forum SignWriting List Forum
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From:  William McGruder
Date:  Fri Aug 27, 1999  12:15 am
Subject:  Re: question to linguists...

A few folks have been discussing whether SignWriting is alphabetic (i.e.,
akin to a, b, c...) or logographic (i.e., akin to the so-called ideograms of
Chinese, some of which are sound phonemes and some of which are memory aids

My personal view is that SignWriting is descriptive of the means of
communication employed. What I mean by that is that SignWriting is a means
of drawing on paper a one to one relationship between the symbol on the paper
and the event that symbol represents. In this case, the event is the Sign

Now in true alphabetic languages, such as Esperanto, there is a one to one
relationship between the symbol, the letter, and the event it represents, the

Sign Languages could be written using ideograms but that would not be
representing the motion of the Sign, it would merely be representing the idea
of the Sign, just like ideograms usually represent the idea, but not the word
itself, in Chinese.

So perhaps what's really needed here is a new classification of writing
systems. Ideograms and syllabries and phonemes (root word phono, sound) and
alphabets don't really apply, IMHO, to Sign Languages. Maybe we could coin a
new word for a spoken language to describe this: Gesteme, using the root of
Gesture. Obviously a word for the Sign Languages isn't needed as, AFIK,
"Sign" is used.

-William J. "Chip" McGruder
Monterey, California

  Replies Author Date
1750 Re: question to linguists... Angus B. Grieve-Smith Fri  8/27/1999

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