from article published
in SIGNMatters, June 2005
Bencie Woll is the Chair of Sign Language & Deaf
Studies in the Department of Language and Communication
Science at City University London. She used SignWriting
in a research project with Lorna Allsop a few years
ago. This is what she has to say about it.
Allsop and I were doing a project on International
Sign (IS). The existing transcription systems are
designed to represent the phonologies of sign languages,
but International Sign is not a full
language, so it is impossible to
make decisions about whether (for example) two handshapes
contrast with each other, since there are no people
who are native signers of IS. SignWriting was useful
because there are no assumptions about the underlying
structure of the signing.
I arranged for Lorna Allsop, who was working with
me on the International Sign Project, to travel to
San Diego to be instructed by Valerie Sutton herself.
When Lorna came back, she trained me. I think she
spent a week there. I also made use of the training
manual to teach myself.
Dr. Bencie Woll
have always been interested in the idea of writing
sign language for several reasons. It would
benefit learners if they could write signs instead
of just trying to remember them. Writing is
a way for deaf people who don't have access
to technology (for example, in the developing
world) to be able to record their signing and
communicate at a distance with other signers.
Being able to read and write a language enhances
and changes the way one uses one's language
in face-to-face communication.
In order to take off in the UK, I think it would
need the support of the Deaf community, teachers
and parents of deaf children."
paper about the writing of international
signs using SignWriting was published
the Fourth European Congress on
Sign Language Research that was
held in September 1994 in Munich:
Lorna Allsop, Bencie Woll, Jon
Martin Brauti: International sign:
the creation of an international
deaf community and sign language
Sign Language Research 1994
Proceedings of the European Congress
on Sign Language Research Munich 1994,
Signs Project 1993-1994
Message from Valerie Sutton about the project...
Bencie Woll and others at the Centre For Deaf Studies
at the University of Bristol, England used the SignWriter
Computer Program for several years for different
projects. One project in 1993 involved typing large
amounts of sign language from videotapes. One of the
Deaf people working on the project was Jon Martin
Brauti from Norway. Jon typed pages of "international"
signs into documents on the computer. Jon sent our
Deaf Action Committee some of his files in December,
1993. He has done stunning work - it is really beautiful!
And members of our Deaf Action Committee could read
much of what he typed. It is very gratifying for us
to see SignWriter being used so well!
Since that time, Dr. Woll moved to City University,
and in August, 2005 to University College London.
For more information about projects using Sign Writing
in the UK, please contact:
Woll, BA, MA, PhD
Chair of Sign Language & Deaf Studies,
Department of Human Communication Science,
University College London
Chandler House, 2 Wakefield Street,
London WC1N 1PF, England, UK
Voice: +44 (0)20 7679 4200
Fax: +44 (0) 207 713 0861