Part 1: Project Description
Sign languages are rich languages with sophisticated grammars and large vocabularies. There are hundreds of sign languages in the world, and all of them can be written with the SignWriting script, since SignWriting writes body movement.
American Sign Language (ASL) is one of the most used sign languages in the world. Written ASL provides ASL signers with the opportunity to express themselves directly in their native language, to preserve the literature of their language and to provide information for those who do not know spoken languages.
Wikipedias are growing encyclopedias on the web, written in many spoken languages. Before SignWriting, there was no way to write a Wikipedia in a sign language. SignWriting makes it possible to write encyclopedia articles in the facial expressions, movements and handshapes of sign languages. In 2007-2010, Wikipedia users requested a Wikipedia written in ASL using SignWriting.
The SignWriting Encyclopedia Projects (SWEP) is sponsored by the US non-profit organization, the Center for Sutton Movement Writing, located in La Jolla, California, directed by Valerie Sutton, the inventor of SignWriting. The project sponsors Deaf authors and editors to write encyclopedia articles in ASL, which are written in SignWriting on a new web area called the SignWriting Wiki (signbank.org/wiki). The SignWriting Wiki site provides a testing area for our new software, the SignWriting MediaWiki Plugin.
The ASL encyclopedia articles that are posted in the SignWriting Wiki will also be printed in books, donated to classrooms with Deaf students.
Contact: Director Valerie Sutton
Center for Sutton Movement Writing
Deaf Action Committee For SignWriting
P.O. Box 517, La Jolla, CA. 92038 USA
Part 2: Historic Background
The SignWriting Encyclopedia Projects (SWEP) began in May, 2010 and will be ongoing for at least a decade. It takes time to write an encyclopedia in any language! The project is historic for several reasons.
Until SignWriting, it was assumed by most signers, that sign languages could not be written. Before now, sign languages were thought to be too visual to be written languages. With the first development of SignWriting in Denmark in 1974, small groups of signwriters started to experiment with writing their sign languages, and the groups grew in number from 1974 to the present, in over 40 countries. Sign languages are written languages for those individuals who write it daily, by hand or by computer.
In 2010, books with over 500 pages are being published in SignWriting, including complete novels and portions of the Bible. As signers become adjusted to this new idea (that sign languages can be written), more people will turn to the encyclopedia articles on the web written in ASL, and slowly adjust to learning how to read their own language for the first time.
SignWriting is quickly understood and read by skilled ASL signers. Writing encyclopedia articles in ASL takes more skill, however, and this is why the Center is raising funds for Deaf employment, to train editors and writers of the ASL Encyclopedia, to provide well-written articles.
Part 3: Software Development
An important part of the project is software development for the new SignWriting MediaWiki Plugin, developed by SignPuddle designer Stephen E. Slevinski Jr. There are a series of software breakthroughs, developed by the Slevinski-Sutton collaboration, that is providing the groundwork for the new ASL Encyclopedia on the web:
1. International SignWriting Alphabet 2010
SignWriting symbols, invented by Valerie Sutton and tested for use by the Deaf Action Committee for SignWriting (DAC), are placed in a specific sequence, based on 7 symbol categories and 30 symbol groups. The International SignWriting Alphabet 2010 includes symbols needed to write over 40 sign languages. The ISWA 2010 can be analyzed by visiting the ISWA HTML Reference Guide 2010. Other sites that use the ISWA 2010 are ISWA Symbol Lessons, SignPuddle Online, and Sutton's SymbolBank.
2. SignWriting Image Server (SWIS)
The primary purpose of the SignWriting Image Server is to display and edit SignWriting images fast with a simple installation. The secondary purpose is to document and demonstrate sign language as text. SWIS requires a web server with PHP and the GD graphics library.
The vision of the SignWriting Image Server is to provide tools to view and edit Binary SignWriting. SWIS can and should be used to generate test data, verify image display, and model behavior for implementations with other programming languages on any platform.
3. Binary SignWriting (BSW)
Binary SignWriting is a script encoding model for SignWriting.
4. SignPuddle Online
Users from over 40 countries access SignPuddle Online to write their dictionaries and documents in SignWriting. SignPuddle software is so easy and fun to use, and provides the tools to write and publish literature in the sign languages of the world.
5. SignWriting MediaWiki Plugin Extension
Information about the MediaWiki Extension. Any MediaWiki installation will be able to use this extension. The SignBank Wiki mentioned below is one example that uses the extension.
6. SignWriting Wiki
This is a full installation of the SignWriting MediaWiki Plugin on our SignBank.org web site, providing an incubator or test area for trial postings of articles written in SignWriting in ASL. This can serve as a SignWriting Lab for programmers to test the software development.