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From:  Valerie Sutton
Date:  Sun Jul 19, 1998  7:12 pm
Subject:  "Signs" & "Words"

On Sun, 19 Jul 1998, Angus B. Grieve-Smith wrote:

> Valerie, I think it's a great idea to have the menus available
>in signs. Too many people have the unconscious assumption that the
>only way to discuss signs is in a spoken language.
> I have one concern: to me, a sign is a "word" just like words
>in spoken languages, only signed. I think maybe "menus in spoken
>language" would be better.


Hi Angus -
Thanks for this response and thanks also for your introduction recently.
And I also want to thank those of you who sent in attached files with the
Menus in Signs translations - I appreciate it very much!

We already have the Menus in Signs working. Pretty neat to see a pull-down
menu saying "cut", "copy" and "paste" in ASL! Of course, we must test the
choices of signs ...We can make changes to the signs later, after we get

Yes, I am a real "signed-language rights" advocate, so of course we always
wanted to have the menus in signs in the old MS-DOS version too, but
because of the limited MS-DOS technology and the limited resources at the
time, we couldn't do it as easily. But with the new technology we have been
blessed with more opportunities.

In regards to the term "signs" and " words" - I know the issue you are
talking about, and I did think this through at length and finally came up
with those terms for the following two reasons:

1. In SignWriter 5.0 we have certain keystrokes that make it quicker to use
the program:

"Alt-S"....changes to typing signs
"Alt-F" ...changes to typing fingerspelling
"Alt-W"...changes to typing words

If we used the term "spoken language" which is of course the most accurate,
that would be another "Alt-S" and is less clean from a keystroke

In the older SignWriter 4.3, we use the term "alphabet" instead of the term
"words", but SignWriting is an alphabet too, so we decided against that

but there is another reason why I chose the term "sign" and "words"...

2. Increasingly we have needed to define and differentiate between the
units that make up spoken languages and the units that make up signed
languages. As we have been writing signed languages more and more, and as
the written symbols are used by more Deaf people, this issue has come up,
and I noticed that instinctively we were using a certain "terminology". In
other words, we "fell into a certain pattern of communication" and it has
developed into specific terminology within the SignWriting world.

Here it is:

Concepts are expressed in spoken languages by "words".
Concepts are expressed in signed languages by "signs".

"Words" belong to spoken languages. "Signs" belong to signed languages.
Both express concepts.

Right now I am using words because I am writing in English. But if I were
writing in SignWriting, I would be writing in signs.

The word "word" is not equivalent to "vocabulary". There is both "signed
language vocabulary" and "spoken language vocabulary".

So in SignWriter 5.0, I have carried this theme throughout...

Certainly I know that people who are not involved with SignWriting will
continue to use their own terminology - we just needed to define things for
our particular kind of work.

I will write about the countries later -

Thanks for your suggestions and interest -

Best -

Valerie Sutton :-)


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