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From:  Valerie Sutton
Date:  Tue Dec 22, 1998  2:47 pm
Subject:  Re: Writing Fingerspelling in SW

On Sat, 28 Nov 1998, Stuart wrote:
>I was also wondering ... Is there a particular reason why we write
>out the fingerspelling for spoken language words instead of putting
>those words in standard print? It just seemed to me that if we are
>simply fingerspelling an English word (for example), why don't we
>just type the word in English letters? Just wondering ...
>I can understand for some ASL signs like #JOB or #EARLY. It's
>others I'm wondering about.
>Stuart Thiessen
>Omaha, Nebraska

December 22, 1998

Karen van Hoek, in an excellent message posted November 29, 1998, explained
why research shows that native signing Deaf children see fingerspelling as
signs, not English. So that is one reason why we write fingerspelling the
way it really looks, rather than inserting English words wherever
fingerspelling occurs.

In the SignWriter Computer Program we offer three ways to type: Sign,
Fingerspelling and the Roman Alphabet. So people can choose what they want
to do. I think it is important that any new computer program using
SignWriting offers people those three ways to type.

I personally always write exactly what I see when people sign. Therefore I
write fingerspelling visually with SignWriting symbols too. I try to be a
"neutral interpreter", without making a judgement on the language.
Fingerspelling has become so much a part of ASL, that I question if we can
ever just throw out writing it the way it looks, especially when
fingerspelling changes as it is used more and more.

I would also like beginning signers, and foreign signers, to be able to
read the way Deaf people really sign. Imagine if a Deaf person from
Thailand, who is fluent in SignWriting, would like to learn a little ASL
from the written page - if we throw in English words inbetween the signs,
and that person does not know English, they will not understand how Deaf
people in the USA would fingerspell it.

For those interested in seeing some of our Fingerspelling Keyboards
available with the complete SignWriter 4.3 Computer Program Package, go to
this page on our web site:

Fingerspelling Keyboards

You will find I posted fingerspelling keyboards for seven countries, but
actually we have 14 at the moment, so it is just a sample.

Have a terrific day everyone!

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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