Date: Sat Oct 3, 1998 9:36
SignWriting List Forum
Subject: phonological awareness training increases (sign)reading and (sign)writing
In the past Deaf people never wrote in their native language, so even
though they are native signers, and even if they know the SignWriting
symbols fluently, it doesn't always mean that they will automatically
how to write their native language. That takes training, and they did
learn this in school. In fact, they were told just the opposite - that
writing was "spoken language" so therefore they start to think in a
language when they pick up a pencil - and they don't even realize it
themselves. But slowly, if they write signs more and more, that changes.
other words, this is a process and a complex one.
I do agree completely. Writing is different from signing. Speaking and
preprogrammed and emerge naturally, given a community of native speakers
signers. Writing (either alphabetic, ideographic or SignWriting) is
completely different, and requires systematic training and awareness
about the fundamental properties of the language being represented in
writing. (there's plenty of evidence about that in Galaburda's From
reading to neurons, 1989, among so many sources).
In my lab we have developed training procedures involving phonological
awareness of hearing K1-2nd grade kids, and have proven the
wonderfully strong impact of those training procedures upon reading and
writing abilities (of the Portuguese alphabetic orthography). These
findings tend to be robust and are quite well established in the
majority of spoken languages. I think that something very similar to
the phonological awareness training could be done with respect to sign
language using SignWriting. I am very interested in the fundamental
morphological and phonological aspects of sign language (such as
described by Klima & Bellugi, 1979), in the nature of systematic
training procedures devised to increase the awareness about them, and in
the assessment of the consequences of that training in increasing the
abilities of writing signs by means of SignWriting, along with its
eventual transfer to writing in an alphabetical code. That seems to be
I'd like to establish contact with researchers interested in cognitive
processing in the deaf (e.g., 1. the nature of covert rehearsal of
information in the working memory of the deaf -- and the eventual
involvement of Baddeley's visual spatial sketchboard, 2. cognitive
models of information processing in the deaf with respect to sign
encoding and decoding, 3. sign processing in the deaf aphasics, etc.
like in Poizner, Klima & Bellugi's 1987 What the hands reveal about the
brain), as well as in phonological awareness training in the deaf child
as a means of increasing reading and writing performance in SignWriting.
(SL phonology in the sense used by Ronnie Wilbur, for instance, in
Wilbur's 1984 Why syllables? What the notion means for ASL research, In:
Fischer & Siple, Theoretical issues in sign language research).