independence and freedom to think and
write as "they see it", rather than depending on another person's spellings.

The three Deaf native signers who wrote the signs in our present version of
our ASL dictionary were all right handed. I told them to add the signs as
they signed them. I did not question their choices, since I am not a
linguist nor am I a Deaf native signer.

Dictionary work is a great deal of fun, but it is also difficult work and
takes years to do a good job, and takes a team of native signers. So for
now, I would suggest that you add your own signs to our dictionary files
anytime! That way you will have a dictionary for your own needs.

In regards to typing SignWriting....Typists need to develop the typing
skills of typings signs directly into documents, without relying too
heavily on dictionaries for the spellings. When we type English to each
other in these email messages, we are not copying every single word from a
dictionary into our document - we are typing directly and spelling each
word ourselves. And you can do that with SignWriting too.

Depending completely on the dictionary has some dangers. Obviously signs
change a lot depending on their placement in a sentence. Plus, at the
moment, our ASL dictionary file in SignWriter 4.3 is terribly limited, with
a poor unbalanced vocabulary. I would also like to improve the spellings of
a lot of the signs, which probably should and could be written differently.
And then of course, a dictionary rarely has facial expressions included,
which change depending on the grammatical placement of the sign in the
sentence. So that is why some skilled typists don't rely on the dictionary
feature very much.

Not that I don't want you to use the dictionary - just the opposite! Of
course I do :-) And it makes me feel good to hear how useful it has been
for you - I had not realized that some people use the dictionary that much.
It took us around five years of software development to give you the
dictionary program with the features you are using now.

In the case of SignWriter 5.0, as you know, it takes years to re-design and
re-program software in new programming languages. So you will not have all
the dictionary features of SignWriter 4.3 immediately in the first release
of SignWriter 5.0. We will have "direct typing" available sooner in
SignWriter 5.0, than the improved dictionary, which will come later.

This summer we hope to complete three important tasks in SignWriter 5.0: 1.
the international user interface 2. typing and hopefully scrolling in any
direction 3. printing of documents in all those directions.

We will be lucky if we can complete those three tasks by summer's end. That
will give us a workable SignWriter 5.0 for typing documents. And we will be
able to release a beta test version for that part of it. I believe that
dictionary files will be available to the user to insert signs, but there
will be no functions for changing or adding to the dictionaries yet. So in
the Fall, SignWriter 5.0 will have a "read-only" dictionary, and then later
new dictionary features will be added.

I will have to raise new funds to improve the dictionary and to create a
sophisticated dictionary program to work with SignWriter 5.0. I am writing
the grant requests this month. Usually, if funding is received for a new
project, I receive the funds three to six months after my request is
submitted, so the new dictionary programming and improvements probably
won't start until the Fall at best, and will extend into the year 2000.

Once we have the software developed for the new dictionary, then I am
looking forward to hiring friends from the Deaf community to assist in
adding new and important vocabulary to our ASL dictionary, but that must
wait until the software is improved. That project probably won't start
until next Spring. So unfortunately you will be living with the old
dictionary files for some time to come, until the new "SW dictionary
project" can get off the ground.

But it will happen sooner or later, and we will have beautiful and flexible
dictionaries someday, with all the features you have requested. And I have
made note of all of your requests :-)

Many blessings -

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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