Hello Valerie, hello Fernando and friends of the sw-list,...

after a looooong ride with the bus I returned with lots and lots of very interesting impressions from a visit to school in Poland.


To share the most important experience first – ha – Woehrmann’s speechwriting  as Valerie calls my invention to standardize movements of articulation even if performed without any sound –(like the German do very often within their SL-performance, besides mouth-gestic and mimic) works pretty good for polish spoken language as well. – big smile –


Second: My deaf students showed such a tremendous pride in the task to compare German Sign Language to Polish Sign Language and thanks to Valerie and her incredible ingenious invention these folks sat together at the table and wrote, and wrote and wrote one sign after the next and the polish deaf students have had no problem ( ha – of course not – to identify the first couple of “pictograms” as I call SignWriting-graphics as long as the reader does not know the meaning of the single symbols ... The newcomer just remembers the whole “graphic” as a meaningful representation of a sign: forest, Poland, speech, quiet, Germany, colour, ...


You cannot imagine – or well , if you have seen this yourself a couple of time  your know what I am talking about.


The two schools of Germany and Poland are participants in a Comenius exchange program all over Europe. Our idea is to get informed about each other,  our culture, language, history, background, living conditions .... school system ...


Well I sat down and thanks to my colleague M. Riemann who is a very skilled expert if it come down to write GebaerdenSchrift by hand I practiced a lot to achieve a higher level in handwriting myself- smile.


Now in Poland  we got the task to write a given story for children in Signwriting.  There are not that many signs in the Polish dictionary so far so my colleague at that school and me spent some hours to get a first draft of the signed Polish version. At this school in Poland they are very much interested to support deaf children to use SL as a tool to support Spoken Language acquisition. I could not believe that the symbolset for speechwriting in Gebaerdenschrift is aleady well established to describe polish mouth movements pretty sharp. The teacher in Poland showed so much interest and motivation and asked me almost always to add the whole (!!!) number of speechwriting-symbols in order to describe the information coming from the mouth as detailed as possible. - ;-)


It will be a  challenge – dear Fernando – to give it a try whether the system I developed so far would be sufficient as well to describe the information coming from the mouth of a signer in Brazil.


Know what – I can understand your feelings of enthusiasm. We psychologists get kind of idea about the doors we will be able to open to our deaf students if we can offer additional tools that allow them to associate spoken language with their easy to learn Sign language fundament.


It took me very long – many years to improve this Speechwriting system – and the graphics and symbols you refer to are “history”  - big smile. Today  we use a very nice and easy to understand symbol set that is not any more a mixture of hand and facial expression symbols.


You may contact me privately so that we can discuss what kind of materials I will be able to offer to you. You can be sure that it will be my pleasure to support you and to share my knowledge in this field.


The whole matter is a little bit complicated since we have to understand that there are two completely different symbol – sets and ideas.


Mundbildschrift is the notation system invented by me to document that a given symbol – and only this  one(!)  is to be associated with a given sound of speech. This system is a wonderful, wonderful very powerful tool to support deaf students to learn to articulate any (!!!!!) given language – not just German (!) if the sounds of the language in question have been defined. You can compare this Mundbildschrift  “Woehrmann´s Speechwriting” to the IPA  = One symbol – one sound – and very easy to read even for very young children at age  3 or 4 years (!!!!)


The other system is what the deaf student is confronted with all the time: The guessing-game called “lip reading”   not every symbol has just one option in the spoken language system. This notation system is not to be confused with “Woehrmann´s Speechwriting”  ... I call it Mundbilder in GebaerdenSchrift.


Well – what a long message – smile . I should stop and wait for your answer.


All the best





















Wow, Valerie!!!


Your message gave me goosebumps!

Thank you so very much for calling my attention to Stefan Woehrmann's amazingly important work! 

I felt that sort of thrill running up and down my spinal cord that signals when I am before something of true importance!

Woehrmann's strategy of using Sutton's SignWriting to write speech... SpeechWriting... is just brilliant!

Gosh, you guys are awesome! That is precisely what I needed! Wow!

