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On Tue, 22 Jan 2002, Bob Greenwade wrote:

>     Speaking of sign languages...
>     1) Has anyone here ever developed a sign language as a companion to a
> spoken/written conlang?  (I'm thinking of doing that for one or two of Rav
> Zarruvo's daughter languages after they're completed.)

The closest I know of is a language for an alien species who sign with
their tentacles.  I can't remember what it was called, though.  But
constructed sign languages is a fascinating idea, and not only as a
companion to a spoken language.  Even though apparently only deaf people
develop sign languages in our world, why should it have to be that way in
a world we make up ourselves?

Have any of you heard about Gestuno, by the way?  All I know about it, is
that it is a signed IAL, that (surprise, surprise) failed dismally.

>     2) Does anyone know of a standardized way of representing sign language
> other than little pictures of hand positions?  (I saw an ASL dictionary
> once that had something like that, but I don't remember what it was called
> or anything like that.)

I'm not sure what kind of little pictures you're referring to.  I've seen
a dictionary for Norwegian Sign Language, containing a few hundred words,
each page with a line drawing of a person signing the word, with some
arrows superimposed to indicate motion.  These arrows seem to be fairly
standardized in visual descriptions of Norwegian Sign Language, but I
haven't seen corresponding material on other sign languages.

On the other hand there are "real" writing systems for sign
languages, that use stylicized symbols representing hands, arms and face,
together with other symbols, that can express sentences and longer texts
in sign languages.  As far as I can remember, all the ones that exist are
made to fit one specific language.  None of them are widely used, but if
any of you are interested, I can try to find a reference.

The lack of a writing system is in fact one of the main problems of
preserving deaf culture.  A couple of years ago there was a fund-raising
campaign here in Norway for a project on translating Norwegian
children's novels into NSL, and filming them on video.  Of course, most
deaf people can read the language of the surrounding culture, but reading
entire books in a foreign (second) language, as Norwegian is to deaf
poeple living in Norway, is something that not many young children can do.

-arj