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From:  Valerie Sutton
Date:  Sat Nov 24, 2001  5:19 pm
Subject:  Re: research paper on sign writing

SignWriting List
November 24, 2001

Hello Everyone, and thank you Stefan, for your comments below ;-)

And Leigh, I think you should know about Stefan's outstanding web
site on SignWriting:

German SignWriting Web Site

Stefan has done a great job of documenting his remarkable work with
Deaf children in Germany. I know this is hard for Stefan to say
himself...but I can just tell you...he is making history in several
areas. One of them is MundBildSchrift. Stefan has taken the facial
expression symbols used in Sutton Movement Writing, and then applied
those symbols to writing the mouth movements used while speaking
spoken German. This in turn is helping Deaf children learn to form
those sounds on their own lips. He calls in "MouthPictureWriting" or


If I have explained this incorrectly, Stefan, please correct it!

Val ;-)


>Hello Karen, Leigh and Listmembers,
>just want to let you know that I am very gratefull to you about sharing your
>questions and answers. I am pretty much engaged to present
>GebaerdenSchrift - as we call SW here in Germany to different users and
>There was one idea in your answer which I would like to discuss ..
>SW is such a powerfull writing-system that even if beginners produce lots of
>spelling mistakes the informed signer is able to understand the idea of his
>Sometime I am happy to get hand-written GebaerdenSchrift faxes from one or
>the other participants of my courses. It is fun to be able to understand
>these documents ..
>Karen wrote : "(I assume that in actual practice, Valerie has power of veto
>or approval over any
>> newly-created handshape symbols).
>Hmm well - excuse me Valerie - but I guess that it is not power of veto or
>approval ... but the competence to overlook all the details and consequences
>that are connected with individual variations and idiosyncratic
>writing-styles. There are still details and symbols in the whole
>movement-writing system we are not informed about. In the past Valerie
>showed up with solutions of specific spelling problems - that introduced new
>symbols ( pair of scissors ;-) )
>So from my point of view - in order to keep the system as powerfull as it
>is - it makes sense to come to an agreement and in the past these questions
>about reading and spelling problems made me feel more secure.
>As far as I am informed there is only one difference in reading and writing
>the angle-flathand - hmm (I myself prefer the version that is offered from
>Steve and Dianne Parkhurst because of its systematic logic. Valerie puts
>more emphesis on the visual impression -....))
>Future will show which spelling is more likely to support a quick reading
>and understanding.
>Have a great super day
>Stefan ;-)
>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Karen A. Van Hoek"
>Sent: Saturday, November 24, 2001 3:45 AM
>Subject: Re: research paper on sign writing
>> Hi
>> 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.
>> 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
>> 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
>> set.
>> 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
>> and I'm not sure if the paragraph above is sufficient to straighten it
>> Karen van Hoek
>> --On Friday, November 23, 2001 10:01 PM +0000 Leigh Golston
>> wrote:
>> > 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
>> > 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,
>> > 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
>> > 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,
>> > 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.

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