Over the last 20 years my crew and I have documented the cheremic structure and the morphemic structures of the Libras lexicon, and over the last 12 years we have benefited from SignWriting as a way of writing down those parameters. Over the last 8 years my crew and I have documented visemis structure of Portuguese (specially in its correspondence to phonemic and graphemic structures). We have also created a number of instruments and documented the parameters of language development of deaf population. During all that time we had been dreaming of reconciling and articulating the efforts of two fronts in order to overcome the apparent schizophrenic state of affairs in deaf education:

Lately, on one hand we had been studying Cued Speech and Visual phonics and their benefits for literacy acquisition. On the other hand, we had been planning the systematic study of the benefits of SignWriting for metalinguistic development and literacy acquisition. Now, your message simply makes the perfect match between those extremes, fills the gap, restores the cycle of sanity and progress.


Valerie: Ientered the page you send me. I saw beautiful Irina's picture, and it just warmed my heart. She was pointing at the SpeechWriting unit and was emiting the corresponding lalemic unit. So the correspondence viseme-SpeechWriting was there, beautifully illustrated. (Oh, if we just had the table of visemes-grapheme-SpeechWriting units with the corresponding symbol transcription in the International Phonetic Alphabet!!!.) Then, below, there was a series of six pictures of that handsome blond boy illustrating 6 visemes-grapheme-SpeechWriting units. Great! That is precisely the sort of correspondences we need! (But we need the whole table of visemes-grapheme-SpeechWriting units with the corresponding symbol transcription in the International Phonetic Alphabet!!!) Then, by clicking below:

http://www.gebaerdenschrift.de/read/Mundbilder/uebersicht_mundbilder.htm#Übersicht Mundbilder

it appears a wonderful table (and he did that back in 2002!) from A to Eu, along with pictures of visemes! (Oh, Gosh! The only thing mising is the International Phonetic Alphabet transcription! Just that to make it perfect!)

by clicking


we watch the baby crying for his mother: "where is my mother"

great! amazing!

Beautiful work!

Could it be possible to complete that incredible page by adding the International Phonetic Alphabet transcription?

In the new expanded edition of the Novo Deit-Libras I have written a large chapter describing a new paradigm for lexical research in Sign languages, as well as a 100 page chapter describing a new paradigm for speech-written-signed language research in which I included a section on SignWriting as a tremendous resource (where I provide references of books, theses, and site), as well a section on Cued Speech and Visual Phonics (where I provide references of books, theses, and site). Now I do want to include a section on SpeechWriting, and I need more sources of references to cite. I need to provide references to books, theses, chapters, articles, as well as the site. Therefore I would like to ask  Stefan Woehrmann and Valerie if they have papers, chapters, publications I could cite in our dictionary in order to help people know of SpeechWriting. I would also like to ask Stefan and Valerie and other colleagues who know the International Phonetic Alphabet as well as German whether they could provide the International Phonetic Alphabet transcription of each viseme depicted in those pictures in pages such as:

http://www.gebaerdenschrift.de/read/Mundbilder/mundbilder_a_bis_z01.htm#Jo spricht B

that is, we need at least from spricht A to spricht EU.

The new edition off our NOVO DEIT-LIBRAS is to go to print in 3 weeks, and it would be so good if I could include as much information as possble on SpeechWriting. That is why I need references to be able to list and divulge. It would also be of the utmost importance to have the SpeechWriting units corresponding to the IPA units, at least in German and English (should there be one).  People do have to know more about it. And we, here in Brazil, have to adapt SpeechWriting to write down the Portuguese visemes, so as to be able to use it as a way of writing down Brazilian-Portuguese speech and also implementing Cued Speech and Visual Phonics in a much improved way.


Som what we can do now to help kids is to (with due credits to you, guys, inventors of SpeechWriting) use your SpeechWriting to write down the orofacial patterns of Portuguese! Would you please tell me whether Stefan Woehrmann has mapped the visemes of the spoken German? Does he have a table of correspondences among visemes, graphemes, SpeechWriting units, International Phonetic Alphabet transcriptions?

Stefan Woehrmann: are you there? Can you please send us the table of correspondences among visemes, graphemes, SpeechWriting units, International Phonetic Alphabet transcriptions? Along with papers you have written that we may cite in our papers and chapters and books?

