History of SignWriting

Chapter 2: SignWriting
Early Years in Denmark
1974 - 1978



In 1974, Lars von der Lieth, and his research team at the University of Copenhagen, needed a way to record signs and gestures. They asked Sutton to record the movements from videotape. This was the beginning of SignWriting.

Of course, SignWriting did not look the same then. Now, in 2007, SignWriting has been tested and used by groups of people. The system improved through years of changes. But back in 1974, SignWriting was basically DanceWriting from the waist up, with a few differences.

Below are some of the highlights of that time period...


Fall, 1974
SignWriting First Invented In Denmark

Developed for research use at the University of Copenhagen by Valerie Sutton, at the request of researcher Lars von der Lieth, Jan Enggaard, and others on the research team, at the Audiologopædisk Forskningsgruppe at the University of Copenhagen.


Fall, 1975
Examples of Notation of a South Pacific Sign Language

This booklet recorded mime-like gestures and home signs of a lone Deaf man, based on research by Rolf Kuschel. It included pictures with SignWriting illustrations. No longer in print.

Fall, 1976
Examples of Notation of Danish Deaf Sign Language

This booklet showed Sutton's first attempts at recording Danish Sign Language in 1974, 1975 and 1976. It is no longer in print.

As you can see by the example below, a stick figure drawing, with shoulders, arms and hands recorded movement from left to right on the page, position by position. The sentence below says "It is father."




Spring, 1978
Hørende Danskeres Gestus-Repertoire
(Hearing Danes' Gesture-Repertoire)
by Jan Enggaard. This published research used SignWriting to record hearing person's gestures. The research was conducted at the Audiologopædisk Forskningsgruppe, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
History of SignWriting


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Questions? Write to:
Sutton@SignWriting.org