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From:  Trevor Jenkins
Date:  Wed Mar 8, 2000  11:46 am
Subject:  Re: SignWriting as a gateway?

On Wednesday, 8 March, 2000 05:41:30, Cecilla Flood wrote:

> Trevor and Angus,
> Will signwriting make that difference...

In my opinion no! Maybe controversial in this forum to say that. However,
it's our last best hope for ensuring that language acquistion is a level
playing field. In comparison to other transcription schemes SignWriting is
the easiest to comprehend.

If we had to use Stokoe notation or a derivative then that presumes
knowledge that only some possess; my personal dislikes of Stokoe notation
are firstly it is based upon ASL and secondly it doesn't record non-manual
features. In order for me to use Stokoee effecticely I have to learn the ASL
one-handed alphabet. In BSL I use the two-handed alphabet. Whenever I want
to write Stokoe I have to switch to a different language. In order for me to
use Stokoee effectively I have to devise an extension for non-manual
features. My notes would then not be exchangable with other signers. Surely
both hinderances to what is trumpetted as a universal system.

Then there's the sankrit of all the squilles and curves and modifiers that
Stokoe schemes adopt. In the BSL/English dictionary some of these suffices
are printed in minute type; I can't make them out.

> ... the difference in 'knowledge'
> and 'writing abilities' for DHH students leaving schools at age 18
> 'plus'?

I think of SignWriting in the same way I think of written English. It is a
tool for recording ideas. Now the linguistist amongst us may not agree with
that but I've been trained as a computing scientist. In Comp Sci we use
programming languages as expressions of intent. I'm also still influenced by
Chomsky's "deep structure" because in my work as a compiler writer I use
some of language classifications.

The issue that Ingrid Foggitt's message brought home to me was the failure
of educators and education systems/philosophies to cope with Deaf people. I
don't want to start a flame war with oralists but I've not observed anything
good in that approach. It is still the "hearing knows best" mentality. I'll
not say any more about that topic ... for the moment.

> Will it narrow that appaling chronological age and reading and
> writing grade level abilities of school leavers? That seems to be the
> all important question especially among teachers who work with DHH
> students. If it is not going to make a 'difference' than why 'burden'
> kids with more stuff to learn?

If Deaf children are forced to learn SignWriting per se then surely that's
no better than an oralist approach. We don't teach hearing children writing
per se but as a tool to greaterlearning. So the teaching of SignWriting
should be the same vein.

> The 'young learners' of signwriting that
> I am presently working with, age 6 through 11, do not appear 'burdened'.
> They truely are enjoying learning to read and write the signs that are
> very much a part of their knowledge and language abilities. I suppose
> after another 8 to 12 years we could ask these young learners how
> SignWriting has enhanced or burdened their lives.

If SignWriting helps to integrate with the hearing majority then it will
have achieve the objective.

In my professional work (as a computing scientist) I use many programming
languages. Some are better suited to one problem than another. I can use
perhaps 20 languages and, I'll boast, use them in the manner that they were
intended to be use. In the end SignWriting is just one transcription scheme
amongst many that the Deaf can use. Like I wouldn't try to write payroll
systems in C but in Cobol so there are occasions when I would prefer to use
Stokoe over SignWriting. For example, in my circle of signing friends Stokoe
would be in appropriate but SignWriting will be---but we've probably
discussed church liturgy and religious songs enough in the list for the
moment. ;-)

Regards, Trevor

British Sign Language is not inarticulate handwaving; it's a living
language. So recognise it now.


<>< Re: deemed!

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