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SW-L  June 2011

SW-L June 2011

Subject:

Re: Wikipedia article

From:

Adam Frost <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

SignWriting List: Read and Write Sign Languages

Date:

Thu, 2 Jun 2011 10:06:03 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (37 lines)

I understand what you are saying, but I personally think that having a literal translation would do more harm than good. The reason is that most people who do not know Sign Language (or even well for that matter) will not even be able to understand a literally transcribed document written in SignWriting. However, someone who does know Sign Language would most likely be able to understand at some basic level what is written. Having a literal translation will actually be seen as an insult, especially to native users, and will make SignWriting seem to be an oppressors tool to limit how Sign Language is used. 

Your comment about the line "to fetch a pail of water" not having pail, fetch or water does have some merit. The part that is not really even mentioned is that the pail has water in it. That happens a lot when translating documents rather than interpreting it; information sometimes seems to be lost. That's why the phrase "lost in translation" is so valid. It could also be argued that the names aren't even mentioned. ;-) 

The problem with the comment is that pail is in the translation. It is described as a classifier, a very common use in ASL, which most new signers will miss even when it is being signed in person. "To fetch" is also included, but implied in the rhetoric question "FOR-FOR" as in "Why did Jack and Jill go up the hill? For the pail." 

I believe that using Jack and Jill is a good balance because it is not as deep in meaning that the message will easily be lost, but it is not so literal that people will feel it is looking down on Sign Language. You did admit that you could read some of it even though you could read all of it. That is quite normal for most people when they first see SignWriting and give it an attempt. Honestly, would you have attempted to read it if it was a long document?

Adam

On Jun 2, 2011, at 8:12 AM, George Veronis wrote:

> I very recently started on sign language just out of interest and curiosity.  In the process of learning I discovered that signwriting exists so I looked it up in Wikipedia.
> 
> I don't know who wrote the Wikipedia article about signwriting but I do have a suggested change.  Since that article may be the first one for people who are interested in learning about signwriting , I believe that it is essential that the first demonstration should be very clear and free of ambiguity or confusion.  Cherie Wren's version of Jack and Jill is not the way to introduce the topic.  The introduction should contain a very literal transliteration of signing.  That would give a person an idea of what it is about and how to go about it.  In Cherie's poem the second line, "to fetch a pail of water", doesn't contain the words: pail, fetch or water.  I spent quite a lot of time trying to figure out what was in that line and failed.  Cherie Wren eventually wrote to me explaining that it is a poetic version of the verse and not meant to be a transliteration of the original.  But my feeling is that many people would have given up by that time and simply ended up being confused about the effectiveness of signwriting.
> 
> Mind you, I have no objection to Cherie's version, but I think that it is something that can be accessed later, when the reader might be interested in more cultural issues.  What is needed in the introduction is something clearer and unambiguous.  By analogy I would say that it would be have been a mistake to have Robert Frost try to instruct first graders to read by reciting one of his poems.
> 
> Sincerely,
> George Veronis
> 
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> Regards,
> George
> 

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