forum SignWriting List Forum
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From:  Valerie Sutton
Date:  Thu Jan 14, 1999  6:28 pm
Subject:  Re: Notation Systems

>As I said, I am not very familiar with SignWriting, but I always understood
>it to be a more 'general' or 'rough' system. In HamNoSys as well you write
>down what you see and there is no linguistic bias to it I should say. But,
>yes, although it's also quite iconic it's not iconic in a way that enables
>one to read it without knowing how the system works.

>Universitšt Hamburg

January 14, 1999

Hi Susanne, and Good Morning SW List!

Thank you, everyone, for your exciting messages - I have so much to tell
you I feel like I am going to burst, and yet I have the humdrum of
administrative duties and other things, so that I why I am not answering
every single message - which I so much want to do!

But, just a quick thought from my perspective (grin)...

Above you refer to SignWriting being more "general". I suspect that some
people in the linguistic professions may not realize that SignWriting is
both general and specific, depending on how it is applied.

Technically SignWriting is a "movement writing system". I guess you could
say it is a "generic writing system" that is then "applied" to specific
languages, by those who know those languages. I personally am not a
linguist. I am a movement notator. But linguists do use SignWriting, and so
do people native to signed languages.

So, if you look at the "general movement writing system" that is behind
SignWriting, then of course it looks "too general", but if you then look at
what individual groups are doing in each country to "specify the use of
SignWriting for their specific language", then it is no longer "too

We are working on the assumption that a true writing system for a language
"has to evolve naturally with use", and so I hand the general symbols to
the experts in the respective languages, and then written literature is
given freely to the general public, and we sit back and watch how it
changes for the better.

Then I, and other members from our organization, (the DAC and the Center
for Sutton Movement Writing) try to keep track of the changes and
improvements. I always try to update our textbooks to include the additions
or subtractions from other countries. For example, in Spain, there are
certain writing conventions developing, and I plan to place those new
writing conventions in my general reference textbook, Lessons In
SignWriting. That way, other countries can benefit from the Spanish usage,
plus we can then all read what is written in Spain.

Our goal is to develop a writing system that is so visual, that it can be
read quickly by children and adults. Right now, Deaf people skilled in
SignWriting read signed language literature as naturally and as fluently as
hearing people read newspapers written in English or German. And yes,
people can read SignWriting, on a basic level, without any training in the
system. Of course training is better than no training, but the system is
iconic enough, that if a person already knows the signed language being
written, they can figure it out and start reading right on the spot.

This even happens with writing ....we distributed our SignWriter Newspaper
freely years people we never knew....and a Deaf woman in New York
City figured the writing system out on her own and started writing us
volumes of mail written in SignWriting - it was so well written that my
Deaf staff could read it - we were all astounded and we still have her
letters written in SignWriting in our archives.

I now must get back to writing our Year-End Report, in English (grin) and I
will post it to the List when it is completed. Someone asked me the other
day, why some of our articles, such as the History articles and the
Year-End Reports, that are posted on our web site, are only written in
English, when they should also be written in ASL! The answer is that I
would love to have everything written in ASL, but I personally am not
native to ASL, and I am writing in my native language, English, just as I
hope others will write in theirs!!

Meanwhile, the wonderful Deaf people who work with me are more interested
in writing their own literature in SignWriting, rather than translating my
dry, boring and dull Year-End Reports - ha!!

Have a wonderful 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

  Replies Author Date
929 word lists Joe Martin Fri  1/22/1999
938 Independent SWriter's Forum Valerie Sutton Mon  1/25/1999
965 New Special Feature Posted!! Valerie Sutton Sun  1/31/1999
966 About Sign Dic... Valerie Sutton Sun  1/31/1999
968 Re: About Sign Dic... Val Forbes Sun  1/31/1999
980 Re: word lists Angus B. Grieve-Smith Tue  2/2/1999
981 Irish Sign Language :-) Valerie Sutton Tue  2/2/1999

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