Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Desire for ASL Writing

This is a collection of quotes from internet postings. These show interest in having a written form of ASL or sign languages in general.

I've been thinking of a writing system with the Roman alphabet, numbers, and English punctuation to avoid the problem with technology you talked about. Comment by Elliot Holland on 2017-01-27

As a sign language student, ASLwrite has been very useful in jotting down new signs I find without having to write down a whole description or, even worse, attempt to draw them; also when preparing presentations for class, an ASLwrite script is much better than a simple gloss. Comment by Miguel Pérez on 2017-01-25

I'm excited to discuss SIGNotation or how to put down on paper all the components/features of ASL! Shelly Hansen on her ASL Interpreter@S.Hansen vlog 2016-09-20

A lot of my Deaf friends love to play with signs, modify them visually to make them funny or dirty. They’re usually really fast, they exist in the moment and then they’re gone, and I never remember them. You sorta had to be there. :) Emily Hart answer on Quora.com 2016-08-22

ASLSJ transcription of ASL comment in video: Bepzi-ijbb lbi-m bno-dhs bbni-m bbi-m, 's fnnms-sy bbrsxu-oyh. Lnoots-sr lbi-m bnno-mz bnd-d 's ASL cbii-aajsny xnd-d bbi-m h'lno-z ono-sjnn jbxcudtd-ry. Xnd-dy yno-o.

I hadn't seen a writing system growing up, but I had always felt that there should be a way to write what we sign. Interview on 2016-07-09 with Jason Nesmith

I hope that one day, I’ll live to see a culturally Deaf person bring true JSL writing to the Deaf. A blog post on 2016-03-27 by Ken, a speaker of Jamaican Sign Language

ASLSJ transcription of ASL comment in video: Qemii-uyh jblbus-tdy bbu-dz jbjbbrs-ts jbbjlbrsts-ulo snii-aajcbkk cbs-rjon anddts-ffhrs sni-ajcbk jbsnud-tdz beud-td, OR anddts-ffhrs snii-ojcbyh cepoo-srz cbpoo-rs jbxcudtd-ry bedd-td beudtd-sy.

ASLized is proud to announce a new keyboard app called, "Signily". With Signily, you can fully compose messages in American Sign Language. This is an app that you can use with friends and family today. Signily keyboard app announcement on ASLised! 2015-07-26

ASLSJ transcription of ASL comment in video: ASLized abdm-u lbpi-mz lnrs-sr beuutd-s Keyboard App nnrs-tdy Signily. 'r Lns-o, 100% ASL sndd-dd 's xcio-aajlb zyr qeio-to zyr fno-rz fnuu-ts 'r lnud-tsyh ynuu-ddy.

To announce the effort, the fast-food chain released a silent video featuring a surprise makeover of a typical Burger King with all of the signs, including the Burger King sign out front, redrawn using ASL alphabet hand shapes instead of letters. Burger King released video on 2016-04-13 and Consumerist's summary of the campaign

Does anyone have a conlang that also has a signed form to go with it or does anyone have a completely signed conlang? Question by sverdavbjorn on r/conlangs 2015-03-09

I would love to see more work done in making a written form of Sign Language. Comment by Nulpoints on a Reddit discussion 2015-03-26

Hahaha, sorry! You have to click the RomaSign link for an explanation. It's a way to write ASL without English glosses or new symbols. I was just trying out the system a little (and I've actually made a few corrections in my wording since your reply). Pwoho itwom oguhai. ("Sorry I weird.") AllDeaf.com comment by Cliff Jones on 2014-12-27

The advantages that reading and writing could offer will exist only if the linguistic code used is naturally accessible – that is, a writing system of Sign Language. Paper by Federal University of Parana, "Sign Language Writing Acquisition – Technology for a Writing System", 2014 by Cayley Guimarães, Jeferson F. Guardezi, Sueli Fernandes

