On Wed, Mar 28, 2012 at 3:38 PM, David Peterson <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Lord, where to start...

WOW! I love seeing this detailed commentary!

One thing I've gathered from the (152-page!) document "A
Cross-Linguistic Guide to SignWriting" at
is that SW can be more or less phonetic, depending on your needs.

> SW has the same problem with signs with subtle place distinctions like APPLE and ONION.

I didn't know the sign for either of these words, but based on reading
the SW entries for each, I ended up doing the signs the same way that's videos look:




DEAF, underspecified:

DEAF, detailed:

(Not sure why the second DEAF entry uses the left hand — perhaps that
means the transcriber was left-handed?)

So I think this is a matter of whether the *writer* is transcribing a
sign with enough detail, perhaps? My current interpretation is that
the "underspecified" DEAF entry would be like writing English without
vowels — if you already speak English, it can (generally) be
sufficient, although rather lossy.

> I also think there's entirely too much precision with the eyebrows. Personally, I don't think
> they should be written at all. There are signs where the eyebrows do something for the
> sign, but, again, it's not contrastive. Much more often the eyebrows convey intonational
> information. So imagine you have two sentences:
> She drove the car today.
> Did she drive the car today?
> In ASL, both of those sentences use exactly the same signs in exactly the same order.
> In SW, you'd need to specify different facial expressions with something that could just
> as easily be done with a question mark (after all, if it's a yes/no question, you *know*
> where the eyebrows are supposed to be). It would pose further problems for yes/no
> questions with multiple facial signs, e.g. "Do you like apples and onions?" It'd be
> something like doing this:
> How? are? you? doing? today?

I like your suggestion of not repeating this information and perhaps
relegating it to a clause/sentence-level symbol. I wonder whether
folks who actually use SW have already made this optimization...

> SW is a phonetic system (by intention), but it can't encode innovative signs [snip]
> If it attempts to, it will require new movement glyphs—potentially an infinite
> number of them—which isn't something that makes sense for a writing system.

New movement symbols wouldn't be as much a problem in handwriting, but
I agree that it wouldn't work for computerized writing.

> For a handwritten system, SW requires too much drawing—and coloring

for suggested handwritten versions that don't fill in shapes. It still
strikes me as something that is not well-suited to writing at speed,
which is why I'm interested in finding an explanation of SW shorthand:

> Ultimately, SW is a 20th century solution and doesn't make much sense
> in the 21st century. My uncle, for example, would never use it because
> the iPhone doesn't support it for texting—and even if it did, it's more
> cumbersome than using English or FaceTime. That's a very specific
> objection, but it's a real world objection. It's the world we live in now.

No arguments here.

> About the only thing that isn't difficult is reading, which makes it a
> not-so-bad method of longterm storage.

This is why I'm liking it, I think — I want it for notes on new signs
in my ASL class, and for flashcards. In both cases, it's
write-a-single-sign-once, read-many-times.