forum SignWriting List Forum
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From:  Valerie Sutton
Date:  Mon May 11, 1998  9:40 am
Subject:  Re: Standardization of ASL

Dear List Members:
The message below was "stuck in transition", when we changed from the old
"SignWriting Email List" to the new SW-L. Here is the message from Charles

Date: Tue, 21 Apr 1998 21:30:34 -0400
From: Charles Butler
Reply-To: SignWriting List
Organization: Ecumenicon
MIME-Version: 1.0
To: SignWriting
Subject: Re: Standardization of ASL

As a good example, in my early days of learning Sign Writing, I would
send a lot of my correspondence to Valerie for correction. She could
tell my particular style at a glance from any other, just as a good
international phonetic alphabet can pick up one's pronunciation of the
same phrase from another speaker of the same language. It's

SignWriting wrote:
> May 9, 1998
> On Sat, 9 May 1998, Bettibonni wrote:
> >Another thing to keep in mind is that a lot of teachers are teaching the
> >language the only way they know how... which is to follow exactly what a
> >publisher may have printed in a book. It doesn't mean that's how the
> >language is. I'm sure many people will agree that the students who have the
> >most native-like skills are usually those that have frequent contact with a
> >large number of various and diverse deaf people (houseparents, dormitory
> >advisors, camp counselors are a few that come to mind) Standardization
>is not
> >the issue, more diversification is.
> I agree with you, Betti. What you say is so true...
> By the way, we are not telling anyone how to sign, just because we are
> trying to write signs.
> Let me share a story with all of you. Back in the early 1990's, we had
> three Deaf native signers working with us...two of whom were from "many
> generations Deaf" families. I have the highest respect for their knowledge
> of their native language, and they all knew SignWriting well. It was during
> the summer, and I rented a lap top computer, and asked the three of them to
> share the computer for the summer, adding written ASL signs into our
> SignWriter Computer Program dictionary. The work they did became the
> dictionary that we are, at this time, distributing...but of course it is
> very limited...only 3100 signs ...we could easily have 50,000 if we had
> funding and time...but for now that is what we have.
> make a long story short (if that is possible :-), when I looked
> at the dictionary at the end of the summer, I saw that there were several
> different "spellings" or ways to write each sign. One Deaf person wrote a
> sign one way, and another Deaf person chose to write the same sign another
> way. And all of these different "spellings" were readable :-)
> So what did I do? I chose to publish the dictionary exactly as it
> was...with several "spellings" of each sign. I figure we can all discuss
> the differences later, and not dictate to each other how to "spell signs"
> right now. We need some time to digest all the possibilities that are
> before us :-)
> And the same is true for writing grammar. When we publish "Cinderella in
> ASL", we are writing one Deaf person's way of signing the story. We are not
> saying that is the only way to tell the story, nor are we saying that is
> the only way to write the grammar - we are simply recording one Deaf
> author's perspective. As more and more people learn to read SignWriting, I
> am sure they will want to write the story their way, with their signs and
> their grammar, and I personally think that is great!
> All the best -
> Valerie

Valerie :-)

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

SignWriting is a way to read,
write, and type signed languages.

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