SignWriting List Archive 1
October 1997 - May 1998

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February 18, 1998

SUBJECT: Help In Research

Date: Wed, 18 Feb 98 14:19:12 -0800
From: "James Womack"<>
To: <>
Subject: Re: Help In Research

Writing systems for spoken languages are specifically designed for those languages and signed languages were not considered when the systems were created. Consequently, such writing systems are well suited to convey most of the characteristics of those spoken languages with a measureable degree of accuracy. This is not true when applied to signed languages.

Since signed languages are optical/manual and not aural/oral, the written system cannot be reasonably expected to fit the needs of the signed languages. Whereas a system designed specifically for signed languages does fit that criteria.

To better understand this, consider tools. A hammer is designed to force a fairly small pointed object into a softer object (nail and wood), and to retrieve the same (claw). It is suitable for most jobs that require forcing one object into another or flattening a small object or area. However, if you need a tool turning over a pancake, a spatula will serve far better than a hammer.

So too is a writing system designed for an aural/oral language fine for its intended purpose, but unsuitable for accurately conveying an optical/manual communication language. The pancake wasn't what the creator of the hammer had in mind while fashioning the first hammer. Nor was signed languages what the creators of writing systems had in mind when they created their writing systems.

James Womack

Community College of Southern Nevada
Department of International Languages
3200 East Cheyenne Avenue, #N2C,
North Las Vegas, Nevada, 89030-4296
702-651-4301 TTY
702-643-6427 FAX