SignWriting in Brazil, 1996-1997
...early reports posted on the SignWritingSite...

In October, 1996, Antonio Carlos da Rocha Costa, a professor at the Pontificia Universidade Catolica do Rio Grande Do Sul, Instituto de Informatica (PUCRS), in Porto Alegre, Brazil, started using the SignWriter Computer Program to record Brazilian Sign Language with his students. Here is a description of the Brazilian project in Antonio's own words...

October 2, 1996
Computer Eduction At The University

"We're mainly in the area of Computer Science, not in Linguistics, aiming to develop computer applications oriented to signed languages and Deaf culture. We base our work mainly on the linguistic research by Dr. Lucinda Ferreira-Britto, from Rio de Janeiro, which is the main researcher working on Brazilian Sign Language. At the moment, the Linguistics Department at PUCRS has the only graduate course here which is open to research on signed languages I've worked in the areas of Artificial Intelligence and Theoretical Computer work for years. Recently I approached the area of "Computers in Education".

Our project concerns what I call "Sign Language Processing", that is, the application and adaptation of Artificial Intelligence techniques of "natural language processing" to signed languages. The aim is to define a computational, internal, symbolic representation for signed languages able to allow computer programs to do their usual work on language representations: analysis, translation, interpretation, etc. We've started working on the representation of hand configurations. We're trying to solve now the problem of representing internal hand movements. I've looked at SignWriting precisely because of that problem. It also happens that SignWriting may solve another problem we have, namely, defining an external, graphical representation for signs which is compatible with our internal representation."

November 19, 1996
Computer MultiMedia Instruction In SignWriting

"Our animated SignWriting icons are quite amazing. We are developing a simple program to map between photos/drawings of handshapes (standard brazilian sign handshapes, letters and numbers), their standard names, their SignWriting representation, and a simple coding I devised to give internal representations for handshapes, to allow their manipulation in programs. The user should be able to do any of the following: to choose a picture by browsing through the picture set, to type the standard name of the handshape, to choose a SignWriting handshape by browsing through the set of SignWriting representations, to give directly the internal handshape coding, or to assemble the handshape from pre-defined palm and finger shapes, and then the program should show the corresponding remaining items, using a simple association betweem them. Allowing the assembly of handshapes from pre-defined palm and finger shapes seems to be an interesting device to aid sign learning."

December 12, 1996
SignWriting In School For Deaf Children

"We have contact with two main schools for deaf children in our state, Rio Grande do Sul, one in Porto Alegre, which is the Escola Especial Concordia, the other in Caxias do Sul, a city two hours distance from Porto Alegre.

Recently my Deaf student Marianne Stumpf, who is a teacher in the Deaf K-12 school Escola Especial Concordia, told me that the school director authorized her to prepare the plans for a regular class on SignWriting, to be taught to 6th and 7th grade students, starting in 1997. Marianne is very happy. She likes SignWriting very much. She will also use the SignWriter computer program in the classes."

January 26, 1997
Children's Story Written In Brazilian Sign Language

"We have translated to sign language, and have edited it with the help of the SignWriter program, a little book written by a brazilian Deaf author. The book is entitled A Little Girl Called Kauana and is directed to little Deaf children, showing them Signed Portuguese, not Brazilian Sign Language. Marianne translated the book from Signed Portugues to Brazilian Sign Language, and we replaced figurative drawings with signs in SignWriting. The result is amazing. We'll finish the revision process next week.

Marianne will use the book in her classes. If the organization that printed the book (FENEIS - National Federation for the Education and Integrations of Deafs) allows us, we will distribute it to other schools.

We plan to translate the Lessons in SignWriting textbook to Portuguese and produce examples in the Brazilian Sign Language during 1997, so Marianne can use it in her classes. We've already translated chapter 3.

On March 15, 1997, we will organize a workshop for the Deaf people from our city and our state, to show SignWriting and the SignWriter program. If everything goes OK, we'll be able to put the meeting on the Internet.

The folder advertising the meeting is written in sign language. It was finished in December, and shown to many Deaf people. You certainly can imagine the impact it caused. They simply loved it. The meeting promises to be very fruitful.

Best wishes - Antonio Carlos"



Antônio Carlos da Rocha Costa
Escola de Informática,
Universidade Católica de Pelotas
R. Félix da Cunha, 412
96010-000 Pelotas, RS, Brasil
fax: (0532) 25-3105




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