In this web clip you can find out all about the young girl who became the first child to be given a sign name - legally recorded on her birth certificate as UbOtDDstarL (Hazel UbOtDDstarL Holly Eileen Garfield-Lichy). The name is signed in the video at time 1:18, and the linguist's explanation of the spelling is at time 3:20. U means place the hand close to the chin; bO means "baby-O" handshape with thumb touching first finger and other fingers closed to palm; tD means hands facing the signer; Dstar means the hand stays in place and the fingers spread open; and L means the new handshape is the "L" handshape with the first finger and thumb straight, forming an L, and other fingers closed to palm. BSL Zone article 2014-10-30 and Daily Mail UK summary

ASLSJ transcription for UbOtDDstarL: Xcpifs-mjle

However, Deaf children should no longer be expected to access academic learning using the oral language. Rather they need to have access to a writing system in/for Sign Language. Research paper by Cayley Guimaràes, Jeferson F. Guardezi, and Sueli Fernandes posted by Jeferson Fernando Guardezi on 2014-04-25

My thoughts as i have them in ASL written in ASL for others to read and sign in ASL. this negates the need for a transition to english then back to ASL. community discussion by Hoichi on 2014-01-03

We reasoned that some of sign language’s features could, however, be reflected in its transposition to a written form. Paper by Mara Vendrame, Iaria Cutica, and Monica Bucciarelli presented at the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, 2013

During this exciting time, while other forms of writing ASL are growing in popularity, and their digital options are being explored, this project attempts to provide simple, alternative system that is computer-friendly. Symbol Font for ASL as viewed on 2013-05-01

Perhaps the new forms of ASL writing that have been and are being developed (i.e. si5s) can free ASL from these shackles... The more recent si5s shows great promise with its potential for use in daily writing. Comment in a thesis written by Tyrone Giordano in 2013

Besides, a writing system would make the language more anonymous. That is, when I read a book, I can imagine how the words are pronounced, while when someone tells me a story, the story can be more or less interesting depending on the story teller. blog entry on 2012-10-31

What if the US Government officially recognized American Sign Language, and implemented ASL in essential road and information signs across the country? ASLWrite blog posting by Adrean Clark on 2012-09-04

But for *myself*, I sure would like to be able to write myself notes about what I learn in my ASL class, make flashcards, etc. group discussion 2012-03-28 by Arthaey Angosii

Writing your signed name, taking quick notes in the course of Sign Language, preparing lists of signs without the need to translate into French ... all this becomes possible thanks to the SMYLE. It is a very visual writing easy to learn.Signographie Manuscrite Y ael LE - Méthode d'écriture de la Langue des Signes (Method of Sign Language Writing) circa 2012 (English translation by Google Translate. Original text: Ecrire votre nom-signé, prendre des notes rapides en cours de Langue des Signes, préparer des listes de signes sans besoin de traduire en français… tout cela devient possible grâce à la SMYLE. C’est une écriture très visuelle facile à apprendre.)

Because ASL is not in the order of English (nor ASL can be easily expressed in a linear auditory language) , I think it can be very useful for those who just want to put their thoughts on paper without translating it all the time. In fact, I think it can help them understand English better when they see ASL on paper explaining English to them. they can take it home and study and memorize. Anonymous comment on a blog entry 2011-06-23

There is nothing wrong with using ASL as a language, except for the fact that there is no written form. Anonymous comment to a Cued Speech video 2011-04-19

ASL does not stand on its own as an independent language. It is chained to English. That is a problem. If I want to record something quickly, I must translate my thoughts into English. This happens almost all the time. We do have technology for videos and the like, but it is not practical. Take for an example, this map behind me. It is an excellent visual map of the United States, but the labels are in English. ASL needs to be represented. vlog 2011-03-19 by User:ZadreanaleneZ

I have always had a desire to put my ASL in writing, just like English has their written form. Blog post comment on 2011-03-01 by Jules Dameron

Do keep in mind that knowing signed ASL doesn't mean you will instantly be able to write and read written ASL. Comment on Robert Arnold's website about the si5s writing system, early 2011

