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
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...
> 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.