SignWriting List Archive 1
October 1997 - May 1998

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May 9, 1998

SUBJECT: Standardization of ASL

Date: Sat, 9 May 1998 11:06:22 +0100
From: SignWriting <>
Subject: Re: Standarization of ASL

On Sat, 9 May 1998, Bettibonni wrote:
>Another thing to keep in mind is that a lot of teachers are teaching the
>language the only way they know how... which is to follow exactly what a
>publisher may have printed in a book. It doesn't mean that's how the
>language is. I'm sure many people will agree that the students who have the
>most native-like skills are usually those that have frequent contact with a
>large number of various and diverse deaf people (houseparents, dormitory
>advisors, camp counselors are a few that come to mind) Standardization is not
>the issue, more diversification is.

I agree with you, Betti. What you say is so true...

By the way, we are not telling anyone how to sign, just because we are trying to write signs.

Let me share a story with all of you. Back in the early 1990's, we had three Deaf native signers working with us...two of whom were from "many generations Deaf" families. I have the highest respect for their knowledge of their native language, and they all knew SignWriting well. It was during the summer, and I rented a lap top computer, and asked the three of them to share the computer for the summer, adding written ASL signs into our SignWriter Computer Program dictionary. The work they did became the dictionary that we are, at this time, distributing...but of course it is very limited...only 3100 signs ...we could easily have 50,000 if we had funding and time...but for now that is what we have. make a long story short (if that is possible :-), when I looked at the dictionary at the end of the summer, I saw that there were several different "spellings" or ways to write each sign. One Deaf person wrote a sign one way, and another Deaf person chose to write the same sign another way. And all of these different "spellings" were readable :-)

So what did I do? I chose to publish the dictionary exactly as it was...with several "spellings" of each sign. I figure we can all discuss the differences later, and not dictate to each other how to "spell signs" right now. We need some time to digest all the possibilities that are before us :-)

And the same is true for writing grammar. When we publish "Cinderella in ASL", we are writing one Deaf person's way of signing the story. We are not saying that is the only way to tell the story, nor are we saying that is the only way to write the grammar - we are simply recording one Deaf author's perspective. As more and more people learn to read SignWriting, I am sure they will want to write the story their way, with their signs and their grammar, and I personally think that is great!

All the best -



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