- Sucks that natural signers have to convert their grammar to write in english- i bet it is a pain.
- That said, I would embrace a written form of ASL if someone was able to get around these problematic areas. Responses to questions 2010-05 through 2010-10

But can signs have a written representation? Yes, they can, and I believe they should. vlog 2010-08-05 by User:DrDonGCSUS

A discussion about the importance of ASL information. vlog 2010-01-23 by User:deafchipmunk

For the past half-year, I've been trying to develop a writing system for American Sign Language based on the Roman alphabet... mainly because Sign Writing's mode is quasi-pictorial and thus incompatible with most people's communication software. Beer Parlour suggestion 2009-08-20 by anonymous

What sort of doesn't make sense to me is that, therefore, sign doesn't have an accompanying orthography. blog 2009-06-07 by User:sami

My greatest frustration growing up was trying to take my thoughts, which were in sign, and having to write them in English. Sign Puddle post by Adam Frost dated 2009-01-08

To serve the reader who has encountered a sign but does not know its meaning, the English Wiktionary gives each sign entry name as a rough description of postures, holds, and moves of one or two hands. dictionary entries 2008-12-22 by User:Rodasmith

Sometimes when I see a sign I don't know it can be frustrating as you run around asking people and trying to find out what it is. Joan Nash, a doctoral student at Boston University 2008-05-25

This blog (in English, of course) is an opportunity to discuss the need for a written system for American Sign Language (ASL). blog 2008-05-11 by R W Arnold

In English, we can write ‘trick or treat’ on paper, but can it be sign-written in ASL, using a secondary language? ASL Rose Newsletter Oct. 2007

Glosses are quite challenging, but as you know, there is no system of "written ASL". We are therefore in the unfortunate position of relying on written/spoken English to help us identify or "write" ASL signs and sentences. The most important is to not start thinking that the ASL sign is the equivalent in meaning to and English word. ASL Class information possibly from 2007 lectures or prior by Stephan Kennedy

Okay, this has been a minor project tickling at the back of my mind for YEARS... Again, this system that I propose has one overwhelming advantage: it uses ASCII. blog 2007-01-07 by Atasteforideas

I knew deaf people who would use visual puns in ASL but I cant remember any. T2J3 in Chat Log Session 4 with Dr. Vicars 2006?

But then, when thinking it later, I was wondering-what would the written equivalent be. For example, if a Deaf high school or college student is taking a class taught entirely in ASL, voice off, would you take notes at all, and if you did, how would you do it? Signing Time forum post 2006-09-05 by DmMetler

It would benefit learners if they could write signs instead of just trying to remember them. Dr. Bernice Woll quoted in British Sign Language (BSL) on Paper June 2005

What I thought I might do to begin with is work out a "symbolary" for American Sign Language. group discussion 2005-02-18 by Gary Shannon

There is a need to re-present ASL into a graphic writing system that can be used over a wide range of needs within modernity. Graphical Writing System 2005 by Robert N. St. Clair

Though several transcription systems have been attempted in the past (and are still in use today), they're not user-friendly, as they require the user to learn a new orthography which itself is dependent upon external programs or fonts in order to be used. page circa 2005 by Dave Peterson

My interest is partly selfish. If I want to learn a spoken language with a written form, with few exceptions I have vast corpuses of grammatical utterances that I can study at my leisure, letting me not have to do two things at once in real time right away (break down continuous speech into words and figure out how they make up phrases and sentences). I'd like the same capability when I try to learn ASL. www.alldeaf.com 2005-01-02 by User:jejones3141

I know for a fact that I and other deaf people want a writing system that can accurately express what I sign. So when I read it on the paper, I am seeing what I sign and all the grammatical information that my face, body, and hands are conveying. www.alldeaf.com 2004-11-26 by User:sthiessen

How do you feel about ASL having a written form? www.alldeaf.com 2004-11-22 by User:natalie

Without written forms, signed languages do not permit the type of textual record available to speakers of English and other written languages Notation Systems for Reading and Writing Sign Language 2004 by Amy L. McCarty

I think every language should have a writing system, so I made this one up. Travis' ASL orthography, circa 2004?

