forum SignWriting List Forum
  Message 6759  |  Previous | Next  [ Up Thread ] Message Index
From:  Valerie Sutton
Date:  Wed Apr 10, 2002  3:45 am
Subject:  Mystery Novel Published in SignWriting

SignWriting List
April 9, 2002

>Stuart Thiessen wrote: Out of curiousity, was it vertical or
>horizontally printed? If
>horizontally, what conventions were used to indicate body shifts (unless
>Spanish Sign Language doesn't employ them?) or other aspects that vertical
>printing makes easier to see?

Hello Stuart -
Wonderful questions. Well...let us first talk about the computer
printing of this amazing historic publication. Steve and Dianne are a
part of the history of the development of the SignWriter Computer
Program, because back in 1994-1995, they and another linguist in
Spain named Irma Maria Munoz Baell, needed more handshapes in the
SignWriter Computer Program 4.2....the handshapes used in Spain were
different from ASL. Soooo I worked with them long distance and I
manipulated the Symbol Editor inside SignWriter 4.2 to add around 10
to 20 new symbols, even though SignWriter was technically out of
memory and could not accept any new symbols...I had to hide some
symbols under other symbols that were not linguistically placed, but
it was better to have them "somewhere" rather than not have them at
all! I worked for months on this, and that, plus some changes Rich
Gleaves made to the internal source code, became SignWriter 4.3. I
then shipped the new software to Steve and Dianne in Madrid, and Irma
Maria in Alicante, and the three told me that they now could type
Spanish Sign Language because they had the handshapes they needed - I
felt so happy! Irma Maria used SignWriter 4.3 to publish her
dissertation on Spanish handshapes...and Steve and Dianne used
SignWriter 4.3 to spread SignWriting in Spain. Since then, Steve has
developed some great True Type Fonts as well, and other ways of
getting graphics into documents, but he still uses SignWriter 4.4 to
publish books! This helped me a lot - to realize that SignWriter DOS
still has some value...thank you, Steve, for your gift of such a
beautiful book!

The clue to Steve's success is that he used SignWriter 4.4 with the
equipment it was made for...He didn't try to put it in vertical
columns, since ColumnMaker was an "add-on" and SignWriter 4.4 was
really designed for horizontal typing. So he typed the entire book
horizontally, and then used one of the special print formats for
laser printers which prints out the entire document on two pages side
by side. SignWriter 4.4 prints beautiful tiny SignWriting with laser
printers. The symbols only have staircases on the screen, but when
printed on laser printers, the staircases are not nearly as
obvious...that is because Postscript printing makes the symbols look
better...So Steve printed the whole document once, and then took the
original printed pages to a printing-establishment in Spain, and they
printed 100 copies, perfect bound....a rare treasure!

As far as your linguistic questions go...As you know, there has
always been a way to write signs placed on the left or right of
center, even when you write SignWriting horizontally...So I am
assuming Steve did that - Steve uses shoulder movements, and lots of
body movement, even overhead views to get depth and so on...I have
not analyzed his writing but I love it and sat down and started to
read it immediately. Ironically, Steve's writing is so excellent and
my reading is so fluent, that I see the movement on the page and read
it more naturally than I do English or words from any spoken
language. I have no need to analyze spellings - I just see the
movement...So I started to read the novel immediately from a movement
point of view, but of course, I don't know Spanish Sign Language! So
I didn't know what they said - ha! After awhile I got focused on
hearing about all the wonderful things they are doing with
SignWriting in Spain, and playing with their charming son Spencer,
and then I didn't get back to reading the novel again...Steve placed
a few illustrations in the book, but not many - it is almost pure
SignWriting, page after page after page, with no words - sometimes I
just open it and stare in amazement!

I would guess, that if SignWriter 4.4 had been designed for vertical
typing, that Steve would have written the book vertically. But by
staying within the confines of the SW 4.4 software, he created a
great looking book and it is wonderful to read, no matter what
direction it goes in! ;-)
Val ;-)

Valerie Sutton


SignWriting List Archives:

To post a message to the SW List:

  Message 6759  |  Previous | Next  [ Up Thread ] Message Index