SignWriting List Archive 1
October 1997 - May 1998

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April 6, 1998

SUBJECT: Update From Spain...

Dear List Members -

I think you will find the information below interesting. Use of SignWriting is growing in Spain thanks to the very hard work of some fine linguists, as you can see below...

Date: Mon, 6 Apr 1998 11:55:50 -0400
From: Steve/Dianne Parkhurst <>
Subject: Updated info about LSE project
To: Valerie Sutton <>

Hi, Valerie!

Here's that long-awaited update for the web page for Spain.
Dianne and Steve


Spanish Sign Language Project Update 1998
Steve and Dianne Parkhurst

In January of 1995, Steve and Dianne arrived in Spain to begin a survey of the sign language situation. The Parkhursts work with the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) and a local Spanish organization, the Promotora Española de Lingüística (PROEL).

Their first task was to determine how many sign languages exist in Spain and if there are major dialectical differences throughout the country. To do this they first spent nine months learning some of the sign language as it is used in Madrid. Next, they traveled throughout the country gathering word lists and video recordings of the sign language. They compared word lists from 18 different cities to get an idea of the wide dialectical differences in the sign lexicons. They also used video recordings of the sign language in six cities to test how well people from each of these cities understand the signing from the other cities.

As a result of this testing, they concluded that there is a distinct dialect of sign language in nearly every major city that has an active Deaf community. They found that the varieties of sign language used in the cities within a region are more similar to each other than they are to the varieties used in cities from other regions of the country. They also found that the sign language used in the region of Cataluña is quite different from the other varieties and may even be considered a separate language.

In addition to the survey work, they have been involved in other linguistic activities. In June of 1997, they helped a Deaf federation organize the "First National Conference of Sign Language Linguistics," where they joined other linguists encouraging Deaf people to be involved in the study of their own language. They have also participated in several other conferences in Spain and England.

Their current project is to introduce and promote a system for reading and writing sign language called SignWriting. This system, invented and developed by Valerie Sutton and the Deaf Action Committee, is used to a limited degree in more than a dozen countries. Steve and Dianne have been working with Irma Maria Muñoz Baell to translate materials into Spanish and adapt the system to the sign languages of Spain. They hope to help teach a literacy course using this system in the fall of 1998.

Steve & Dianne Parkhurst

For more information about SignWriting in Spain, go to:

SignWriting in Spain