Thank you for your in-depth response, Stephen. I will look through the software and figure out the technical side once I make time for it. It may be a while as left-brained things are a challenge for me. :) 

To address your comments:

"The Block Printing that you consider too rough is a result of years and decades of real world use and Val's design interacting.  The symbols of block printing are full of featural information that helps people understand the individual symbols within the 2-dimensional arrangement."

There's no doubt that the current printing is the result of years of work and testing. I appreciate that. What bugs me a bit is the implication of "We spent x numbers of years on this and everyone should use it anyway." It took thousands of years for current written spoken language alphabets to develop. We are nothing in comparison. 

One of my issues with the current Signwriting symbols is that there is no room for a font. There are some symbols that look too much like each other, and others that depend on an exact shape for it to have meaning. (I wish I could have seen today's presentation on the font but I had a conflicting appointment.) 

For an example of what I mean, please see the attached 2 images of ASLwrite fonts. (The third image is of rosemaling, a technique that was once used to hide written Norwegian, here used to hide ASLwrite words in plain sight.) Those examples prove that ASLwrite marks can be presented in different ways yet their basic structure is still understood. This flexibility is *crucial* for everyday use. This is why design principles and patterns drive the structure of ASLwrite. (For a little more information on that visit )

Remember that this is only presented as an example -- I trust that the Signwriting community knows what is best for Signwriting. :)


"The Block Printing of SignWriting is Universal for all sign languages because of this design."

The global organization of Signwriting is great -- and I do appreciate that people from different corners of the Earth are figuring out ways to go forward with it. However, things do get lost in the shuffle once a great idea goes on the mega scale.

One example of that is the Symposium. The presentations are a good idea but it feels like academics talking with academics or programmers speaking with programmers. Where would everyday people like me come in? Are we even a part of the intended audience? It's impossible to be universal when everyone has separate, specific needs.

The problem with academia is that it's supposed to be a microcosm of the "real world." Sure, people can teach written SL in the classroom but without a hook to people's daily lives it becomes meaningless past one teacher's own motivations. If you can't get the person on the signing community street to buy in to it, then why would academia be interested for the long-term? They only recently finally started supporting sign languages as true languages -- and well, the signing community knew it long before they did. 

Who are the core people we need to convince in order to get written sign languages accepted? 

In my mind, the best way for getting written SL accepted is to treat it from a business perspective. The customer is #1 in business. I should know what the customer is looking for and take down as many barriers as possible between the customer's wallet and my products. With ASLwrite I must know what the ASL customer is looking for and what their obstacles to learning written ASL are. This little niche is already one huge challenge.

Usually businesses first set up a model and then when the working systems are profitable, it gets franchised. If a certain written SL isn't working right in the USA, then how can it go global -- or conversely a global written SL then work in the USA? If there was no original successful model, then the same problems that came up before will continue to come up again over time. Furthermore, what are the conditions that define a written SL's success? If we don't know this information, then how can it be measured over time?

My strong feeling is that each sign language has its own unique needs and its own approach. It would be unfair to expect all sign languages to conform to one standard print, because what's best for Chinese Sign Language may not be best for ASL. We need to trust that citizens of a sign language know what is best for their language, even if it means variations on the standard.

There are also cultural factors to take in consideration beyond the written characters. Certain things come into play with group dynamics, and yes, we need to be thinking of things like audism and linguicism. There is no doubt that those things impact the progress of written SL.

To be direct, and I'm sharing my personal feelings here -- I feel that it's unfair that I, a native speaker of ASL, log in to Signwriting's presentations only to see spoken voice as the main means of access to information. How can I trust that Signwriting has the best interests of SL at heart when the barrier to entry is so high, and when it echoes the very oppression of spoken language that written SL is supposed to overcome? That is just my feeling - I do recognize that Adam has led efforts to include ASL/SL interpretation but he's only one man where there should be a system in place supporting his efforts.

Valerie has addressed the issue of access in one of her previous emails, and I have no doubt that there are good intentions behind what Signwriting is doing. Unfortunately, as I will explore further below, there are certain signals that the ASL Deaf community looks for. The ASLwrite community has run into those things as well, so it's not only relevant to Signwriting. If the goal is to get the community to buy in to Signwriting then the underlying processes that drive the current structure need to be examined (not necessarily right here in this group).

Back to your comments, Stephen:

"Here I disagree.  SignWriting is the only complete solution.  The writing is grammatically correct with vertical columns and lanes..."

That's where you and I diverge again. The formula you use to determine Signwriting as the "complete solution" is not the same formula I use to determine it as lacking. I wouldn't expect you to use my formula, nor should I expect citizens of other countries and cultures to use my formula as well. It's dangerous to assume that one way is the best way for everyone, especially while not knowing other methods.

Signwriting shouldn't be the end as your assertion seems to reflect, but the beginning -- along with ASLwrite and other methods. They all share the same "blood" of ASL. My goal from the start was always to have a written ASL, even if it means losing my "pet method" along the way. We will come together at some point for written ASL to happen.

Again, my gratitude for the work done in the last 40 years and continuing today. I also appreciate very much what this group is sharing right now. Thank you for writing.


Adrean Clark

Author and Artist



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