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From:  "Karen A. Van Hoek"
Date:  Sat Nov 24, 2001  3:45 am
Subject:  Re: research paper on sign writing


I'm not sure if your question was addressed to Valerie or to the whole
group; excuse me for jumping in, but I'm one of the professional linguists
on the list. I can't answer the question about how Valerie made the leaps
in her invention, but I want to address one bit of confusion that seems to
be lurking in your question.

Different sign languages don't actually use the same _phonemic_ units. They
have different phonemes -- different meaningful handshapes, movements, and
places of articulation. However, all of the phonemes are made out of the
same basic _phonetic_ elements -- finger configurations and physical
movement and so forth. So what this means is that the symbols of Sign
Writing can be easily modified to represent any new handshapes or movements
that may be discovered in a new sign language, and the total stock of SW
symbols can be used to write a huge range of sign languages, but any
individual sign language will only use some of those handshapes, etc. So
any newly-discovered sign language could be written in SW pretty much
immediately, using existing symbols for all the phonemes that are
essentially the same as in other sign languages and quickly modifying
existing symbols as needed to represent new handshapes (I assume that in
actual practice, Valerie has power of veto or approval over any
newly-created handshape symbols). But this is not claiming that all sign
languages have the same _phonemes_, the same basic stock of "meaningful"
elements from which signs are built; it's claiming that the meaningful
elements in any sign language are composed of the same smaller physical
elements (such as finger positions and so forth) so that any new phonemes
can easily be represented with only modest revision of the existing symbol

I hope this helps. If this still isn't clear, please let me know. I think
there's a critical distinction here between phonemic and phonetic
information that doesn't seem to be completely clear in your message below,
and I'm not sure if the paragraph above is sufficient to straighten it out.

Karen van Hoek

--On Friday, November 23, 2001 10:01 PM +0000 Leigh Golston

> How does, or can , sign writing be applied to all signed languages? It
> seems to us from reviewing briefly Dance Writing that you have
> successfully taking the phonemes of movement, body (vs. palm)
> orientation, location and the shapes of the movement and created a
> notation system that allows one to see and understand the individual
> components of each step. We see that the same has occured with Sign
> Writing and signed language. But linguistically speaking , how did you
> make the leap?
> We are also making the assumption in our paper that since all signed
> languages use the same phonemic units, then Sign Writing can be applied to
> all signed languages. If we are correct, do you have any sources you can
> direct us to, to support this?
> I hope this makes sense. we are thrilled to be researching this topic, it
> holds great fascination for us as ITP students.
> Look forward to hearing from you soon,
> Leigh Golston (I'm the inquirer)
> Jesse Mohandessi
> Yvonne MacKay
> PS- A brief introduction: There are 3 ITP students @ Seattle Central
> Community College in Washington state. All of us have arrived at this
> point in different ways. Since I am writing this on behalf of my team
> this intro is about me.
> I became interested in ASL many years, growing up with a hard-of-hearing
> father. I never thought about signing as a career and came to my decision
> to became an interpreter late in life.( I'm 47). To complete the
> requirements for an AA degree (I have a BA and BFA) we are required to
> take lingusitics. Our instructor is marvelous and challenging. Really, it
> is the topic itself that's challenging and fascinating. I told him in
> the first part of the quarter that I loved the class but that I expected
> to fall it! We'll see but either way I'll go down smiling!!
> Thanks.

  Replies Author Date
5941 Re: research paper on sign writing Valerie Sutton Sat  11/24/2001

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