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From:  Fernando Capovilla
Date:  Mon Mar 18, 2002  9:21 pm
Subject:  SW: two transparencies, one for each hemisphere; and Libras versus BSL (or LSB)

Dear Valerie, Dan, Stefan and Maria.

I have just read your messages. Just perfect. Thank you all.

You are right, Dan. That is what I meant. On one hand, insofar as there is a
bi-univocal (1:1) correspondence between written SW
units and cheremic sign units, SW may be regarded as a regular, transparent
writing system. Esperanto or Cyrillic are transparent
orthographies because the grapheme-phoneme relationships they encode are fairly
regular ones. On the other hand, insofar as the SW
whole units appear phenomenologically (or visually) similar to the signs
themselves, to the point of evoking the signs from the
reader's experience, then they are also transparent in the iconic sense. The
former type of transparency pertains to the realm of
phonological coding on the left hemisphere, whereas the latter type of
transparency pertains to the realm of parallel processing
holistic apprehension processes by the right hemisphere.

Flavio: The publisher has made the Brazilian Sign Language Dictionary available
for purchase from the Internet. All you need is a
valid credit card number. You can find a description in Portuguese and English
and also, of course, in the SW site, which was generously done by Valerie:

By the way, the book I mentioned (on literacy acquisition in Portuguese) is
available from the Internet at the site:

With regard to the Libras-Ameslan-Auslan versus BSL-ASL-ASL issue, I must
confess that, very much as Valerie does, I prefer
respecting what the Deaf people have to say with regard to how they like to
have their language referred to. At first I used "Libras"
because it was the current way the Deaf writers refer to the Sign Language used
by the Brazilian Deaf Community. But since a bunch of
the most outspoken Brazilian linguists objected to "Libras", I started using
"BSL" in English papers and LSB (Lingua de Sinais
Brasileira) in Portuguese papers. But then, a number of colleagues objected,
saying that "B" could stand for "British", "Brazilian",
"Bolivian", etc. And since "BSL" was already taken by the British, I should
think of something else, and so for and so on... (as if
there was a first come first serve supermarket logic to it...) Worse: the Deaf
objected to "LSB" and engaged in heated and ongoing
discussion with the linguists who had objected to the use of "Libras". Since I
could not afford waiting until an agreement was
obtained (I am glad I did not, because even today no agreement has been reached
yet, and I sincerely doubt it will before we have a
chance to do what is most important: to publish intensely and use SL and SW
materials with deaf children), in order to try to be
neutral and say what I wanted to say without bumping into sterile objections, I
started using "SGN-BR" or "SGN-BZ" in academic
papers. However, the use of that particular code caused objection from all
fronts (linguists, the Deaf, and SW colleagues). Oh well!
Of course, at that point I had no alternative other than sitting down and
having a long and intense laugh so as to be able to take
that whole futile controversy out of my system. Needless to say, after all that
exhausting unvoluntary academicist exercise I had
been forced to engage on, I finally decided to stick with "Libras", no matter
what. The reason? The very same good old reasons: 1)
"Libras" is the word Deaf writers use to refer to the Sign Language used by the
Brazilian Deaf Community, and 2) I want them to know
that I respect their viewpoint, and that I am writing with them about their
very own sign language, and not about some abstract
artificial un-material academic arbitrary construct. Six months after I finally
made up my mind and published the dictionary using
the term "Libras", I had the opportunity of meeting Trevor Johnson at the
international conference on dictionaries held at Gallaudet.
We had a wonderful time of stimulating conversations. I am very glad to witness
that he and the Australian Deaf are so glad with
"Auslan" as the Brazilian Deaf and I are happy with "Libras". As far as we are
concerned, we will never get caught by the hopeless
no-win tail-chasing task of obtaining unanimous agreement involving the Deaf
and linguists with regard to a final way of referring to
a given sign language. We will stick to usage by the most revelant linguistic
community, so as to be able to return -- with clear and
light conscience -- do what is most important and useful to help deaf kids have
a brighter future.

Thank you for the attention, good friends.


> ------------------------------
> Date: Fri, 15 Mar 2002 22:09:28 -0700
> From: Dan Parvaz
> Subject: Re: SW transparency: ideographic iconicity & alphabetic regularity.
> > Meanwhile I really would like to know the answer to the question...
> One of the dictionary definitions for "transparent" is instructive here:
> "Easily seen through or detected; obvious."
> A good alphabetic writing system uses the minimum numbers of symbols
> needed to accurately represent the language, which amounts to something
> like one symbol for each phoneme. This is "transparent," because the
> spoken/signed form can be (at least theoretically) reconstructed from
> this. In this sense Spanish orthography is more transparent than English.
> Fernando's second use of transparency hinges more on iconicity. More
> often than not, a sign written in SW *looks* like the same sign executed
> in space. The sign of course, is quite often iconic so we get iconicity
> of iconicity (of iconicity...?)
> So, for a writing system, transparency is...
> Definition #1: efficient (in an information-theoretic sense), yet
> complete.
> Definition #2: iconic
> I believe Fernando's point is that SW may encompass both definitions.
> Cheers,
> Dan.
Fernando Capovilla, Ph.D., Livre-Docente

Professor, Universidade de Sao Paulo, Psicologia Experimental e Clinica

Av. Prof. Mello Moraes 1721 Sao Paulo SP 05508-900, Brazil

Coord. Lab. Neuropsicolinguistica Cognitiva Experimental (LANCE, IP-USP), Lab. Tecnologia e Reabilitacao Cognitiva ( IP-USP), Divisao Clinica de Disturbios de Comunicacao e Linguagem (IP-USP), Editor periodico Ciencia Cognitiva: Teoria, Pesquisa e Aplicacao (IP-USP)

  Replies Author Date
6544 Re: SW: two transparencies, one for each hemisphe Flavio Medina Tue  3/19/2002

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