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From:  Steve/Dianne Parkhurst
Date:  Wed Feb 9, 2000  11:41 am
Subject:  SW for linguists

Dear list members,

Valerie wrote:

<<SignWriting is for signers, and other systems are for linguistic
research - there is a major difference...>>

I'm not sure it's quite so cut and dry. My wife and I are linguists in
Spain and we are using SW. SW works for lots of kinds of linguistic
analysis. One area that it does break down a bit is in the area of

The only real drawback for using SW as a linguistic notation system for
phonology is that you can't always easily separate out each element of a
sign. For example, in SW the handshape and the orientation are in one
symbol, whereas in other systems there are two (or more) separate symbols.
There is a very easy way around that problem: create another symbol for the
orientation (shaded like SW symbols of course). By doing this (and a few
other tweaks to the system) you can create a linear representation of SW
(that is as unreadable as HamNoSys) that fits the needs for those linguists
who have a passion for "linearality". I recently presented a paper here in
Spain about Optimality Theory, a theory for analyzing languages; in several
tableaus (a fun formalism used in that theory) I used SW as a notation
system. In order to do that I needed to separate out each element. It is
do-able. And SW is much more iconic and user friendly than the other

So, yes, I agree that the main purpose of SW is practical use, but there is
a very valid linguistic aplication that shouldn't be overlooked.

Have a good day,

Steve :-)

Steve and Dianne Parkhurst

  Replies Author Date
2768 Re: SW for linguists Valerie Sutton Wed  2/9/2000

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