Over 2000 Spanish signs from Madrid were
typed into the SignWriter Computer
Program's Spanish Sign Language
Dictionary in 1996 by Steve and Dianne Parkhurst, two hearing
American linguists, working with the Summer Institute of Linguistics
(SIL). The Summer Institute is connected with the Wycliffe Bible
Translators. Steve and Dianne were first participants in the
Summer Insistute's Mexican Sign Language Project in 1994.
Dianne and Steve decided to move to Madrid, Spain, in 1995 to
record the Spanish Sign Language. The Parkhursts informed Valerie
Sutton, SignWriting's inventor, that Spanish Sign Language had
some handshapes that were not yet incorporated into the SignWriter
Computer Program. So...Valerie worked to add the necessary handshapes
to the software, which took two months. The result was SignWriter,
version 4.3, completed in August, 1995, which supported the changes
needed to record Spanish Sign Language and Portuguese Sign Language.
Steve & Dianne Parkhurst
Around August 1995, a Spanish linguist, Irma Maria Muños
Baell, in Alicante, Spain, decided to use SignWriting to record Spanish Sign Language
handshapes, as a part of her thesis at the University of Alicante.
Since 1995, Irma Maria has worked closely with the DAC, giving
advice on new handshapes and translating SignWriting manuals
into Spanish and Spanish Sign Language. For more information
Irma Maria Muños Baell
Spanish Sign Language Project Update
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
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
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
Irma Maria Muños
in Spain Directory...