SignWriting List
August 21, 2013

Hello everyone -
I agree, Erika, these are fascinating responses. Thank you, André, for sharing such interesting thoughts.

I actually too wanted to mention similar points. I am a hearing person who signs conversationally using ASL signs blended with English, so I am only speaking for myself in this message…

When I have long conversations in my "blend of ASL signs and English", if I have signed long enough in one day…I start thinking in sign language to a certain degree. It is a wonderful experience - 

"thinking in sign language" for me is thinking the way I think while I am really signing to others…but without actually signing…my mind is going through the motions in my head, without my body actually doing it - that is what I mean when I say I am "thinking in sign language"… and that is "Expressive" I believe.

 I am not looking at someone else signing. No one else is the signer. I am the signer, and I am feeling the feeling of using my hands, body, face and head to communicate…but I am not actually doing the motions - I am thinking them - and that is Expressive -

Most writers are used to reading their own expressive writing in SignWriting. But sitting down and reading a 500-page-book,  written in a sign language in SignWriting, by someone else, is not a common experience yet, because there has not been enough reading materials and printed books for people to read until now…

When we read those kinds of books in English or other spoken languages, we are hearing our own voice saying those words on the page, even though someone else actually wrote the words…so reading I suspect is Expressive even in spoken language -

This topic is interesting to researchers because sign languages have a visual component that spoken languages do not. To be able to switch between Expressive and Receptive in a spoken language would be amazingly hard - how would you know the difference?

But in SignWriting we can switch around and that brings up so many questions - I personally think Expressive is the best for reading materials and is better for most situations - Video transcription is not as common now as before - we are writing books more and more directly in sign languages without any transcription -

Val ;-)


On Aug 21, 2013, at 9:30 AM, André L <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Hello Erika,
I wrote to you previously about being left handed...
For your new questions.
I am a beginner with signwritting.
Reading a sign is an effort of decoding what it means.  I still have to thingk about direction arrows.
I feel no effort to swap hands sides when I read...
I need to sign what I read to understand it and to memorize.
It helps me to ensure I do not confuse vertical and horizontal hands.
It helps me to figure out how hands relate to one another.  Where is the point of contact between them.
For me signing is very physical, I need to move, not only read.
Since I did not study during the summer, my only contact with sign language is through signwritting.
This tends to make me become more right handed than before.  So reading and writing often affect signing, at least for a hearing person that studies sign language since 3 years non professionnaly and sign wirtting since less than 6 months.
However, when I write what I see on a video, then there is a big effort to swap hands sides, particularly when hands are at 45 degrees.
To copy a sign a see on a video, the first effort is to swap it from receptive to expressive.  I often do this by signing with my hands.  Then, to write is less an effort, its like stamping what I see.  To flatten it.
I do not read sign writting texts, I use it like a dictionary or flash cards.
Something amusing, sometimes in my imagination (for a split second)  I overlap the written version to the video.  This is the opposite of projecting my hand on the paper.  Its like putting a chineese shadow on what I see.
Yesterday in a taxi I saw plenty of "turn left" and "turn right" signs on the highway.  Since it is such an effort for me to write the arrows correctly I had an emotional respons to these arrows.  They felt like sign writting.
Odd things occurs in a beginner minds...
I often dreamt signing to other people.  that is clearly from an expressive perspective.  I saw myself waist up including the head and the back of my hands, just like sign writting.  In real life, I only see arms and hands.
André Lemyre

Date: Wed, 21 Aug 2013 09:54:19 -0400
From: [log in to unmask]
Subject: one more receptive/expressive question
To: [log in to unmask]

Hi again! Thanks to all who responded to my earlier question - such helpful responses! I'll be sure to keep you all updated about the paper. 
I noticed something in your replies that made me think of an additional question: most of you talked about the process of writing and how expressive/receptive affects that process. Do any of you have any thoughts on how the choice affects reading? For example, when you read something written expressively, do you think that it makes you experience the writing differently? Are you more likely to sign it "out loud" (physically perform the signs in whole or in part while signing)? To notice spelling or writing choices that would differ from your own? Does putting yourself in the writer's shoes make you relate to them more?

Erika Hoffmann-Dilloway
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Oberlin College