SignWriting List Archive 1
October 1997 - May 1998

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February 18, 1998

SUBJECT: Help In Research
From: Valerie Sutton

On February 18th, Cecelia Smith wrote:

> My professor says that the following must be answered in my research:

>1) What is the "big picture" ... why is a writing system important to have
>for signed languages separate from the spoken langauge writing systems in
>place already. Include a historical perspective of the topic

Hello Cecelia! I will try to answer your questions. From my perspective...writing systems always have value, no matter what language they record. Writing a language can preserve that language for future generations to study. It also makes it possible to write translations between languages. There are many languages right now that do not have written forms, and they are all good and true languages, but it is harder for outsiders to learn those languages. So this answer could go for pages, but in a nutshell...the languages that have written forms are the ones that are better known around the world. So from an historical perspective, it is to all languages' advantage to have a written form.

Cecelia asked...
>2) What is the linguistic value of a writing system for signed langagues that
>is better than or more appropriate than the transcription systems already in

I am not sure what you mean by "transcription systems already in place". If you are referring to transcription systems developed by researchers in linguistics and other related professions, to compare SignWriting to those systems is like comparing apples to oranges. The systems have different purposes and goals. And all of them are good in their own ways. For me, I hope that Deaf children can read SignWriting, and our experience seems to show this is very possible. But not all other transcription systems have the goal of teaching Deaf children. Many of them are solely for research purposes, without the goal of becoming a true written form for signed languages.

Cecelia asked...
>3) Why should she (or anyone else) care? People have been trying to develop
>writing systems for ages. Why not just give it up as impossible.

Smile. I care. And obviously it is not impossible! And lots of other people care too. In today's world it is easy to forget history. Reading and writing English, for example, is taught in the school systems today, but back in Shakespeare's day, not everyone knew how to read and write English. There was an "educated elite" that did, but most people did not. I am sure that they could not imagine why reading and writing was so important, since it didn't seem to have any necessity for their daily lives. But now we know that writing is a great tool that we do use everyday. I am sure there will be a day when more and more people will read and write signed languages, and when that happens they will see how much value it adds to daily living.

Cecelia asked...
>4) How will I go about researching an area that is practically void of any
>prior research. Describe my methods and plan of attack. I must produce a
>potential bibliography of at least 30 resources.

It is true that there is not a great deal of research, but I am pleased to tell you that there is a new thesis written by Janice M. Gangel-Vasquez. My next assignment is to work with Janice to add some details to her paper, and then, Janice has given me permission to post the research on our web site. So hopefully I can give you that information soon. The thesis is entitled " LITERACY IN NICARAGUAN SIGN LANGUAGE: ASSESSING WORD RECOGNITION SKILLS AT THE ESCUELITA DE BLUEFIELDS". regards to 30 resources, I would suggest researching this
wonderful library online:

Universität Hamburg, Zentrum Für Deutsche Gebärdensprache, BIBLIOTHEK

Cecelia asked...
>5.) Identify who would possibly be interested in reading a paper on this
>topic, or going to hear a presentation about it. Why should they. Who could
>possibly benifit from my research?

Anyone who uses a signed language, or is interested in signed languages,
would benefit. Also educators of the Deaf, school administrators, parents
of the Deaf, and Deaf artists who wish to record their own creative works
would also be interested. And yes..some linguists might be too :-)

Cecelia wrote...
>I appreciate ANY information regarding any system for writing signs.
>Naturally including SignWriting.

In regards to other signed language notation systems...

For information on the STOKOE SYSTEM, contact:
Sherman Wilcox, Ph.D
Associate Professor
Department of Linguistics
University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131
(505) 277-6353 (V/TTY)

For information on the HAMNOSYS system, contact:
Guido Joachim
Universität Hamburg, Zentrum Für
Deutsche Gebärdensprache, BIBLIOTHEK
Rothenbaumchaussee 45
20148 Hamburg, GERMANY
49-40-4123-3239 voice
49-40-4123-6578 fax

Cecelia wrote...
>I am trying to find out what is out there that is in use, what really works,
>and how is it being used. Also, I am interested in the implications of using
>a writing system for education of deaf children and also for second language

I know of two studies:

1. "UNDERVISNING I TEGNSKRIFT/TEGNSPROG - FORSOGSPROJEKT PAA DOVESKOLEN I RANDERSGADE" (Instruction in SignWriting/Sign Language - Research Project at the Deaf School on Randersgade) by Ivan Bentzen, Dietgard Glebke, Inger Kjaer, and Bente Sparrevohn, Denmark, 1985.


And then...we do have some information posted on our SignWriting Web Site that may be of interest:

Deaf Children Write SignWriting

Can SignWriting Be Written By Hand?

What is the difference between SignWriting and English Glosses?

How Do Teachers Feel About SignWriting?

Email Message 1: Assessing Student's Skills

Email Message 2: Assessing Student's Skills

Email Message 3: Assessing Student's Skills

Email Message 4: Literacy in SignWriting

Email Message 5: Literacy in SignWriting

Good luck with your work, Cecelia. I hope you find all the information you need!

Valerie :-)