forum SignWriting List Forum
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From:  Cheryl Zapien
Date:  Thu Dec 3, 1998  2:29 pm
Subject:  Re: QUESTIONS REGARDING SIGN WRITING


Hi! I wanted to share something with you all. Today, someone from another list
requested some computer signs, among them the sign for internet. Everyone tried
to
explain the sign, including myself. I hope the person figured out the English
words, because the description was rather complicated. As I was typing I
couldn't
help thinking how much clearer my description would have been, had I been able
to
use SW. Cheryl

Valerie Sutton wrote:

> QUESTION
> > 3) Does SignWriting still face continuing controversy, ridicule,
> >stigma,
> >etc even today? From what sources, usually? (i.e., Deaf people/leaders,
> >hearing people, administrators of deaf schools, etc). What is(are) the most
> >common argument(s) against SignWriting?
>
> ANSWER
> Yes. But things are changing now. People are much more positive than
> before. Here is some history behind the controversy:
>
> SignWriting was controversial from the moment it was introduced in 1974.
> Historically, new ideas that create "social change" are always met with
> resistance in the beginning, and SignWriting is no exception.
>
> Back in 1974, people were still getting used to the idea that signed
> languages were real languages, and that idea was a major social change too.
> Believe it or not, there were Deaf people who did not believe their native
> signed language was a real language, and they resisted that idea in the
> beginning too. They had been taught that their own language was inferior,
> so it took them time to adjust to the fact that they could be proud of
> their own language now. And reading and writing it was just one more thing,
> piled on top of all the changes in thinking, and it was overwhelming for
> them.
>
> And then there is the issue of the school systems, and the arguments and
> theories that abound in the field of Deaf education. We have all heard
> about the "war between the oralists and manualists". SignWriting certainly
> has nothing to do with that "war", but many people were wary of any new
> idea in Deaf education, because they were steeped in controversay between
> oralism and Sign Language already. Obvisouly SignWriting is only useful if
> a person chooses to use a signed language.
>
> And then there is the issue of hearing people "fiddling" with the language
> and "changing it". A lot of people assumed that SignWriting was a new form
> of "SEE SIGNS". They were skeptical that a hearing person might respect and
> want to preserve American Sign Language and other signed languages. The
> fact that SignWriting can record any human movement, of course, makes it
> possible to record any kind of signing, but the DAC, the organization
> behind SignWriting, chooses to write true signed languages, such as
> American Sign Language, Danish Sign Language and others. So it is not SEE
> SIGNS - but that accusation happened fairly frequently. People who made the
> accusation had never learned SignWriting - they just assumed that.
>
> Although the controversy continues from people who have never learned
> SignWriting, in the past few years, the tide began to change toward more
> open-minded thinking. This is partly because SignWriting "hung in there"
> and continued for 25 years, and through time it improved, as more and more
> people used the writing system. But there is another reason that the
> controversy became less extreme. People became "ready" to read and write
> their own language. It took 25 years for them to get used to ASL and other
> signed languages as "true languages", and once that idea became
> established, the need for writing the language became greater.
>
> The invention of SignWriting is at times compared to the invention of the
> written alphabet for the Cherokee Indian language. The Cherokee Indian
> chief Sequoyah, who invented the written form for his native spoken
> language, was also surrounded by controversy for 25 years. His own people
> burned his books and threatened his life. They actually put him on trial
> for being a witch, but then he taught the jurors at the trial how to read
> and write (I am not kidding, that is the story!) and they decided it was
> pretty terrific!! So instead of executing him, they decided to use
> Sequoyah's alphabet, and now the Cherokee Indian language is preserved for
> future generations.
>
> Most written forms are not used by a whole society for centuries. English
> was very slow to be written, and it is only in recent centuries that
> everyone learns to read and write English.
>
> What are some of the comments people make, who are against SignWriting?
> Here are a few:
>
> 1. signed languages are not "meant" to be written
> 2. hearing people will think I am stupid
> 3. Deaf people will become isolated and never learn to read and write English
> 4. you have no right to write our language if you are a hearing person
> 5. if I learn it, no one else can read it, so why bother?
> 6. I had trouble enough learning to read and write English, why should I
> learn something new now?
> 7. isn't it another form of SEE SIGNS?
> 8. are you trying to "save" the Deaf?
> 9. English gloss works very well, thank you! We don't need those funny
symbols!
> 10. I refuse to learn SignWriting unless other Deaf people back it first
>
> QUESTION
> > 4) What do you usually say in response to their argument(s) against
> >SignWriting?
>
> ANSWER:
> All new ideas take time. No one is asking you to use SignWriting. But
> others like to use it, so that is their choice. All languages deserve to be
> preserved, and I personally love to write signs.
>
> No, it is not SEE Signs, we are trying to write the best ASL we know how.
> No I don't want to save the Deaf - I have enough problems saving myself!
>
> No - English glosses are definitely not accurate. There are multiple signs
> for each English word - so which sign are you choosing when you place an
> English word on the page? It is wrong to try to write one language with
> another - if I wrote Danish grammar with English words, the Danes would
> kill me - ha!
>
> If you don't take a risk with learning something new, how do you expect the
> human race to improve? Deaf people can't back something, if they have never
> heard of it before. So as more and more people try to write signs, and as
> it is introduced in the schools, more and more Deaf people will back it. It
> is a natural process.
>
> Valerie :-)
>
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
> Valerie Sutton at the DAC
> Deaf Action Committee for SW
>
> SignWriting
>
> http://www.SignWriting.org
>
> Center For Sutton Movement Writing
> an educational nonprofit organization
> Box 517, La Jolla, CA, 92038-0517, USA
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


  Replies Author Date
652 Movement Arrows Valerie Sutton Sun  12/6/1998
654 Re: Movement Arrows Akehurst Sun  12/6/1998
655 Re: Movement Arrows Valerie Sutton Sun  12/6/1998
783 SignWriting Report Jan. 3, 1999 Valerie Sutton Sun  1/3/1999
784 First Special Feature in 1999! Valerie Sutton Mon  1/4/1999

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