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From:  Valerie Sutton
Date:  Sat Feb 5, 2000  4:05 am
Subject:  Question About Sign Spellings...

SignWriting List
February 4, 2000

QUESTION: "The main problem has been "spelling." That is, I am still
trying to understand how the symbols are to go together. For
example, the sign for "God" in ASL has been written with the movement
on top, the handshape in the middle and the head symbol underneath.
What happens if you transpose the hand and the movement? Do those
changes in configuration make a difference, and will the meaning of
the sign change?

ANSWER: Spelling rules are based on how the symbols relate to each
other....It is called Spatial Relationships. We have writing rules
governing this.

Usually the basic components of movement, handshape and location are
enough to give the meaning of a sign (although there are
exceptions)...But there is a fourth very important element....a
"visual connection" with the way the sign looks..."Ease of reading"
is just as important as movement, handshape and location....

And "ease of reading" comes from a central "visual logic" based on
how the symbols relate to each other....there are specific rules for
writing spatial relationships based on planes that cut space. It is
something that can be learned, and once learned, it becomes so
natural to the writer that it is hard to imagine not understanding
it....a little like typing or driving....

I know my instruction on this subject has been don't
feel worried if it seems confusing to you - our textbooks need to
explain it better. I am starting to design a new video series on
writing movement in general, and I think some dynamic illustrations
on those videos will help a lot...

Meanwhile, Steve Parkhurst in Spain is an excellent illustrator and
he and his wife Dianne have recently written a textbook teaching
SignWriting in Madrid, called "SignoEscritura" (which means
"SignWriting" in Spain).

I was so impressed with Steve's new illustrations picturing "the
visual planes that cut space" - I am grateful to Steve and Dianne
that they have given us permission to use these illustrations...they
are a true blessing and will help explain the question above.

In a few days I will send an attachment and instruction on the visual
planes that cut space and how they influence the "spellings" of

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!
Val ;-)


Valerie Sutton


SignWriting List Archive

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

  Replies Author Date
2762 Re: Question About Sign Spellings... Valerie Sutton Tue  2/8/2000

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