Date: Wed Feb 9, 2000 3:01
SignWriting List Forum
Subject: Re: SW for linguists
At 6:41 AM -0500 2/9/00, Steve/Dianne Parkhurst wrote:
>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.
February 9, 2000
Steve - thanks for this good point. It is great to know that SW can
be used in your linguistic research. Your work in Spain, and the
Kegls in Nicaragua are two examples of linguists who have chosen to
There are times when it is hard to know how to explain the
differences between SignWriting and other systems such as HamNoSys
and the Stokoe system. There is a difference, and everyone who knows
the various systems can see there is a difference immediately, and
yet the differences are pretty technical, aren't they?
By the way, as you know, we have in the past written the SW symbols
in a line from left to right...but we found through experience that
signers read the signs better in units...so our purpose was
For those who are new to SignWriting on the List, the handshapes in
SignWriting incorporate palm facing within the symbols
themselves....so the information is in one unit. This makes it faster
to read for daily use.
But years ago, I started writing movement in general, having no
connection with signed languages. And even though the stick figure in
DanceWriting is also read as one unit quickly, there were problems
with palm facing way back when we first started....so guess what we
did? I placed different strokes on the wrist to show the palm facing.
Today, even though that idea was thrown out and the new idea works
much better....the same idea of a "line at the wrist" is now being
used as the axis in wrist flexing...so one idea leads to another,
until we could strike the right balance between information and ease
Thanks Steve for your great illustrations too!