Signwriting. That system has received very limited acceptance and I believe that's because of it's reliance on a non-ASCII symbology has severely limited it acceptance. blog 2003-07-23 by User:grip

One of the key objectives of theresearch project was therefore to topple the stacks, or in other words to "linearize" BSL Stokoe notation. Ernest Thoutenhoofd about The British Sign Language Variant of Stokoe Notation in Sign Language Studies Vol.3 No.3 Spring 2003

Whenever I start learning a new language, I begin by searching for a good dictionary going both ways (Russian-English, English-Russian, for example). What puzzles me about ASL is that most dictionaries on the market are English-ASL. Various Questions 2002-12-31 from Anna to Bill Vicars

The most desirable aspect is simplicity, in order to give to the sign-talking a flexible tool that may be used in every practical circumstance in which writing may be necessary. JAIME HERNÁNDEZ GUTIÉRREZ circa 2002 about a phonetic script for Columbian Sign Language

Textbooks for teaching ASL are not written in ASL (as a textbook for teaching German, Spanish, Chinese, or Russian would be), but in an expanded method of glossing... The glossing method of "writing" ASL poses two problems. First, ASL students do not have a written reminder of how ASL words are pronounced, one of the advantages of writing (if the language employs an alphabetic writing system)... Second, glossing poses a problem because it encourages the ASL student to form connections between English words and ASL signs. Handbook of undergraduate second language education 2000 by Judith W. Rosenthal

This thesis asserts that signers need a writing system which they may uniformly utilize. In Support of Adopting an ASL Writing System 1995 by Amy Rosenberg

According to Ms. Brigitte Garcia, D'Sign is not a Simple notation of isolated signs, but aims to be a Authentic writing. The author gave examples Of sentences signed entirely transcribed in On the Sign. Translation of a summary of an explaination by Brigitte Garcia in 1995 about Paul Jouison's (1948 - 1991) unfinished work, published in 2013.

The lack of a standard transcription system (a system for writing or transcribing ASL) poses major problems when trying to write a book about ASL. American Sign Language: A Teacher's Resource Text on Grammar and Culture by Charlotte Lee Baker-Shenk, p.1; Gallaudet University Press, 1991

If there were a way, if I could, I would write this book in sign language. Ruth Sidransky's autobiography "In Silence: Growing Up Hearing in a Deaf World" 1990 hardback

The hope is that Deaf people will be able to read and write newsletters, books, letters, lists, papers, plays, or poems in ASL, without having to depend on or refer to their second language, English. Concerning the development of a computerized writing system for ASL, called SignFont, by Marina McIntire, Don Newkirk, Sandra Hutchins, and Howard Poizner, published in Sign Language Studies Fall 1987

The problems confronting the users of sign languages are in many ways similar to those facing users of previously unwritten spoken languages. WRITING SYSTEMS AND PROBLEMS FOR SIGN LANGUAGE NOTATION by Nancy Frishberg PHD circa 1982

This lack of a standard transcription system (a system for writing or transcribing ASL) poses major problems when trying to write a book about ASL. American sign language: a teacher's resource text on grammar and culture, copyright 1980 by Charlotte Baker-Shenk, Dennis Cokely; published 1981 by Gallaudet University Press

This paper summarizes a project to develop a computerized dictionary of American Sign Language. Appendices describe details of thee notation used for sign descriptions, show an example dictionary, and tell how some of the programs are used. David V. Moffat in the ACM SIGLASH Newsletter Volume 13 Issue 1, March 1980

Signed languages were just being recognized as real languages around that time, so for the first time Lieth and other researchers needed a way to record the movements of the languages they were studying. About SignWriting concerning Lars von der Lieth prior to Fall of 1974

