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From:  "Judy A. Kegl"
Date:  Mon Jan 14, 2002  5:40 pm
Subject:  Re: Questions for a Notation Comparisons Study


The complaint that SW "eventually boils down to drawing pictures of the
respective signs" is not entirely inaccurate and, I think, can be taken as a
compliment. You see, one could argue that written English eventually boils
down to drawing symbols to represent the sounds -- that is, the aural
elements of the spoken word. In that sense, SW boils down to using symbols
to represent the visual elements of the signed words. Hence, I consider SW
to be a "visually phonetic" writing system. (It is certainly not "drawing
pictures" in the literal sense, of course, but it is sufficiently iconic to
make the system very easy to learn. Personnaly, I think unnecessary
complexity in a writing system is not an indicator of sophistication, but
merely of inefficiency.)

In reality, the written forms for many English words do not truly correspond
to the sounds, but that is in large part do to changes over the years in the
spelling. As you know, written English went through a process of
standardization as dictionaries were produced and as education became more

Children (in Nicaragua, anyway) read SW, by and large, through a "whole
word" recognition process, and breakdown the signs into the various elements
only when initially stumped. Most children read English the same way. When
I write a sign, I must determine how much information I think must or should
be set down in order to convey my full meaning. I don't have to write
everything I wish to convey, since much can be deduced. By comparison,
consider how English writers convey inflection. We don't need to use
symbols in the writing, but the good reader imposes the writer's intent

Facial expressions, for example, are part of sign language (spoken language,
too, when you think about it) and can be critical to the word or grammatical
function. There are times I omit the facial marker while others might
insist that the facial expression really should be noted and not simply
implied. So who is correct and who is able to write the sign faster -- or
is that even a fair question?

A linguist for research purposes might wish to incorporate every aspect of
an observed sign into its written SW form, and in my opinion SW is an
absolutely terrific system for this. But, the average writer, using SW for
communication, not linguistic analysis, could convey his thoughts very
efficiently with much less "clutter". Both signs would be technically
correct; which one would you time with your stop watch? (Linguistic
analysis of the sounds of English is impossible, by the way, with the
English written system. A different coding system is used.)

Then, there is the question of sloppiness. A student can write a quick note
in SW (with pen and paper) that is almost something more like shorthand, but
readily understood. And, of course, there is my doctor's prescription --
which I believe cannot be understood by anyone -- so how does the pharmacist
consistently get it right???

-- James

>From: Susanne Bentele
>To: SignWriting List
>Subject: Re: Questions for a Notation Comparisons Study
>Date: Sun, Jan 13, 2002, 7:22 AM

>Hi everybody!
>James Shepard-Kegl wrote:
>>Just to weigh in on this...
>>In my opinion, at some point, speed is irrelevant.
>>The journey is not a race. The goal is to get to the destination.
>I completely agree with everything you said. To clarify my intention:
>My point is not an evaluation of the different speeds it takes to
>write something in a different language of in a different writing
>system. What you told us are all the points that *are* important and
>speed is not really important. My point, however, was finding out
>about writing economy (don't know wheather this is the correct
>English term - in German it's "Schreibökonomie"). From what you tell
>me and what Val said to this question it becomes obvious that writing
>SW is just as "economic" as writing e.g. roman letters. Which might
>surprise some people, namely those people who say that all SW
>eventually boils down to is drawing pictures of the respective signs.
>The assumption behind this is that drawing would take longer than
>writing. Good to be able to prove them wrong. ;-) And therefore the
>question about speed is important to me.
>Another point for writing economy is the design of each symbol. From
>a typograph's point of view many of the symbols are (no offence!!)
>'badly designed' in as they need to many strokes in to many
>directions. So this is another point where speed seems relevant for
>proving that 'good' type design (according to those rules) is not
>everything once the writing system is put into application and works
>very well because it is accepted by the people who use it. And they
>have gone to show us that they can write SW just as fast as a writing
>system that has 'evolved' over many centuries.
>Well, I hope my elaborations cast some light on the intention why I
>asked this question and nobody needs to feel offended (or confused
>about the goal of the question)... :-)
>(I would like to quote some of the statements that were made in the
>discussion - does a public emailing list mean I can quote right away
>or do I need special permission from everybody? If so, may I have
>your permission...?)
>Best wishes,

  Replies Author Date
6184 Re: Questions for a Notation Comparisons Study Valerie Sutton Tue  1/15/2002
6206 SW regular publications Steve and Dianne Parkhurst Fri  1/18/2002

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