forum SignWriting List Forum
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From:  Joe Martin
Date:  Wed Jan 26, 2000  6:47 pm
Subject:  Re: Is SignWriting like Chinese?

Well, here's my take on it, too, for what it's worth. (maybe 4 yuan?)

The most basic division used to classify writing systems is into two types
based on what the written characters represent. The first typoe are those
that stand for pronunciation; sounds in the case of spoken language and
movements in the case of signed languages. The second type are those,
like Chinese characters, that stand for meanings.

As examples, using a type 1 writing system we can write the pronunciation
[ni] which can have many differnt meanings: "not" (in Russian),
"leg joint" or" formerly" (in English), or "two" (in Japanese). A type 2
writing system like Chinese would use a differnt character for each of
these meanings.
Also, the pronunciation of [clapping palm up and then palm down] can be
written in a Type 1 writing system like SignWriting. Its meanings are
"translate" in Danish Sign Language, or "cook" in ASL. Again, a Chinese
type writing system would use two differnt characters for those two
different meanings.

SignWriting is similar to the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), in
that it is not limited to one single language. Just as the IPA was
designed to write the pronunciations, in sounds, of any spoken language,
SignWriting was designed to write the pronunciation, in movement, of any
signed language.

It is dissimilar in that it writes not only the movements of language, but
also other types of movement, such as dance. Also, the IPA is not
normally used for writing anyone's common everyday communication, as is

Joe Martin, Plain Old Ordinary Student
Top Left Corner USA

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