Stokoe... set about devising a descriptive system for the language that could be used to demonstrate this point to other linguists and the general public. in Founder of Sign Language Linguistics 2000-05-04 concerning William C. Stokoe, Jr. prior to 1960

Ours is a universal language, but has the great misfortune to be an unwritten language, and so it has to be handed down from one person to another. Proceedings of the Twenty-Seventh Annual Convention of the Michigan State Conference of Charities and Corrections and of the County Agents' Association held at Grand Rapids, December 9, 10 and 11, 1908; comment in Our State Institutions for Juveniles by Prof. P. D. Clarke

Brown divided and coded the x-axis (vertical) into eleven salient planes — five focused on head and neck physiology alone — beginning at a point marked by an extended arm (A, “the Arm’s length above the head”) and ending with a ground plane (G, “l[ying] on the Ground”) Article by Doug Stringham on 2014-10-03 discussing entries of an incomplete dictionary by James Smedley Brown in 1860

There is here presented a Specimen of an efficient medium of communication for the Deaf and Dumb. Preface to Specimens of a dictionary of natural signs for deaf and dumb published by George Hutton in 1855

A lady in Dublin, Ireland, offered a price to teachers of the deaf for a system of mimography.
Letter to the Editor of the Annals of the Deaf, 1898, from J. Fearon about a contest around 1850 in Dublin Ireland

As far back as 1827, and probably earlier, he had conceived and partly elaborated the system of Mimography. Arcticle in the Annals of the Deaf, Jan. 1875, by J. Scott Hutton discussing his father George Hutton's work

Hence even the beginning deaf students could learn in eight or ten days to form their thoughts on paper without having to take the preliminary step of translating into another language. Translated quotation by Auguste Bébian in 1825 about his writing system for French Sign Language as used in his dictionary devised in 1817

Who needs to know sign language?

It is clear that most people learn just enough of anything to get on to the next thing they want done. The Pareto Principal says that 80% of the desired effects come from 20% of the actual work. Most people figure out which work is important toward their goal and brush past at lot of the niceties. This is true of work, languages, cultures, laws, and everything else. The plain truth is that there's a lot more to learn than we have time to learn it.

Deaf people need to know ASL. Who teaches them? Hearing people. Who taught the hearing people? Mostly other hearing people. How much did they learn? Most of the time, they learned enough but not a lot.

There are an estimated 7 Billion people in the world. It is possible that 0.1% of those people are profoundly deaf, and possibly 1% to 3% know someone who is Deaf and learned sign language to communicate with them. Not all deaf people use ASL to communicate. Not all Deaf people and their hearing companions are fluent signers. They probably know at least enough to get by within their circumstances.

If there were 3% of the people who know at least some sign language, that would mean 97% don't know any. And for that 97%, none is as much sign language as they need to get by every day. If most people do not need any sign language on a daily basis, is there any reason for them to learn anyway?

The answer is yes, but since when does reasonableness motivate people? Sign Language is not pantomime, and therefore takes years of study to become proficient. Deaf people, who can have other problems than just deafness, do not have the benefit of seeing their language in everyday use outside of families and institutions. If everyone used some sign language for at least 15 minutes a day, then society would be much more capable of including the Deaf. Communication is the greatest gift anyone can give someone else.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

ASL and the mouse

I thought about comparing phonetic and manual languages to computer data entry methods: the mouse and the keyboard. Naturally I will take English as an example phonetic language and ASL as the example manual language. The same ideas apply to other languages.

I speak different phrases to different kinds of audiences. I try to be precise in how I speak. When I speak, I am thinking of how the words will go together to correctly form word pictures.

Using the keyboard, I have to think of how to appropriately tell the computer how I want it to present my ideas. I type this sentence using the letters. I change how the letters are presented using SHIFT, Ctrl-B, or Ctrl-I. I can also use the Page and Arrow keys and the Alt or Ctrl keys with certain letters to navigate. The keyboard is very flexible in how I can tell the computer precisely what pictures I want to make.

