forum SignWriting List Forum
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From:  Don & Theresa G
Date:  Tue Jan 5, 1999  5:07 pm
Subject:  Re: Bilingualism & SignWriting


-----Original Message-----
>"Is SignWriting this Bilingualism thing that we hear so much about...?"

As someone with a doctorate in bilingual education, I can respond to this
one. My answer is: NO! Bilingualism refers to the ability to
speak/write/read two LANGUAGES. So, someone who can speak/read/write
English and Spanish is bilingual. So is a Deaf (or Hearing) who can
read/write English and sign ASL. English and ASL are two separate

SignWriting, on the other hand, is a SYSTEM for representing sign. As such,
it is not a language in itself, but simply a way of representing that
language in another medium. In the same vein, the very act of communicating
with each other through writing (like I am doing now [albeit typing]) in
English script is a SYSTEM for representing English (which is primarily a
spoken medium). I doubt anyone would say that someone who only knew English
but could speak and write it is bilingual.

However, (although I still have some doubts concerning the utility of SW,
but I'm trying to keep an open mind...), I see the potential for SW to
contribute not only to bilingualism, but BILITERACY in Deaf people. Since
English and other spoken languages are primarily accessible only through the
written modality for Deaf people, it seems to me that SW (or any other
viable means of representing signed utterances) would offer an excellent
means of helping Deaf people
a) recognize and support the validity of their own language as a
language in its own right
b) compare and contrast the grammatical structures of their signed
and Hearing/spoken languages (an important component of
developing bilingualism)
c) compare and contrast discourse structures of spoken and signed
narratives (important for bilingualism and biliteracy)
d) develop a readily accessible database of literature that is not
bound to the visual modality (through videotape, which can be
slightly awkward to access, as compared to a book, which has
much more "accessibility" due to the static nature of the printed

So, basically, while SW is NOT bilingualism in itself, I see it as a
potentially useful TOOL towards developing bilingualism.

--Don Grushkin

  Replies Author Date
809 bye-bye lingual Joe Martin Wed  1/6/1999
813 SignWriting In Bi-Bi Education Valerie Sutton Wed  1/6/1999

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