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From:  Valerie Sutton
Date:  Sun Dec 13, 1998  4:30 pm
Subject:  Re: why deaf people didn't learn signwrite?

On Thu, 3 Dec 1998, Francis Bezellain wrote:

>You mean you started this signwriting 25 years ago? How long did this
>signwriting get generated? I mean how did you get other people to know about
>this signwriting project when you started?

December 13, 1998
Hi Francis and thanks for the above question. Sorry it has taken me so long
to answer it!

Yes, SignWriting began in the Fall, 1974. And our organization started in
February, 1999 is a "25th anniversary year" for us.

What should we do to celebrate our 25th? :-)

In regards to the history behind SignWriting...
When I first started SignWriting, I was at the University of Copenhagen
working with sign language researchers there. They never want a way to
write Danish Sign Language that children could read...they only wanted to
record certain signs for their research.

So I went to my boss and asked "Why not use SignWriting to truly have a
written form for signed languages?" and he thought that was a silly idea.
So I realized I was "alone" in the struggle.

So SignWriting was used for research from 1974-1979. And then a big change
occurred. I was hired to be a consultant at the National Technical
Institute for the Deaf, NTID, in 1979, to work with Dr. Frank Caccamise on
a series of books called the Technical Signs Manuals. They are still being
published after 19 years! SignWriting movement symbols are blended with
life-like drawings. So that was the first official backing of SignWriting
in the United States.

But 1981 was the beginning of Deaf participation. I hired a team of Deaf
native ASL signers, and we published the first newspaper in history to be
written in ASL and English...we also had articles in other signed languages
too. We then sent the newspaper free to 11,000 people, most of whom had
never heard of this before. I am told a lot of people threw out the
newspaper! There were others who wrote in SignWriting immediately and sent
us letters written in signs without any training from us - they simply read
the newspaper and figured the symbols out. And through that experience
SignWriting improved and changed for the better. Here are some history
pages to read:

SignWriting History Directory

History Introduction
Sutton Movement Writing

1. 1966-1974
DanceWriting Begins
Precursor to SignWriting

2. 1974-1978
SignWriting Begins In Denmark
The Early Years

3. 1975-1980
SignWriting Begins In USA

4. 1981-1984
SignWriter Newspaper
Native Signers Begin Writing

5. 1981-1989
SignWriting Publications
Published in USA

6. 1990-1997
SignWriting Publications
Published in USA

7. 1974-1998
How SignWriting Has Changed
The Evolution of Writing Styles


Valerie :-)

Valerie Sutton at the DAC
Deaf Action Committee for SW


Center For Sutton Movement Writing
an educational nonprofit organization
Box 517, La Jolla, CA, 92038-0517, USA

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