When I speak ASL, I do not consider how to form word pictures. Instead I consider how to form pictures using pantomime and classifiers. Then I use words to add a little more color to them.

The mouse allows me to directly present my ideas on the computer. Then all I really need the keyboard for is to add in a few details.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Which way is up?

ASL words can use vertical space to add shades of meaning. For example, male and female differences are determined by locating hands by the forehead or by the chin. Other words are formed at eye-level to indicate aiming.

The "exact" height at which a word should be formed is seldom met. Most signs are formed around the chest because the elbows are easier to bend and flex than the shoulders are to rotate up. Many forehead-height words end up being formed about eye-level, eye-level words by the chin, and chin-level signs by the shoulders.

In ASL words that use two hands touching each other, this lowering of vertical space causes a problem as to which way is supposed to be "up". With the shoulders rotated up, the forearms stand away from the body in a vertical position. When the shoulders are relaxed, the forearms extend from the chest in a horizontal position.

The ASL word for SUPPORT has the Base Hand S palm-in above the Wide Hand S palm-in. The hands are away from the chin so that the wide hand can touch the bottom of the base hand in an upward movement. The listener can see the vertical separation between the S hands. When the elbows come back in line with the body, the two S hands are facing upward and placed behind / in front of each other.

The directionality of the palms, base hand distance, and wide hand movement all remained consistent with the direction of the forearms, not with the direction of gravity. The ASL word did not change meaning. The shoulder rotation is simply not important to the overall understanding of many ASL words. This reduced shoulder rotation helps the speaker to conserve movement, which is important when using such large muscle groups.

The same kind of direction translation happens with the wrists. The ASL word ONE has the palm facing in to the body and the first finger pointing up. ELEVEN uses the thumb to hold the bent first finger, which the flicks twice indicating two one's in a row. These can be signed palm facing up or even palm facing the side. SISTER used to use GIRL-SAME, where SAME had both palms facing down and the first fingers touching side by side . The new sign still starts with GIRL, but now it leaves the palms facing to the side and touches the right hand down on the left.

Leaving the palms facing to the side reduces the carpal tunnel compression, which far too many people have ignored and caused repetitive stress disorders. I currently use a vertical keyboard because of typing with my palms facing down for too many decades, so I have the greatest empathy for signers who do not want to twist their wrists much.

These examples show that very common ASL words with originally meaningful locations, wrist rotations or vertical spacing may have be dropped lower or use translated directions yet they retain their original concept. They are now less "transparent" as to what they represent as a compromise to be able to say more without overtaxing certain body muscles and joints. Now that's what I call "listening to your body."

Sunday, March 8, 2009


I needed to write ASL down on paper.  I'm a computer programmer, and I know well that reading on the screen for any duration strains my eyes.  Funny how that doesn't bother me when I'm programming... the words are read from my mind!  I found out that trying to watch "non-poetry quality" ASL made me feel about same way.

My website-in-progress, www.ASLSJ.com, is about my form of written American Sign Language - which was made only by me, for me, and without any actual Deaf person's involvement.  Not that I didn't want help.  Its just the way it turned out.

Since the only **REAL** way to capture ASL is to put it on video, I call my coding system Sign Jotting.  I felt this word, jotting, more accurately described my way of - for lack of a better similie - sounding out sign words.  Jotting means "to write down briefly or hastily."

This is just what I was trying to do.  I had ASL videos which had no meaning to me, and yet I wanted to write down how the signs were made so I could ask someone in the ASL group later.  Being that I learn computer language and spacial patterns quickly, I was able to note the commonalities in how many of the signs were made.  Even that was only possible because I related it back to the ASL alphabet I learned when I was a kid.

I've gathered many patterns and made many trade-offs in creating an English keyboard-typeable code for ASL. Lessons, workbooks, entertainment books, and much more will need to be available if other people would learn ASL word spelling, or ASL orthography. I'm hoping this website will elicit the eyes of those whose language I have been trying to learn - and possibly their involvement.

T. Stone