What Is The Difference Between

SignWriting is a movement writing system that records any movement of the human body. It can therefore write any signed language in the world. It can write movements that have no equivalent meaning in any spoken language. And it makes it possible to write and type directly in a signed language, with no spoken language translation needed. There are times when this is important.

SignWriting is useful in recording elements of signed languages that cannot be explained in words. For example, classifiers are impossible to record with an equivalent word in English, because there are no words that describe what classifiers describe! That is why Salk Institute is using SignWriting to record classifiers.

English gloss systems place English words in the grammar and syntax of signed languages. These gloss systems developed mainly because SignWriting did not exist at the time. Researchers and teachers had no choice but to try in some way, to show the differences in ASL, versus English.

English glosses can be confusing and inaccurate. Why? Let us take the sign for HELP. In the SignWriting ASL Dictionary, there are 34 conjugations, or variations, of the verb HELP. Some of the entries are "to help", "I help you", "You help me", "They help each other", "They help us continuously", and so forth. Some of these variations involve torso and shoulder movement and facial expressions. All of them involve varying degrees of depth. All this can be recorded with SignWriting, but not with English gloss.

Written English uses abstract symbols to record sound. SignWriting writes a visual language in a visual way. It is directly connected to what you see when you sign, so it is easily learned by children. Children have enough problems learning to read and write English correctly. English gloss systems can confuse the picture by trying to explain one language with the other. With SignWriting for ASL, and English for English, the two languages are whole and pure. It is our experience that children learn to read English better when they have both languages written on paper correctly.



Please feel free to write if you have questions.

Valerie Sutton


Deaf Action Committee for SignWriting
Center For Sutton Movement Writing
an educational nonprofit organization
P.O. Box 517, La Jolla, CA, 92038-0517, USA

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