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From:  Valerie Sutton
Date:  Sun Oct 24, 1999  2:24 am
Subject:  Re: From Linguistics to Animation...

Cecilia Flood wrote:
>I'm working with elementary school kids in two different schools. This
>is an example of reading 'parts of signs'.One 3rd grader...age 9...was
>working with the SignWriter program...she was looking up in the SW
>dictionary the English word 'girl'...when the Signwritten entry
>appeared...she cocked her head to one side and started to sign 'sad'. I
>accepted her 'guess' then started to articulate the sign 'girl'. She
>paused a moment then giggled out loud....'oh yeah, girl'! After I
>thought about her 'guess'...I'm 'guessing' that she first looked at the
>face symbol with the semi-circle showing where the sign is made on the
>face....I think she read only that one part of the sign and that
>probably looked like a 'sad face' to her. (ie the tilting of her head)


October 23, 1999

It is so great to see you posting to the List, has been a long
time! Your story above brought something to I wish I had
attachments so I could all show you in SignWriting!!

SignWriting is still evolving to a certain extent...the more it is used,
the more stable it is becoming, but there are a few symbols that are
starting to be "dropped" and that is good and natural.

The ASL dictionary file that you have in the computer program, and also in
the printed book version, is quite out-of-date. There are some signs in
that dictionary that we write differently now....Someday, when SignWriter
5.0 is up and running, I am hoping to raise money to be able to hire an
all-native-ASL staff again, to create a better and bigger ASL dictionary.
Too bad the computer software is taking all our funds right now....but

The sign for "girl" is one of several that are changing a little..So are
the signs for Deaf, and Home etc. Some information is starting to be
dropped....I guess that is no surprise because "who needs to write all that
anyway", if you know the sign!

SignWriting has a lot of detail, hidden beneath the surface. If a sign
contacts the middle of the face, then the contact symbol is placed in the
middle of the circle. If a sign contacts the "rim of the face" the
cheek, chin, forehead etc....then that "half-circle" is use to show the
part of the rim where the contact occurs. But if you drop the "rim
half-circle" and simply have the contact occur to the side of the facial
circle, that means contacting the side of the head, not the rim of the

We used to take this very seriously! The exact place of contact was
urgent!! (smile - I am exxagerating but that is what we thought). So we
always wrote that "rim half-circle" to make sure people knew that Deaf, and
Girl, and Home were contacting the rim of the face and not the side of the

I am sure you have guessed it...people are dropping the "rim half-circle"
information. That would mean that your student, Cecilia, would not have
made the mistake if the dictionary had been updated...If you drop the
half-circle, people read it better and there is less clutter to the face.

That means that some detail is lost...but on the other hand, if the detail
is being mis-read, we can "re-add" it later - So far no one seems to think
it is necessary. Part of the reason is that we are assuming knowledge of
the sign. That is both good and bad, of course.

So that is my thought for the evening - I am now going to web design!!

Talk to you all on Sunday - and thanks for the enlightening message, Cecilia -

Val ;-)


Valerie Sutton

SignWritingSite...Lessons Online

SignBankSite...Databases Online

Deaf Action Committee For SignWriting
Box 517, La Jolla, CA, 92038-0517, USA

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