On 9/18/13 11:31 AM, Valerie Sutton wrote:
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September 18, 2013

Dear SignWriting List Members:
I have been asked to answer these 10 questions.
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Many thanks for your input!  Val ;-)

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1. Some people say "why do they not use English".. How different is a sign language from a spoken language?

The fundamental similarity between a spoken language and a sign language is seen in the brain.  Both types of language activate the same language centers of the brain.  Wernicke's area for language comprehension and Broca's area for language production.
http://www.livescience.com/10628-brain-spots-handle-sign-language-speaking.html

Learning a sign language from birth is natural.  The visual cortex is built and connected for language.  If spoken language is not used, the auditory cortex will not develop for language processing.

Learning a spoken language from birth is natural.  The auditory cortex is built and connected for language.  If only spoken language is used, then the visual cortex will not develop for language processing. Later in life, trying to learn a sign language with an underdeveloped visual cortex is very difficult.  Instead of directly processing language, the information enters the eye, passes to the brain, then the ear, and back to the brain.  The early stages of learning a sign language results in a unique type of brain fatigue.  It takes time and effort to developing the processing power of the visual cortex and the associated connections with the language centers of the brain.


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2. How do you explain what it means when a language cannot be written
Writing a language helps standardize and spread that language.   It slows the rate of change and deepens the conversations possible between people and generations.

A language that cannot be written may have unique benefits, but the benefits of reading and writing are many and valuable.


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3. SignWriting is a script. How many languages are written in SignWriting?
At least 2 dozen sign languages has serious writing efforts with SignWriting.  There are over 70 recognized sign languages.  Each can be written with SignWriting.

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4. Can you recognise what sign language it is from a written text?
A human reader could read and recognize any sign language that they know.  If the target language isn't know, they would not be able to read for comprehension, but they might be able to read the movements just as a reader an unknown spoken language could sound out a word but might not be able to figure out its meaning or proper pronunciation.

A computer that was processing written sign language would not be able to determine the target language without comparison to a language aware database for similar signs.  The best way to identify language content is with a language code attached to a text segment.


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6. The use of SignWriting is growing rapidly. How do you know about how it develops?
The standardization efforts of the ISWA 2010 symbol set and the Formal SignWriting character encoding have been very profitable.

The information is out there and available.  People are taking it and running with it.  There are no gatekeepers. 

The SignWriting List is a great place to discuss SignWriting.  Interesting things are happening on Wikimedia's Incubator.  Many projects and developments happen offline so some information is not available.  New research and ideas are popping up all the time, just keep checking the internet search engines.

For example, a paper recently appeared online.  " CMSY9 May the Force be with you: Force-Aligned SignWriting for Automatic Subunit Annotation of Corpora"
http://www-i6.informatik.rwth-aachen.de/publications/download/852/FKoller-FG-2013.pdf


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7. Can SignWriting be used on mobile phones or is there an app for that?
Mobile phone usage is a target to be ready for the symposium.  Reading is possible.  Writing is not available yet.  The apps are in development.


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9. How hard would it be to have the pupils at these schools write two articles a month ... How many Wikipedias could be started that way?
This would be difficult with the current technology.  The technology will either be ready for the symposium in 2014, or this will be the main issues for the hackathon portion of the Symposium.

Once this last hurdle is crossed, we can start Wikipedias for any of the 70+ sign languages of the world.


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10. Why is Wikipedia strategically important for getting more people to know about SignWriting?
Wikipedia is a known brand dedicated to encouraging the growth, development and distribution of free, educational content.  The wiki-based project is provided to the public free of charge. This culture is important for SignWriting's future.


-Steve