We now need terribly a table of correspondences among visemes, graphemes, SpeechWriting units, International Phonetic Alphabet transcriptions based on the International Phonetic Alphabet, so that we might write down each and every spoken language conceivable. It would be of the utmost importance if the inventors of the SpeechWriting system could lay down all SpeechWriting units linked to the International Phonetic Alphabet.

That would allow us to speechwrite each and every language.

The first step would be for Stefan to add the International Phonetic Alphabet transcription of the visemes illustrated in his pictures, so as to allow the speechwriting of German.

Stefan, could you please provide the table of SpeechWriting units for the visemes of German along with IPA transcriptions?

(The first step would be to add the International Phonetic Alphabet transcription beside each picture.)


Sorry for the enthusiasm. It is invluntary. The culprit is this funny pink cloud that seems not to go away. What an enduring great feeling! I am experiencing a state of grace! Inspiration feels just great! Thank you for that! (I feel 30 years younger and 90 pounds lighter! -hah!)





2011/2/12 Valerie Sutton <[log in to unmask]>

SignWriting List

February 12, 2011


Hello Fernando and everyone!


Thank you for this message...


On Feb 10, 2011, at 9:45 PM, fernando capovilla wrote:


Thank you for your kind message, and for posting the news.


It was fun to see the TV program from Brazil ;-)



I will try to explain briefly what I meant:

Over the last 20 years we have made strong efforts to establish research & development programs for creating valid and standardized batteries for assessing of a wide range of language competences. After examining more than 10,000 deaf students for more than 25 hours each, we have mapped parameters of development of competences such as alphabetical reading & spelling, speechreading skill and vocabulary, sign comprehension and expression, cheremic awareness, morphemic awareness, working memory, etc.


What a huge undertaking! ... 


We have used those instruments and parameters to compare the effects of a number of variables such as school placement, language used as vehicle for teaching, literacy acquisition methods and materials, etc. We have discovered the best time schedule for literacy acquisition and articulation between special education and mainstreaming, and we are working on public policies of education based on that scientific evidence.


Changing public policies, I bet, must be very hard indeed... This is such important work for Deaf education...


We have covered a wide range of subjects and fields, ranging all the way from the transparent to the profound. In order to help deaf kids learn Portuguese we have used all strategies conceivable, including taking advantage of the degree of transparency in the orofacial-graphemic correspondences in spoken and written Portuguese for helping cochlear-implanted deaf kids, all the way to taking advantage of the deep morphemic structure correspondences between Libras and Portuguese for helping congenital deaf kid read and spell. We have come across beautifully significant effects that have been quite encouraging.


Very impressive, Fernando - just setting up the project must be a huge job, as well as then collecting all the data and so forth -


May I mention another way to reach Deaf kids who need to learn spoken languages?... Stefan Woehrmann at the Osnabruck School for the Deaf in Osnabruck, Germany, is a teacher of Deaf children, many of whom have cochlear implants... Stefan has helped Deaf students learn to speak, read and write better spoken language using his own creative development...in German it is called Mundbildschrift, and in English we call it Woehrmann's SpeechWriting, where the symbols for mouth movements in SignWriting, have been expanded to write spoken German...so an entire spoken language sentence can be written in SpeechWriting, showing the Deaf student how the mouth moves when pronouncing words, in a standardized way...and it works! Stefan's students are not only reading and understanding the German spoken language better than other Deaf students who do not have this tool, but their actual speech is improving as well... I think Stefan's work is really a new contribution to Deaf education, that many teachers do not realize is there yet...









I realize that SpeechWriting for spoken Portuguese may not be practical in Brazil right now, but nonetheless, writing the way the mouth moves while speaking can also have benefit for Deaf education, so I wanted to share that working theory with you - it could be developed specifically for the Portuguese spoken language if you ever know of someone who is interested working on that project...


Also, we have documented thousands of fascinating phenomena, such as cheremic paralexias and cheremic paragrafias similar to those first described originally by Klina & Bellugi's The signs of language; and Poizner, Klima & Bellugi's What the hands reveal about the brain. Now we are finally getting close to the point we started dreaming of back in 1998, when we first found out about SignWriting while struggling with HamNoSys and Stokoe Notation System.




