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

They are entirely different languages (as many previous answers have
noted). Literacy in a sign language does not preclude also being or
becoming literate in the dominant local spoken language. However, literacy
in the language in which one is most comfortable and competent (for many
people, a sign language) allows for greater ease of expression, the
creation and preservation of different kinds of literature, etc  - and
facilitates the acquisition of literacy in other languages. Thus, people
who are invested in ensuring that d/Deaf signers gain literacy skills in a
spoken language can more likely achieve that goal by encouraging rather
than discouraging the development of literacy in signed language. However,
sign language literacy is not only a means to that end - it is highly
valuable in its own right and, among other things, can encourage social
institutions to more consistently recognize the validity of language in the
signed modality.

2. How do you explain what it means when a language cannot be written

Many languages do not have written form. In and of itself this is not an
inherent problem - much research has shown that such languages can develop
sophisticated types of literature without a written medium. However, the
impact of having an un-written language needs to be understood in
socio-political and historical context. Currently, in many cases a language
cannot be employed in important social institutions or gain appropriate
social recognition when it does not have a written form. There are commonly
many widely circulating social ideologies concerning the effect of literacy
on societies and individuals  - while many of these beliefs are poorly
founded, they are nevertheless very powerful and have serious consequences
for people or groups thought to be "illiterate".

3. SignWriting is a script. How many languages are written in SignWriting

According to the terminology often used in the academic study of writing,
SW might more accurately be considered a writing system, which gives rise
to a wide range of scripts when applied to particular sign languages.

4. Can you recognise what sign language it is from a written text
As many have already stated: only if you know that sign language or have
some experience with it. I can recognize many languages - though not all -
written with the Roman alphabet even if I can't understand them.

5. What are the most active sign languages as far as you know
Seems to me that ASL, Libras, and DGS are among the most active (though
this is not an exhaustive list).

6. The use of SignWriting is growing rapidly. How do you know about how it
It develops through its use - as it is employed to write different
languages in new genres. While there is not a central body attempting to
enforce strict standards, Valerie Sutton, the DAC, and the listserv (among
several other entities) create a community that keeps many using the system
in conversation.

7. Can SignWriting be used on mobile phones or is there an app for that
For reading but not yet well for writing, though this seems on the
immediate horizon.

8. Are there many schools where they teach SignWriting

Others have answered this more exhaustively. I'll just note that
classroom in Osnabruck provides an example of the long-term benefits of
daily SW use in an educational context.

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

Rather than focusing on asking pupils in schools to write the articles, it
makes more sense to me to ask adult signers. Deaf children often are not
granted the opportunity to be immersed in d/Deaf signing social networks
until they grow up, making such a task more difficult for them.

10. Why is Wikipedia strategically important for getting more people to
know about SignWriting
As others have said, while SW is not well known outside relatively small
networks, Wikipedia is widely recognized and seen as a site through which
linguistic diversity of online materials can be increased, providing more
people with access to this important resource.

On Wed, Sep 18, 2013 at 10:33 PM, André L <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Thank you, your analysis is very interesting.
> However, considering past history when hearing people have to make
> decision about services for the deaf , I suggest some rephrasing.
> Even if a Deaf person writes a few lines on history, we may not understand
> the Deaf way.   Our hearing filters may lead us to conclude the opposite of
> the intended message.
> I suggest to mention that sign languages have existed sinces hundred of
> years.  Since a few decades, they are becoming officially recognized in
> several countries.  There is no official writting for sign language.
> SignWriting is the natural evolution of the sign languages.  It allows
> teaching, transmission of ideas and development of dictionaries more
> complete and even technical...
> I think is is simpler for us to understand arguments like: wikipedia will
> support the development of existing deaf culture and language at an
> international level...
> André Lemyre
> > Date: Wed, 18 Sep 2013 10:15:21 -0700
> > From: [log in to unmask]
> > Subject: Re: 10 Questions - Can you help answer them?
> > To: [log in to unmask]
> >
> > I only answered a few questions below. :-)
> >
> > > 1. Some people say "why do they not use English".. How different is a
> sign language from a spoken language
> >
> > Sign languages are very different from spoken languages just as spoken
> languages are different from each other on all linguistic levels. Obviously
> the word level is different because someone who does not know sign
> languages at all cannot usually understand more than a sign or two if they
> are lucky. The sentence and discourse level are also very different because
> sign language make use of space, and therefore can place objects and
> subjects with more precise relations that prepositions usually can in
> spoken language. (And this isn't not limited to physical aspects, but
> abstract as well.) This also doesn't even take into account that sign
> language have their own way of saying things, including their own idiomatic
> phrases.
> >
> > While it is true that many sign language users can usually read English,
> the same is true for many other language users as well. However, just
> because one can read and even write in English does not mean that one can
> do so with proficiency and easy as can be achieved with the native
> language. The same is true for sign language users. All too often native
> sign language users will either ask a more native English speaker to
> explain what a text says or just ignore the information altogether as
> inaccessible. If the text were in their native sign language, this would
> not be the case.
> >
> > > 4. Can you recognise what sign language it is from a written text
> >
> > I can only because I have had a lot of experiences with various sign
> languages both written and in person. If a person had no experience, they
> would not be able to do so. The same is true for spoken languages as well,
> but seems to be less frequent only because people are exposed quite a bit
> to written text in other language more so than they ever have before.
> >
> > > 8. Are there many schools where they teach SignWriting
> >
> > This is almost an impossible question to ask because there are many
> teachers who will decide to do it on their own and with various levels of
> use depending on how much they feel is needed and how much they can get
> away without the administration telling them to "stop wasting their time"
> since people don't always see sign languages as their own legitimate
> languages. Most people would be surprised to know that I use SignWriting in
> my ASL classes. In fact, I have made it a large part of my classes this
> year. This isn't because I don't want people to know. It is because
> everyone involved (except for me) thinks this is how everyone else does it,
> so they don't tell other people about it.
> >
> > That is assuming on the individual classroom level. But if you are
> asking on an entire school level with administration backing, my guess
> would be very few. The main reason is because most school administrations
> are not run by users of sign languages, and most view instruction in sign
> languages as a waste of time. So if they aren't using sign languages, why
> would they even begin to think about SignWriting!
> >
> > > 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
> >
> > I can only say for my classes because I honestly don't know of many
> other that are teaching SignWriting to where students would develop enough
> skills to even begin writing an article. Because I am teach American Sign
> Language to beginners, the thought of writing an article in ASL would be
> too high of an expectation for them, even if it were a class project for
> one whole semester. If I were teaching more advance students, it might be
> more plausible, but it would also depend on how much skill they have
> writing with SignWriting.
> >
> > > 10. Why is Wikipedia strategically important for getting more people
> to know about SignWriting
> >
> > Personally, I think one of the big reasons is that Wikipedia is a
> website that is very well know by other people, and it isn't associated as
> being something for SignWriting. Basically, people know what Wikipedia is.
> If they were to see that sign languages were written within Wikipedia, they
> would more readily understand what SignWriting truly is, a written form for
> sign languages. This would apply to both users and nonusers of sign
> languages.
> >
> > Adam
> >

Erika Hoffmann-Dilloway
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Oberlin College