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From:  Valerie Sutton
Date:  Sun May 7, 2000  3:52 pm
Subject:  Re: SW in Databases

At 1:54 PM +0200 5/7/00, Stefan Woehrmann wrote:

>I donīt think that it is worth to spend much time to try to "convince "
>people who made up their mind that SW isnīt worth to think about.
>My experience is allways the same. People visit our class. They canīt
>believe what is going on. These little children - still unable to read many
>words in German - are able to understand what they read in SW.

How wonderful!

>The point is - that you have to be fluent in SignLanguage in order to
>understand what is written down. That means that you have to learn another
>LANGUAGE which is not so easy.

Yes, there are many sides to this. Beginners in Sign Language can
also learn SignWriting "generically"..not attached to any one Sign
Language...but they just learn the symbols themselves and learn to
read and write movement in general...then when they start a class in
Sign Language, they have a tool to record what they learn in class.

However, having said that, it is true that the value of SignWriting
is better understood by signers who are willing to learn it, because
they know the language. The beginners can write individual signs in
SignWriting, but when it comes to truly writing the language, they
lack the knowledge of grammar and structure of the language to be
able to do so.

>The hearing visitors get very quickly the idea that SW might support them
>very much in this process though. Instead of writing volumes of
>movement-descriptions in German (just the way I started some years ago) they
>can now use the SW- dictionary. They can use the signs for handshapes,
>movements, contact symbols and so forth.

That's great, Stefan. So the dictionaries still act as a resource for
those who do not know signs...

>In my point of few it is a pitty that we an use the dictionary only one
>way - from spoken language word -to SL

Yes! Isn't that the truth! But the limitations are only in the
software...not in SignWriting itself. You can still put the signs
into Sign-Symbol-Sequence by hand...

>So - if any databank would be able to browse through the list - just the
>other way round - that would be great.

Of course that is what we want! The only reason we do not have it in
the software right now, is because it is difficult to program...

From the software programming angle.....Looking up by signs is not
"just the other way around"...In English or German, the look-up
system is based on approximately 26 characters in a sequence. That is
something a computer can understand and is fairly easy to program.

But looking up signs is different, because some symbols are on top of
each other, and they are certainly not in a line that shows an
automatic sequence to a computer.

So I devised a design for programming our Sign-Symbol-Sequence years
ago. All these 15 years, it has been waiting to be used. But the
programmers all groan and tell me it would be an enormous amount of
work and money to program from scratch...but now with our success
with PDF I am convinced I can take my look-up system and apply it in
an existing database program. I am going to work with the FileMaker
database program to experiment, since I know that program well. Later
it can export its database files to other database software.

>For my pupils I try to prepare very short lists of words which could be used
>eather way- but that isnīt the solution at all. I have got no idea - how an
>expert could manage to organize hundred of SW -signs in a specific order so
>that you would be able to find the word /meaning of a SW-symbol in a spoken

We already have a Sequence based on Sutton's Sign-Symbol-Sequence. It
is simply the software that needs to be developed. If you would like
to do some dictionaries by hand, in Sequence, I will be glad to teach

One last note: Michael Everson and I are slowly working on Unicode
development, which will create a look-up sequence for the entire
Movement Writing system too... and when the Unicode is complete in a
couple of years, it will give us new and better ways to sort by
Sequence -

Thanks for all your feedback, everyone!

Val ;-)


Valerie Sutton


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