forum SignWriting List Forum
  Message 415  |  Previous | Next  [ Up Thread ] Message Index
From:  Valerie Sutton
Date:  Wed Oct 7, 1998  8:03 pm
Subject:  Writing Storytelling in Brazil

October 7, 1998
La Jolla, California

Thank you, Fernando, for the excellent message, of which excerpts are
pasted below. What a wonderful project! You ask the question "Have you
forgotten something?" (Smile). It sounds like you thought of everything. If
anything, perhaps it is too much at will take time to do so much.
The project reminds me a little of some remarkable work done in Denmark in
1985 by a teacher of Deaf children named Bente Sparrevohn. Bente wrote
video after video after video of storytelling in Danish Sign Language. The
SignWriting is so terrifically expressive - I can sit down and open the
book and just read and see the DSL before my eyes - perhaps you would like
to see that work? I cherish Bente's is one of SignWriting's
golden treasures.

In regards to writing storytelling, it oftentimes includes writing mime and
gesture. It is different than writing a translation of a story from spoken
language to signed language. I was not sure, by your message below, if you
are translating stories or doing "storytelling". True storytelling comes
directly from a native signer and is very very expressive, and I am
assuming that is what you are proposing. We can write every nuance, but it
does take some training, and I will try to provide that for you. Right now
you need to start with the basic signs, and then later I can help you with
the recording of gesture and mime.

In regards to writing gesture and mime, I would like to share something
with all of you...SignWriting is spreading now to many countries, and some
of them are not the places you would expect...The events in the past two
weeks will give you a picture. Last week I typed some Nicaraguan Sign
Language diagrams to assist in a project, and then soon after that I was
working with Prince Aziz from Saudi Arabia. I became absorbed in the Saudi
Arabian world. But today someone wrote and asked if they could translate
the new History video into Spanish for me, because they would like to
present it to people in Chile - what a blessing! Of course I would love it!
And then again today I received a message from Porto Alegre, in Brazil,
telling me of the wonderful work being done there. They have written
several books in SignWriting now. And then this incredible project which
you are proposing, Fernando, at the Unversity of San Paulo....

I remember several years ago, I received orders for the SignWriter computer
program from Malta and northern Finland (Lapland) on the same day. The
SignWriter Computer Program was sent to a place that was close to the North
Pole, and south to the Mediterranean. I still to this day wonder if they
are using SignWriting in northern Finland! And back in the mid 1980's Deaf
children in Greenland wrote a tiny dictionary in SignWriting in Greenland
Sign Language.... Tiny little pockets of "signwriters" sprout in unusual

I am leading up to something (smile) that has to do with Brazil...Years
ago, I used to teach on the faculty of the Dance Department of the Boston
Conservatory of Music, where DanceWriting was a requirement for graduation.
One of my hundreds of students there was a dancer from Brazil named
Fernanda D'Orey da Cunha Bueno. She became one of our qualified
DanceWriting instructors, and returned to San Paulo, where she lives.
Fernanda spread DanceWriting in Brazil. I was totally amazed when she sent
me a completed dissertation in 1994, written by one of her students in
DanceWriting at the University of San Paulo. The dissertation was written
by Antonio Lopes Neto, whose advisor was Professor Dr. Clovis Garcia, in
the School of Communication and Art at the University. Antonio recorded the
folk dances of Brazil. It is stunning work.

Which finally brings me to my point (grin)!! The reason SignWriting is used
internationally is because it originally stemmed from a generic "movement
writing" system. It can be "applied" to any movement based language - that
is why other people in small pockets of the world can use the system.
DanceWriting can actually be of use at times, even for linguists or
signers, when it is necessary to record gesture that is not structured
language, but is "more mime-like". We record Classic Mime, like Marcel
Marceau's mime. One of my students studied in Paris with Marcel Marceau and
recorded Classic Mime in what we call "MimeWriting". There is a Deaf mime
named Billy Krahl, who wants to use MimeWriting and SignWriting combined
and he and I have dreamed of this for some time, but busy schedules have
gotten in the way.

Therefore, in your quest to record Brazilian Sign Language storytelling,
the DanceWriting or MimeWriting system may be useful to you, and since
there has been some DanceWriting already used in the University of San
Paulo, your work may be enhanced by it. I hope you can connect with the
DanceWriting people there.

Please forgive my rambling on like this...I am a little giddy from all that
is happening!

Writing gesture is another related field, which I would like to present on
our web site someday -

Valerie :-)


On Sat, 3 Oct 1998 Fernando Capovilla wrote:
>I have been studying SignWriting with three deaf students of mine, one of whom
>(Sylvia) is going to apply for our Master's Program in Experimental
>I have proposed a plan for her thesis and she's approved of it. I would
>like to
>know if I have forgotten something. If you have a suggestion to improve the
> plan, I would love receiving it from you. The plan goes like this: She is
>going to
> record on VCR classic tales from Brazilian Child Literature in BrSL (the
>most classic
> of all Brazilian authors for children is Monteiro Lobato, and she's going
>to tell
> some of his most classic stories in BrSL). Then she's going to write down
>the tales
>using SignWriter. I am hiring an artist to perform the illustrations of those
>tales. Thus, we plan to have the text written in SignWriting, along with the
>illustrations by our artist. The plan is to use the tapes and the books as
>materials for training parents of deaf children to learn BrSL suficiently
> so that they can tell night stories to their deaf children in BrSL while
>using the
>book in which the same stories are told in SW. I think if we succeed in
>this, we
>may be contributing to early literacy acquisition in SW by our deaf kids.

>We intend to compare cognitive development of kids exposed to BrSL written
>in SW (using
>adaptations of Rescorla's Language Development Survey for expressive language,
> and of Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test for receptive language
>development, among
>others). Three years ago I have translated scales and tests like those and
> derived Brazilian norms for them, and I have been using them with great
>success in order
> to demonstrate the impact of our early intervention procedures with hearing
> toddlers who have been culturally deprived. I bet adapting them to BrSL
>is an easy task.
> I can hardly wait until I can collect some data on expressive and receptive
> signing by Brazilian deaf kids, so as to obtain some parameters and
>norms. I hope they
>serve as baseline for assessing the impact of our procedures for exposing deaf
> kids at an early age to BrSL in SW, and for training their parents (as
> to sign, read and write in SW. Do you think it may work? Am I forgetting

>With affection and admiration,
>Fernando Capovilla :-)

Valerie :-)


Visit the SignWritingSite:

Valerie Sutton at The DAC
Deaf Action Committee For SignWriting
Box 517, La Jolla, CA, 92038-0517, USA
(619)456-0098 voice
(619)456-0010 tty
(619)456-0020 fax

  Message 415  |  Previous | Next  [ Up Thread ] Message Index