SignWriting List
September 22, 2013

Hello James!
Great to see your answer here on the SignWriting List. People may not realize that SignWriting is used in Nicaragua since around 1995? Or perhaps earlier? … and it is mostly because of the hard work done by you and Dr. Judy Shepard-Kegl, in your schools in Bluefields and Condega, Nicaragua, and through your organization, the Nicaraguan Sign Language Projects: 

Nicaraguan Sign Language Projects

There are also other web sites with information, for example:

SignWriting in Nicaragua

and ….

SignPuddle for Nicaragua

Thank you for all the hard work, and the great answer below - You explained it so well, that SignWriting can be as simplified or as detailed as you need, depending on the situation…

A lot of people don't realize that SignWriting is written by hand a lot - it is not dependent on computers -

Val ;-)


On Sep 18, 2013, at 6:27 PM, James Shepard-Kegl <[log in to unmask]> wrote:


SW can be used both for linguistic transcription and to express ideas in writing.

To express ideas, one might argue that you do not need to capture every aspect of the sign -- just enough to communicate effectively with your readers.

For linguistic analysis, you will want to write every detail that you see: hand shape and movement, body shifting, eye gazing, head tilting.

With practice, you can accomplish this quite effectively with SW.  I also prefer to videotape the signer and then write the signs by watching the videotape.  However, we also work in the field and often cannot videotape the signer.  I can capture the sign in SW even in that situation -- but you have to be good at it.

For purposes of discussing your data, I think SW is better than showing videos (not easy to do) or even showing a series of video frames.

Go to, and look at the "Introduction" to the ISN Handbook.  You can download this in the Projects description section.  We present a discussion of grammar and syntax in both Spanish and English.  For example sentences, we show both video frames and the complete sentence in SW.  You may decide for yourself which is more effective.

-- James


---- Erika <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Hello! I'm a linguistic anthropologist and I used sw to transcribe interactions in Nepali Sign Language for my research. This was largely transcribing from video I recorded in the field, not so much for taking field notes. But I think it could be very useful in that regard if you become a skilled writer.

Sent from my iPhone

On Sep 18, 2013, at 8:47 PM, "Gustavo Godoy" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:


Hy! I'm Gustavo Godoy from Brazil, student of Anthropology/Ethnology. I am planning to study the Ka'apor Indians Sign Language, in "Pre-Amazonia" forest.

Anybody discuss the use of SW for writing fieldnotes? (And not for make a system of writing).

Sorry for the bad English!

____gustavo godoy___
"as frágeis flores da diferença precisam da penumbra para subsistir" (CLS)


Val ;-)

Valerie Sutton
SignWriting List moderator
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