February 18, 1998
MESSAGE TO THE SIGNWRITING EMAIL LIST
SUBJECT: Help In Research
From: "Karlin, Ben" <KARLIB@mail.dmh.state.mo.us>
To: SignWriting <DAC@SignWriting.org>
Subject: RE: Help in Research
Date: Wed, 18 Feb 1998 11:23:00 -0600
Cecilia, this is not as unresearched a topic as you may think!
There is a wonderful book entitled "The Alphabet Effect"
which chronicles the impact of having an alphabet on world culture.
(James Burke from PBS does a similar thing in a book based on
a TV series "The Day the World Changed" which focuses
on Gutenberg's press popularizing books and their impact.) I
do not have a citation for it any longer but it gives a short
history of alphabets (from iconic glyphs to abstract symbols)
then on to a discussion of the value of the alphabet as a linear
system for organizing, cataloguing, indexing etc. This has had
a tremendous impact on how we organize things cognitively.
ASL poetry shows similar linguistic impact by its structured
use of hand shapes and/or movements, progressions of hand shapes
in number stories and ABC stories, etc. I would suggest that
the work of Stokoe, Casterline et al in identifying the primary
parameters of ASL marked the start of the process that will naturally
end in some sort of writing system which allows indexing and
You may want to check out the New Zealand Dictionary of Sign
which recently was published on CD-ROM that uses HamNoSys for
notation (and indexing). I think (just read a post that men's
brains shrink as we age; the memory part of mine is nearly gone)
Alexandre Bonucci was working on an online dictionary of LSF
(lingue des signes francais) catalogued by HamNoSys.
As long as I've got the floor, the reason I've thrown in with
SignWriting instead of HamNoSys is that I find it more user friendly,
more accessible (just my opinion) and that HamNoSys seems to
be building its user base among academics rather than in Deaf
communities. HamNoSys seems technically more precise to me, but
it may turn out that the SignWriting:HamNoSys relationship is
similar to the Latin Alphabet:IPA Phonetic Symbols relationship.
Staff Interpreter for the Deaf,
St Louis Psychiatric Rehabilitation Center H007B,
5300 W Arsenal St, St Louis, MO 63139-1494
314 644-8270 V/TTY
314 644-8115 FAX