SignWriting List
May 5, 2010

Hello Maria and everyone -
Please excuse my tardiness in replying to this message - See my answers below...

On Apr 21, 2010, MARIA AZZOPARDI wrote:
> Can I just ask two small questions? Did you consider asking a Deaf person
> to write directly level 3 and level 4?

Sure. I guess it doesn't matter whether they be Deaf or hearing...anyone skilled at writing advanced documents, without transcribing from video, but writing directly from their knowledge of the sign language being written, could write Levels 3 and 4 directly without video...

But let me describe the reasons as to why we have chosen to transcribe from Deaf storytelling videos for Levels 3 and 4...

First, I am not Deaf nor am I that skilled in any sign language, so the only way I personally could write good ASL is to transcribe it from video...and with limited funds and no Deaf staff at the time, I went ahead and transcribed Darline's wonderful storytelling videos...

Second, we are all very new to writing our sign languages, and there are a lot of grammar points that native signers, or very skilled signers, do not think of, when they are writing directly, but when they see themselves on video, they realize that they did this or that...and had not thought of writing that, since they didn't even realize they signed that this is the real reason why I based the advanced documents on videotapes of Deaf storytelling, because it was the only way, with a brand new writing system, to realize what we needed to was our stage in our historic development that really influenced that decision...

Third, basing a big document on a video is helpful for other reasons...Editors can refer back to the video to check the work, and if the video is signed well, then there is no criticism on the quality of the ASL or grammar least the issue as to whether we are writing good ASL (or not) goes away, because we can point to the video to say that the signer chose to sign it that way, and we are just transcribing what they said...then the editors just need to edit the actual SignWriting, and not the grammar, and this process helped me personally, because I was able to ask Kelly Jo Boal, for example, to transcribe Darline's storytelling of Snow White, and it was easy enough, because I could give Kelly Jo Boal the video and then the job was just to write what you see, without making linguistic decisions...

But having said all this, there is a new development on that front...

Nancy Romero, a hearing interpreter in ASL, and a very skilled signwriter, recently started to translate Bible sections into ASL and has been writing them directly in ASL without any video as a basis...So Nancy is doing just what you suggest with your question, Maria, because she is writing directly in three lanes, in Level 4, in a very simple style of writing. She is not writing all the detail that we do when we write video it is a very different process...but I like Nancy's simple style of writing, and with the Deaf ASL editor, Lucinda O'Grady Batch, I feel they have created good books.

Recently Nancy completed the written translation of the entire book of Romans, in ASL. It is in the ASL Bible Puddle. And of course, the Gospel According to John:

Book of Romans in ASL

Gospel According to John

> As I'm going through the Library on the website, from the material the
> following differences emerge. There is signwriting that is:
> 1. written directly into sign language (by native/ non-native)
> 2. transcribed from video
> 3. translated directly into sign language
> 4. interpreted and then transribed into sign language

This is true! I think all processes have value and I am glad to see such variety...

> The processes involved in writing and transcribing are different. Writing
> is a cognitive process where you have time to think about the language you
> are using and re-edit, etc. Just like writing literature in spoken
> language. A written book is very different to a story that would be
> transcribed from someone saying a story there and then.

That is very true. I hope more signwriters will become that skilled, to be able to write directly at advanced levels, without forgetting important grammar is just a matter of time I believe...

> My second question is: I can see there is literature that is written
> horizontally and vertically. What's the history of this, and it seems like
> there are certain countries (Brazil and France) that still write
> horizontally - what's your opinion about this?

Smile ;-))

When my Deaf co-workers Lucinda O'Grady Batch and Meriam Ina Schroeder requested, in a meeting, in 1984, that we start writing in the Expressive in Vertical Columns, believe me, it was a shock and took us years to change all our software and textbooks and it was the best thing we ever did! They were absolutely correct. It just took a long time to change the software to write vertically.

When SignWriting began, in 1974, it was Receptive in Horizontal Left-to-Right style, because in 1974, I based the invention on watching videos of Deaf people signing Danish Sign Language, and the Receptive mode was easiest when transcribing from videos...this was at the University of Copenhagen in 1974-1975.

But by 1984, we had hired 10 Deaf native signers of ASL, in California, my homeland, to write the SignWriter Newspaper articles in was an historic research project because the SignWriter Newspaper required that the Deaf reporters write all their articles in ASL...Most articles were written with full stick figures, receptive, from left to right, but over time, from 1981 to 1984, the Deaf reporters realized that they preferred to write vertically and expressively and without stick figures, and so that historic SignWriter Newspaper project really gave us outstanding data - that is - experience for Deaf people to tell us what they needed...

So I am grateful to the Deaf Community for requesting these historic changes...You can read about some of this on the web, plus, i would strongly suggest watching the SignWriting History videos, which we call "Deaf Perspectives on SignWriting"...

