SignWriting List
September 8, 2013

Hello Stefan and everyone -

Thank you for this message, Stefan. And we all agree it is wonderful to discuss the differences in translations. There will always be differences…

Years ago, when I started writing signs at the University of Copenhagen in 1974, I wrote by watching videos because there was no other way I could watch the signs and gestures that they asked me to write. So SignWriting started by watching videos and transcribing those videos into SignWriting documents.

But that is no longer our focus here, in our organization (the Center for Sutton Movement Writing and the Deaf Action Committee for SignWriting - the DAC). Our organization does not represent the entire US however…we are just one group writing ASL in the US… there are several groups of ASL writers now in the US - it is important for everyone to understand that my organization does not represent the US… we are just one of several groups writing ASL...

Let me try to answer you between your sentences below…see below...

On Sep 8, 2013, at 2:41 AM, Stefan Wöhrmann <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Hi Valerie, Nancy, Adam, Maria, Guido and friends of the sw-list ;-)) ,
> I love to discuss this kind of documents. SignWriting is such a wonderdull tool to discuss different aspects of any given SL performance on a solid 

The word "performance" in English seems like you are talking about actual signing, but sometimes, when we write directly in ASL, not based on viewing any video or any person, but thinking in ASL in our heads, and then writing directly, we are not seeing anyone sign it, but we are writing our thinking - so the old way of writing from video is a different experience than writing what you are thinking in ASL…I cannot do this because I am not skilled in ASL, but I know that other writers here think in ASL and write directly in ASL...

> This is a typical example. Somebody tries to translate a given concept (idea, phrase, sentence) to ASL ( or DGS...whatsoever..)
> Now different competent signers may offer their  w r i t t e n   answer to this problem.
> What can be seen again and again ... there is not the one and only possible translation.

Yes…exactly…and a lot depends on the method of translating…is one writing what someone else says? or is one writing what you yourself think? ;-))

> Even if the sequence of signs may be the same there are still lots of possibilities to make individual (perhaps meaningfull) differences ... In this case the facial expressions…

Yes, I can imagine there could always be more facial expressions added if you want to write Deaf storytelling, like in Cherie Wren's Cat in the Hat ( - that has a lot of facial expressions - but that was because Cherie was telling a story - it was not the cold translation of one sentence - and then the ASL culture doesn't necessarily want to write mouthing, as we have discussed before -

This does not mean that we are not totally amazed and impressed with the writing of German Sign Language and also the writing of the mouthing and SpeechWriting that you have developed, Stefan. You are a genius to develop this teaching tool and we are grateful for your work. We are just not teachers of Deaf children, in the same way that you are on a daily basis - we are writing the ASL language without attempting to teach anything - other than to provide the world with written ASL literature for those who already know ASL and want to read directly in their own language...

Meanwhile, as Nancy explained, the topic marker of the eyebrows up, is an ASL grammar marker and necessary to be written and that was written -

> The good point is that we can discuss our “examples” in detail. We can learn from each other. We can look at the documents as long as we want to (compared to video ... ;-)
> We can easily rewrite or change the document if we wish to.

Yes. That has already happened thanks to your discussion! But we have no video and I do not think it should be written from video. That would be like asking a United Nations translator to transcribe the sounds of Russian from an audio tape, rather than writing the standardized spellings of written Russian when listening to the audio tape -

There are really two ways to transcribe video in SignWriting - one based on writing movement…writing what you see as an observer - but now we have a second way of transcribing video - things are changing here - that second way is based on the idea that we have enough standardized spellings that we do not have to write what we see on the video, but instead use the video as a reminder as to what is being said, and then use standardized spellings to write what was said in ASL on the video, and not worry about writing body movement and personal styles of signing -

This new way of doing video transcription is happening right now in Michigan, by a separate group…Ron Dettloff's Deaf Church in Michigan has two ASL writers who are looking at ASL videos that are a translation of Bible passages, and then writing those videos in SignWriting - but they are not writing every movement and facial expression - instead they are writing a simpler version for each sign that cuts down on the detail -

This is not a perfect solution - and I am not saying there is not room for lots of feedback and training because there is - but I think it is exciting to see how video transcription has its differences as well as translators' differences - they are two totally different mediums but very interesting -

> Looking at your document Nancy – I have a question. (Same question goes to Adam  ;-)) )
>  I tried to rewrite your sentence with the US- SignPuddle Dictionary. I do not get the same signs this way. Does this mean that you write this kind of document from scratch with SignText?

OK. I believe you may not realize that we have two ASL Dictionaries? The unedited ASL Dictionary is a mess and is completely without editing…anyone can write signs there and there are lots of doubles and no funding to help us create a clean dictionary… (I hope this will become a project for the future) and the second ASL Dictionary was developed by Nancy Romero for her Bible translations…Only Nancy and a handful of others can add signs to the ASL Bible Dictionary and Nancy has edited the dictionary so it is the best we have (thank you, Nancy - we are grateful for your dictionary!).

Anyone can view, copy and use the translate feature in either ASL Dictionary… see attached diagram…I assume that Nancy used the ASL Bible Dictionary when translating …you can try it too, Stefan -

See attached…

Meanwhile there are people like me who write directly in SignText without using the Translate feature at all -

Have a blessed day, everyone - and Maria - I surely hope you send all these discussions and translations to the scholar documenting SignWriting as a written form for languages - it is a true writing system used on a daily basis by brilliant people -

Val ;-)

Valerie Sutton
SignWriting List moderator
[log in to unmask]

Post Messages to the SignWriting List:
[log in to unmask]

SignWriting List Archives & Home Page

Join, Leave or Change How You Receive SW List Messages