forum SignWriting List Forum
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From:  "Judy A. Kegl"
Date:  Mon Jul 19, 1999  2:50 am
Subject:  Re: sign writing principles?

In response to Martin,

(note: Judy Kegl is in Managua. She's the linguist, not me. But, I teach

I do not know which has more symbols, SW or, for example, english. The
alphabet has 26 letters, but obviously there exist rules to make a lot more
phonemes than that. It is a completely arbitrary system that requires
non-intuitive memorization. The only way to remember that "ph" makes an f
sound is, well, to just remember it. SW has lots of permutations, but, the
system is awfully easy to learn. My guess is that this is because the
language is visual. I would not guess that the palm symbol represents the
palm; but I don't have to be told twice, either. Deaf children pick up SW
very, very quickly. In our class, we taught SW to half, and let the other
half learn it through osmosis, if you will. That is, they got to see it,
but were never directly taught. The second half didn't understand the
dynamic symbols and couldn't write SW, but they were able to read it (more
or less) anyway. Why would that be?

SW is deceptively sophisticated, which is to say that upon first encounter
the system appears relatively simple, yet captures an immense amount of
information. So perhaps as you say there is more information in the sign
(although I am not so sure that is true), but I think using a visual system
to record that information is easier than using a visual system to record
information in an aural medium.

Also, sign language is linear I should think. In a sign, the hands start in
one position and end up in another. When I look at a sign in SW, I am
directed by arrows and other cues to focus at the beginning point, and I
follow those cues to the endpoint. It may not be left to right, but there
is certainly a path.

-- James Shepard-Kegl

>From: "Martin 'Lolly' Lorenz"
>To: SignWriting List
>Subject: Re: sign writing principles?
>Date: Wed, Aug 18, 1999, 6:28 PM

> What you, Judy A. Kegl wrote to me. received Thu, Aug 19 at 00:03
> |> I am intrigued by the question "are there any problems that make writing a
> |> sign language MORE difficult than writing spoken languages in (roman)
> |> letters?" (emphasis added)
> |>
> |> Writing signs means going changing a visual communication system (a sign
> |> language) into another kind of VISUAL communication (writing). Going from
> |> spoken language to a written one, on the other hand, requires changing an
> |> aural system into a visual one. I would expect it easier to stay within
> |> visual mediums than to adapt an aural system into a visual one. I think
> |> query is better phrased: "What are the characteristics that make writing a
> |> sign language EASIER than writing spoken languages in roman letters?"
> |>
> maybe its just because my knowledge of sign laguage is rather
> poor ...
> spoken language is a series of phonemes, that can
> be translated into a series of
> lexemes. that is: both systems are SERIAL.
> sign language in contrast seems to me to be some kind of
> PARALLEL. means there is MORE than only a series of phonemes
> but also location in space which is to be recognized
> in parallel.
> so there is MORE information to be written down in one.
> to write sign language you have to write down quite a few
> aspects. a spatial relation, a facial expression AND a movement.
> so it seems to me that the construction of a system to put all these
> on paper must be much more sophisticated than a numer of letters
> you can put in a row to form words and sentences.
> that is, what makes me think writing sign language must be
> more difficult than writing spoken language.
> thanks
> --
> Martin "Lolly" Lorenz
> Microsoft, I think, is fundamentally an evil company.
> the more daring thing mostly is
> to question the known
> than to explore the unknown

  Replies Author Date
1699 Re: sign writing principles? Martin 'Lolly' Lorenz Thu  8/19/1999
1705 Acronyms (one last time :-) Valerie Sutton Fri  8/20/1999
1706 Re: Acronyms (one last time :-) Angus B. Grieve-Smith Fri  8/20/1999
1708 Re: Acronyms (one last time :-) Michael Everson Fri  8/20/1999
1711 Acronyms - A suggestion barbara o'dea Fri  8/20/1999
1717 Re: Acronyms - A suggestion Angus B. Grieve-Smith Sun  8/22/1999
1709 Re: Acronyms (one last time :-) Valerie Sutton Fri  8/20/1999
1707 Re: Acronyms Michael Everson Fri  8/20/1999
1710 Re: Acronyms Valerie Sutton Fri  8/20/1999

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