forum SignWriting List Forum
  Message 221  |  Previous | Next  [ Up Thread ] Message Index
From:  Valerie Sutton
Date:  Tue Jun 30, 1998  10:05 am
Subject:  Re: Pictograms

On Mon, Jun 8th, Joe Castronovo wrote:
>>I completed my dissertation, "Reading Hidden Messages through Deciphered
>>Manual Alphabets on Classic Artwork" just before my graduation last month.
>>It mentioned pictographic, ideographic, alphabetic, ideographic components
>>during my deciphering process of several types of scripts, but when it
>>came to deciphering hand forms (uncovered as ancient manual alphabets) I
>>classified them under a new branch: chirographic representation. My
>>dissertation mentioned Sutton's development of SignWriting as a modern
>>extension of that chirographic branch.
>>I hope Valerie will be able to respond to this, too.
>>Joseph Castronovo

And then on Mon, Jun 8th, Al Bickford wrote:
3) In an alphabetic system for a spoken language, each symbol represents one
sound. By "sound", we mean something smaller than a syllable, like a
consonant or vowel. If you ask what there is in a signed language that is
analogous to consonants and vowels, the usual answer is that it is movements
and holds. I'm not saying the analogy is exact; that's for signed language
linguists to debate. But, it seems to me that each symbol in SignWriting
represents something a lot smaller than a syllable, something that is more
of the size of a consonant or vowel.

So, although the fit is not exact, it seems like the term "alphabetic" seems
to be the most appropriate way of describing SignWriting (and also, by the
way, most other notation systems for signed languages, including Stokoe

Albert Bickford

June 30, 1988
Hi Joe and Albert...
Thank you for the above discussion. It was really interesting to read your

Congratulations, Joe, on your dissertation. It seems that you have
established a new meaning for the word "chirographic", and thank you for
listing SignWriting under this new category. It will be interesting to see
if the new term becomes widespread.

The old term "chirography" means "handwriting". The word "chiro" stems from
the Greek word for "hand". It really means "penmanship", and has nothing to
do with manual alphabets or any language that uses the hands to communicate.

In regards to SignWriting, and in keeping with Albert's perspective, I have
always called it "the SignWriting alphabet". I also use the terms
"pictorial alphabet", "visual alphabet" and "movement alphabet". Perhaps
now we can call it a "chirographic alphabet" as well!

I believe it is an alphabet, because SignWriting writes language in
"units". The SignWriting symbols are not concepts, that are "body parts"
and "movement arrows" etc. that are "pieced together" and the different
combinations become "signs". And those signs mean different things in
different signed languages. The same combination of positions and movements
can mean one thing in one signed language and something totally different
in another signed language. So people who know the language will attach
their own meaning to the written "movement combinations".

An example of this is the sign "to cook" in American Sign Language, which
means "to translate languages" in Danish Sign Language - but the signs are
written exactly the same, since the movements of the body are exactly the
same. If you use ASL, you will attach one meaning to the sign...if you use
DSL you will attach a different meaning to the same sign.

I noticed this thread was entitled "Pictograms". I don't believe that
SignWriting can be compared to "pictograms". Perhaps a linguist could help
explain the difference -

Thanks once again for the interesting discussion -

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

  Message 221  |  Previous | Next  [ Up Thread ] Message Index