SignWriting

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SignWriting is a system of writing sign languages. It is highly featural and visually iconic, both in the shapes of the characters—which are abstract pictures of the hands, face, and body—, and in their spatial arrangement on the page, which does not follow a sequential order like the letters that make up written English words. It was developed in 1974 by Valerie Sutton, a dancer who had two years earlier developed DanceWriting.

Contents

History

As Sutton was teaching DanceWriting to the Royal Danish Ballet, Lars von der Lieth, who was doing research on sign language at the University of Copenhagen, thought it would be useful to use a similar notation for the recording of sign languages. Sutton based SignWriting on DanceWriting, and finally expanded the system to the complete repertoire of MovementWriting. However, only SignWriting and DanceWriting have been widely used.

Although not the first writing system for sign languages (see Stokoe notation), SignWriting is the first to adequately represent facial expressions and shifts in posture, or to accommodate segments of speech longer than compound words and short phrases. It is the only system in regular use, used for example to publish college newsletters in American Sign Language, and has been used for captioning of YouTube videos. Sutton notes that SignWriting has been used or investigated in over 40 countries on every inhabited continent.[1] However, it is not clear in how many of these countries it has been actually adopted by the Deaf community.

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