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From:  Valerie Sutton
Date:  Tue Dec 7, 1999  6:39 pm
Subject:  Bilingual vs. One-Language Dictionaries

>My dictionaries, in truth, are merely glossaries, and I am toying with the
>notion of recalling them. More seriously, when Ivonne and Barney arrive
>later this month, we will alter the dictionaries to provide sentences rather
>than one word definitions for any word that lacks a one-on-one equivalent.
>Hence, there will be sentences for all verbs (since in spanish and ISN
>they are conjugated in
>wholly different ways), for prepositions, adverbs, etc. Judy tells me that
>there are some language teachers who advocate never ever introducing
>glossaries. Hmmm, provocative....
>So, why is SW potentially more dangerous than the old fashioned picture
>glossaries? Answer: because SW is a vastly superior system for representing
>the signs. If the user does not respect the integrity of the sign language
>as a bona fide, distinct language, then SW can be used as an effective
>weapon against the very language it was designed to complement.
>-- James


December 7, 1999

Hi James -
Yes, intriguing. But actually the same problem exists with all languages
that have dictionaries. At present you and others are creating bilingual
dictionaries - where one word or sign is written as an approximation of the
other languages' word or sign.

Bilingual dictionaries between Danish and English, for example, only have
one word - to- one word relationship, and the bilingual dictionaries do not
help people with constructing sentences in the other languages - that is
for sure!

But that doesn't mean that you can't have other kinds of dictionaries in
SignWriting. What about a dictionary with no spoken language in it at
all?...just looking up the sign, and then getting a complete sentence
written in the Sign Language being used, explaining what the sign means.
That is more like a Webster's English dictionary, that is solely in the
English language for English speakers.

The problem of course is that at this moment our SignWriter Computer
Program's dictionary features are only supporting bilingual you have been forced into that mode because of the
limitations of the software in MS-DOS.

But it does not mean that the SignWriting system itself cannot be used for
one language dictionaries that write sentences explaining the meaning of a
sign...that is just a matter of time before we have the software to support

For right now, you will have to create your own dictionaries that way, by
making screen captures, creating .GIF's and pasting those .GIF's into a
word processing program, and creating your own sophisticated dictionary
files. But it can be done. I hope to do something like that myself in

So frankly, I wouldn't throw out your glossaries - any invention can be
mis-used - but meanwhile there are also other people who will benefit from
the glossaries...and the glossaries can be used as a reference tool to
create BETTER dictionaries later -

Those are my thoughts for the day!

Glad you are working so deeply with SignWriting in Nicaragua - it is

Have a great day, everyone!

Val ;-)

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