SignWriting History

Evolution of Writing Styles

Deaf Perspectives Video: How SignWriting Changed

On the above video, Lucinda explains how we changed from receptive to expressive and from horizontal to vertical...

So you will see old documents written hortizontally because they are old, and also because the old software, SignWriter DOS, which is excellent software, sadly can only write from left to right, so that is the reason i do not use SignWriter DOS, because it does not write vertically in lanes, like SignPuddle does...

Hope this has helped -

Val ;-)


> thanks again,
> maria
>> SignWriting List
>> April 20, 2010
>> Hello Maria!
>> Thank you for this message, and as Adam has confirmed, your message made
> it to the List...
>> Regarding the four SignWriting Levels of Goldilocks...I am also coming
> out
>> with four SignWriting Levels for Snow White in ASL as well. Snow White
> Level One is now a published book, although not posted on the web yet...
>> I developed the four SignWriting reading levels for the SignWriting
> Literacy Project in 1998 -
>> SW1 - SignWriting Level 1: WorkBook and Coloring Book for Beginners
> Individual signs that are used in later levels are presented on pages
> with
>> illustrations and some pages in the workbook ask beginners to write rows
> of one sign...repeating the handwriting of one sign at a time...I do not
> mean only symbols in rows, but actually writing a complete sign, like
> the
>> sign for SNOW, many times in a vertical row, to give the student
> practice.
>> So they learn vocabulary that will be used in later levels, and they can
> color the illustrations that are used in later levels. Although Level 1
> is
>> obviously geared for children because it is a coloring book, actually
> the
>> workbook exercises are useful for all beginners, no what their ages...
>> SW2 - SignWriting Level 2: Basic Storybook
>> This is a shortened version of the story, not based on any video, but
> written directly in SignWriting, in short sentences, with fairly simple
> signs, and the sentences usually are written with only a Center Lane, to
> give readers their first experience in reading full sentences. There are
> no more than 2 vertical columns of writing per page. The sign language
> sentences are then translated into simple spoken language. Both
> languages
>> are written with large type for beginning readers. All signs in the
> sign-sentences can be looked up in a little dictionary in the back of
> the
>> Level 2 book, for reference. Darline wrote her stories directly in ASL
> for
>> this purpose. Writing directly in sign language, doing no translation
> from
>> any spoken language, and not basing it on any video, is the best way to
> get simple writing of a shortened version of the story.
>> SW3 - SignWriting Level 3: Intermediate Storybook
>> This is a video transcription of ASL storytelling, with medium size
> SignWriting symbols, medium size spoken language translation, and
> colorful
>> illustrations. The SignWriting sentences have full facial expressions,
> role shifting, all three Lanes are used to show the grammar of the
> language. Writing storytelling from ASL video provides an advanced
> story,
>> but at the intermediate level there are no more than three vertical
> columns on one page and there is a spoken language translation on each
> page.
>> SW4 - SignWriting Level 4: Advanced Storybook
>> The same video transcription used in Level 3 is now reduced to smaller
> size SignWriting symbols, with at least 4 vertical columns to a page,
> and
>> NO spoken language translation. It is pure sign language reading
> material,
>> with fewer illustrations.
>> As the sizes of the SignWriting symbols reduce, the reader starts to
> read
>> for meaning, rather than trying to figure out SignWriting symbols and
> spellings...Whole signs are recognized for meaning quickly, without
> analysis.
>> To start developing these levels, you need to find an excellent
>> storyteller in sign language, and videotape the story. From there, break
> down the story into important vocabulary that the signer used in that
> videotape, and from there you can start Level 1....Then ask the same
> storyteller, to sit down and write the story themselves in SignWriting
> directly without looking at any video, and ask them to write the simple
> story using some of the same vocabulary...Then a skilled video
>> transcriptionist transcribes the storytelling video, and the full
> transcription is used for Levels 3 and 4. You can reduce the size of
> type
>> in SignPuddle using ColumnMaker, or drag and drop the sentences into
> programs that do auto reduction. That is how we developed the four
> SignWriting reading levels -
>> Hope this helps!!
>> Val ;-)
>> Valerie Sutton
>> [log in to unmask]
>> -----------
>> On Apr 20, 2010, at 2:19 PM, MARIA AZZOPARDI wrote:
>>> Dear Valerie,
>>> I was wondering if you could explain to me how you worked on the different
>>> levels for Goldilocks? It's very interesting. I can see that level 2
> was
>>> written directly by Darline. What technique was used for the other levels?
>>> I would love to write something for four levels of LSM signwriting,
> perhaps using the same format, would this be possible?
>>> Thanks
>>> maria
>>> ps: could you confirm that this email got to the signwriting list also?
> i've never received any confirmations and i've sent perhaps two or
> three
>>> emails since we moved to new server