forum SignWriting List Forum
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From:  Fernando Capovilla
Date:  Mon Oct 18, 1999  4:43 pm
Subject:  linguistish shtuff

> Assunto: linguistish shtuff.
> Data: Sat, 16 Oct 1999 14:49:48 -0700
> De: Joe Martin
> ***WARNING: Lingusitic techno-babble follows: Normal people delete
> now! Seriously linguistics-infected types may read on.....
> Fernando:
> I'm utterly thrilled with all these references you sent. Thank you Thank
> you.

Great. My pleasure, dear Joe. :-)

> Spent hours last night reading your posts. (^_^) Curious now.......
> evidence seems to indicate phonological recoding used as a reading
> strategy by congenitally deaf persons, even though they have no way to
> access the aural phonetic content; there seems no way to investigate
> empirically--until now, using Signwriting.

That's what I mean, and that is why I am so excited about SignWriting. :-)

> With the phonetic information
> encoded in pictogens (?) or graphemes being in the visual modality, it
> seems logical to map visual Phonetic Form onto meaning, without any
> necesity to involve auditory processing at all. With this established (has
> it been?) it would seem possible to determine if in fact the congenitally
> deaf are trying to do something analogous using the graphemes of
> alphabetic writing--- and since that system is designed around sound, the
> mapping would leave terrible gaps and it would be hard to learn to read...

Yes, indeed. My hunch is that that is what they try to do at first, but later
they realize that they'd better learn to segment
reading at a morphemic level. And so they do and their reading and writing
consequently takes off. The problem is that by
doing so they find no help with respect to intra-morphemic letter order and,
most importantly, with respect to the syntactic
dimension, which remains relatively uncovered by that strategy (even though
there is some relevant coverage, but only to short
phrases, whith long ones it becomes impracticable). The funny thing is that the
phenomenon seems universal and thus happens
with hearing people also. When hearing people engage in a phono-articulatory
supression task (repeating a sequence of non-word
syllables in a long string), their ability to identify grammatically-distorted
sentences in reading decreases sharply in
relation to their intact ability to identify semantically-incorrect sentences
(e.g., by descending stairs, one reaches the
attic). This shows the importance of phonological recoding in phonological
working memory for syntactic analysis during
reading, and just how ineffective morphemic analysis by itself may be when it is
left unassisted by phonology (or cherology,
for that matter).

> this seems nearly the same question you are investigating; In reading your
> message it wasn't always clear if you were separating "ideographic
> reading" from "non-aural phonological decoding;"

Yes, they seem to be different processes. Ideographic reading seems to be more
of a global, holistic, gestaltic reading. The
best term for it would be recognition. Whereas non-aural phonological decoding
is analytic. That is why it is called decoding.
Right hemisphere performs patter recognition in a global fashion (i.e., parallel
processing), whereas left hemisphere performs
encoding and decoding (i.e., recoding) in an analytic fashion (i.e., serial
processing). That is why recognition by right
hemisphere is limited to single ideograms, so that when you have sentences, you
need left hemisphere analyses. An important
question is related to the analytic limits and units that may characterize the
right hemisphere. My hunch is that that is the
realm of morphemics.

> if these aphasic readers
> can match heterographic homophones (I assume that means in an alphabetic
> script(?) then it's matching pictures of (written) words with pictures of
> things; they should be able to read signwriting, possibly using only the
> right hemisphere. the difference between deaf readers and lesioned
> readers...i get confused.

Yes, we are talking about aphabetic script. The right hemisphere is capable of
matching written words to their corresponding
pictures, what demonstrates that it is capable of some reading. The question is
what kind of reading is that: purely visual
(ideographic) or phonetic? One of the eloquent findings relevant to that
question is that the right hemisphere cannot match
heterographic homophones. Because it cannot evoke the sound images
corresponding to the written words, it does not realize
that they are the same (homophones). It sees them as different because in fact
they are so from a purely visual standpoint
(they are heterographs). Therefore, the right hemisphere reads ideographically.
There are additional evidences, though, but
this is a quite compelling one already.

> Anyway, I'm wondering about this prediction; Naive readers who know
> Sign should be able to read signwriting.

Yes, to a certain extent, at elementary levels of cheremic awareness. Systematic
instruction on the correspondences between
cheremes and SW pictogens would be required to raise that awareness level.

> They shouldn't be able to read an
> alphabet-based writing system like Stokoe notation. Then after exposure
> to "grapheme-phoneme correspondence instruction," they should be able to
> read that too.

Yes, I agree.

> Because they would see how to map the picture of the word
> onto the picture of the referent; i.e. pick out the (visual) phonological
> parameters and map them onto the manually-produced atriculatory movements
> that these graphemes represent. Again, with no auditory involvement at
> all. They could read the Signwriting without instruction because it is
> so highly motivated, (and that may involve phonology, or it might just be
> drawing pictures of pictures....I dunno.)

Yes, I agree. However, I'd just like to say that all this pertains to the
neurolinguistically intact brain, not to the aphasic
brain. Coelho and Duffy have demostrated that the idea of using sign language
(or blissymbols) as a tool for the deaf is not
feasible. We can extend that to SignWriting too. Sign language requires the
linguistic processing capabilities that are
damaged in the aphasic brain, and thus SignWriting is not a viable tool in that

> Sure is hard to be concise when discussing this stuff. What I'd really
> like to know is if anyone has tested reading in any script designed to
> represent signed language--thus accessing phonologic structure
> while bypassing the auditory channel. (so logograms don't count. ;-)

That is precisely the issue of a research project application that I have filed
in a Brazilian research agency two months
ago. Hope they like it. It is so great talking with someone who understands and
expands on ideas. Thank you, Joe.PS: I enjoyed
the warning label at the beggining of the message, regarding the danger of
poisoning by linguistish shtuff :-)

Regards from this Plain Old Ordinary Scientist
at the Bottom Right Corner of South America :-)


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