I feel very honored to work with you, and that SignWriting is useful...


We are finally getting close to be able to start addressing the questions pertaining the analysis and mapping the effects of SW upon cognition and language. We first had to set a number of parameters straight so as to know precisely where we are. We have made encouraging progress in that regard. We still have to finish the treatise, the compendium, the new sign-retrieval system based on cheremes, and the 6 remaining volumes of the encyclopedia first, though. Yet, we are confident we will manage to succeed in including a research lprogram devoted to assessing the effects of a SW instruction program by 2012. We will keep on working. Thank you very much for your kind enduring support. We have learned a lot from you. Best warm wishes,



I am sooo happy to know about your plans to test the use of SignWriting with Deaf students by 2012...THANK YOU for your hard work you have already done, teaching your Deaf staff SignWriting, and writing so many signs in the books you have already published....Just looking at all the signs is almost overwhelming, there are so many written already...I am quite impressed with the sheer number of written signs you have - your Deaf staff has been busy!


I will continue to teach how I edit signs on this SW List, not only based on your beautiful book, Novo Diet-Libras, but also based on other projects. I will continue to post these lessons on this List, and when time permits (grin), I will also post the instruction on the web, so everyone can refer to the lessons anytime...so maybe by 2012 you will have more materials to work with for your research on SignWriting...


Meanwhile, remember to look at this area on the web from time to time:


SignWriting Lessons

http://www.SignWriting.org/lessons -


and thanks once again, Fernando!


Val ;-)




2011/2/11 Valerie Sutton <[log in to unmask]>

SignWriting List

February 10, 2011


Please watch this video:



Professor Fernando Capovilla is in the second half of the TV program...so wait through the beginning, and in the second segment you will meet Fernando, telling the world about the Novo-Deit Libras Dictionary...and although my understanding of Portuguese is minimal (smile ;-) I noticed that SignWriting is mentioned when Fernando opens the dictionary and points to the SignWriting - it looked very nice!


An enjoyable program - Val ;-)


PS. I am interested in your research project you mention below, Fernando...thank you for a systematic study of SignWriting - I had better get back to my lessons and provide you all with good materials....we have some new textbooks to share...




On Feb 8, 2011, at 8:49 PM, fernando capovilla wrote:

Dear Valerie,

We are working on your great lessons. Thank you very much.

The 2nd part (2min 26 sec) of this video below talks about our Dic and SignWriting (4min). It was aired in national public television.

I am coordinating a research project that is to include systematic study of SW.

We keep on studying. Thank you very much for your kind generous help.

Thank you very much. Best warm regards,



Fernando C. Capovilla, PhD
Professor Associado
Instituto de Psicologia, USP
Coord Lab Neuropsicolinguística Cognitiva Experimental, IP-Usp
Av. Prof. Mello de Morais 1721
São Paulo, SP, 05508-030

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veja nossos novos livros em: http://lanceusp.hdfree.com.br/livros.html

assista à entrevista concedida à TV Cultura sobre dislexia: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wL8DLAGG-Pg





Val ;-)

Valerie Sutton
SignWriting List moderator
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Fernando C. Capovilla, PhD
Professor Associado, Instituto de Psicologia, USP
Coord Lab Neuropsicolinguística Cognitiva Experimental, IP-Usp
Av. Prof. Mello de Morais 1721, São Paulo, SP, 05508-030

email: [log in to unmask]

Veja nossos novos livros (sobre linguagem oral, escrita e de sinais), e baixe alguns, de: http://lanceusp.hdfree.com.br/livros.html

Baixe artigos (sobre linguagem oral, escrita e de sinais) de: http://lanceusp.hdfree.com.br/artigos.html

Baixe capítulos (sobre linguagem oral, escrita e de sinais) de: http://lanceusp.hdfree.com.br/capitulos.html

Assista à entrevista concedida à TV Cultura sobre dislexia: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wL8DLAGG-Pg

Veja citação no Wikipedia pelo trabalho com escrita de sinais de Libras em SignWriting: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SignWriting