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From:  Valerie Sutton
Date:  Wed May 27, 1998  9:11 pm
Subject:  Re: SUGGESTION

On Tue, 19 May 1998, Richard Tennant wrote:

>I am writing this as an open letter to Valerie Sutton as it has to do with a
>suggestion for the arrangement of the "new" Sign Writing dictionary she is
>proposing to construct in the near future. The reaction to this suggestion by
>the members of this list should be of interest and of value to her.
>Dear Valerie,
>It has long been my contention that the Sign Language dictionaries currently
>available contribute to the attitude that ASL is an off-shoot of the English
>Language rather than an independent language . Most, if not all of them,
>arrange the signs by the alphabetical arrangement of the sign's English
>glosses. This is not only insulting to ASL, but awkward to those constructing
>such a resource. Choices must be made from the many glosses a single sign may
>have to keep the size of the resource within bounds at the sacrifice of
>Most dictionaries used in teaching a foreign language, on the other hand, are
>"two way". One can search for a foreign word and find the English meaning or
>search for an English word and find the foreign translations. Shouldn't we
>have the same for ASL and English? In the dictionaries mentioned above there
>is no way one can look up a sign and find its English meanings! What is
>needed to accomplish the desired "two way" dictionary is a logical method of
>ordering of the signs that is easy to learn and meaningful to apply.
>Alphabetical order is not the answer to this need. A morphological or
>handshape order is called for that incorperates number, placement, movement
>and expression.
>Gallaudet University Press has announced just such a dictionary, "Handshape
>Dictionary", in its spring catalog. A review of this "two way" dictionary,
>which will becoming out next month, appears in this catalog. I believe the
>application of the morphological order used here to the proposed Sign Writing
>Dictionary would be very worthwhile. For the first time the writing of ASL is
>possible, thanks to your devotion to the construction and dissemination of
>Sign Writing. It will therefore be doubly important that there exist a source
>where one can find the meaning of a sign appearing in an article, story, etc.
>one is reading. You will want your dictionary to provide this need.
>Before constructing this new dictionary I would hope that you will be able to
>study the order used in this "Handshape Dictionary" and consider its
>usefulness in what you are compiling. I will send you a copy as soon as I get
>my hands on one.
>With much affection and appreciation,

Hello Richard!
Thanks for this helpful message, and of course I agree with you! We are on
the same wave length :-)

There are many theories on the arrangement of the "looking up process".
Teaching Deaf children to look up signs by "Sign-Symbol-Sequence" will be a
new experience for teachers themselves, who will have to learn the Sequence
well, before they can teach it to children. That is why I worked years on
this issue. Our keyboard designs, for typing SignWriting, are based on the
Sign-Symbol-Sequence, and chapter 14 of our textbook "Lessons In
SignWriting", is devoted to it.

I understand, from what you say above, that the authors of this new book
have their own theory on the "looking up process"...of course I am very
interested in what they have to say.

And thank you for offering to send me a copy...I would LOVE it!

Meanwhile, we do have a small two-way dictionary on our SignWriting Web
Site. It is called the ASL Picture Dictionary, and it is an example of a
dictionary we are developing for the SignWriting Literacy Project:

ASL/English Picture Dictionary

Thanks once again for all your input and suggestions, and please keep us
posted on any new developments...

All the best -

Valerie Sutton :-)

Sutton at the DAC
Deaf Action Committee For SignWriting
Box 517, La Jolla, CA, 92038-0517, USA
(619)456-0098 voice
(619)456-0010 tty
(619)456-0020 fax

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