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From:  Valerie Sutton
Date:  Tue Feb 2, 1999  4:15 pm
Subject:  Sequence Comparisons

On Sun, 31 Jan 1999, Valerie Sutton wrote:
> This is not based on a knowledge of any one signed language, but is based
> on visual sequences or patterns that seem to flow naturally, based on how
> the body is made. We have a real writing system, and when we look up signs
> by Sign-Symbol-Sequence we are looking at hundreds of signs at a time very
> quickly, and I am convinced that the only way we will have children around
> the world looking up and finding signs quickly is to do it by "visual
> patterns". So I agree this is the final conclusion...but how we get there
> is the question!

Then, on Tue, 2 Feb 1999, Richard Tennant wrote:
>Please forgive me if I am displaying my ignorance, but I find it puzzling and
>a bit amazing to read the volume of suggestions and wealth of discussion on
>this list concerning a Sign Writing to English dictionary. It seems to me that
>I have already accomplished such a reference in the ASL Handshape Dictionary
>recently published by Gallaudet Press, with only slight modification for SW
>This reference orders over 1600 illustrations of signs, in one hand and two
>hand sections, by handshape, position and movement: giving the associated
>English glosses with each illustration. If one were to substitute the Sign
>Writing symbol for each illustration , it would seem to produce the reference
>under discussion. After all, these are the basic elements of signing no
>matter what symbols are used to define them.
>My knowledge of Sign Writing is admittedly skimpy, so I am probably missing
>something here and I would very much appreciate a clarification of exactly
>what is the purpose of the proposed reference and why the dictionary described
>above differs from that which you are seeking to construct.

February 2, 1999

Hi Richard - and thanks for this comment! For those new to the List,
Richard is the author of a new book entitled "The American Sign Language
Handshape Dictionary". Richard was kind enough to give me a gift of his
book, which is sitting on my desk right now, while I am typing this message!

First, as you all know, there are numerous different sequences for looking
up signs in dictionaries. There is no one "standard" way at this time, and
there may never be.

Second, Richard's sequence is excellent for looking up American Sign
Language signs, and of course we could place SignWriting in that sequence
for looking up ASL. We could write your entire book in SignWriting in your
sequence if you would like, and I think that would we wonderful!!

Third, if you read my original paragraph above, notice that I did not say
looking up "ASL" signs. Instead, I said "looking up with no knowledge of
any signed language". I also said "children around the world". Sutton's
Sign-Symbol-Sequence has nothing to do with ASL. SignWriting is used to
write dozens of signed languages now (several new too, by the way), and so
the Sutton sequence is attempting to look up any "body movement", whether
it be a signed language or dance or mime. This is necessary if we want a
sequence that works internationally.

For the benefit of the List, I want you all to know that I like Richard's
sequence. You have to know the American Manual Alphabet to use it.
Meanwhile, in Brazil, their fingerspelling is totally different. In Spain,
they even have one fingerspelled position that touches the face! And in
British Sign Language they use two-hands to fingerspell. So using a
sequence based on ASL fingerspelling to look up BSL, although technically
feasible, would be difficult to sell in England. First they would say that
Americans are being imperialistic, forcing their fingerspelling on other
countries. I have lived in Europe and I know their annoyance with American
domination! So....I am trying to find a more generic sequence that is based
on the human body, and not on any one signed language. I am still working
on this daily - the sequence is evolving right now and I hope I can succeed.

And ...our keyboard designs and internal coding is already set up on this
"generic sequence". We would have to re-program everything to fit with
Richard's sequence, but of course, if it works well, then the investment of
re-programming could be done, if we have enough people feeling it is worth

So, Richard, I would suggest the could write the signs in
your book, "The American Sign Language Handshape Dictionary" in SignWriting
placed in your sequence, and send me the document...then I could post the
signs in your sequence on the web, along with other sequences from Brazil
and so the Sutton sequence for "generic body movement
look-ups" can also be posted. This "sequence comparisons" article can give
us feedback from people. I will be happy to do this, although of course
this will take time.

I will be establishing a new "SignWriting Linguistics Forum" on our web
site in time. The first article that will be posted in this new forum will
be the comparisons of SignWriting with HamNoSys and Stokoe. That article
will take time because I want to do a good job, with the approval of the
inventors of the other systems. Later we can add other systems. So it will
be an article that is "built over time".

And the same can be done with the "sequence comparisons". We could slowly
show the different sequences to get people's feedback.

So if you would like to work on this long term project, Richard, you are
welcome to start preparing your sequence in SignWriting.

Thanks for your input and all your hard work! I am sure ASL signers are
benefitting from your sequence!!

All the best -

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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