Sunday, July 08, 2007

RTFM, read the fine manual

SignWriting is the script that gives sign languages the potential of writing. It is way beyond an experiment, it is used. It is used in daily life, one of the telling things is that they have message pads with layouts that indicate who called, who left a message.

There is a mailing list and the last week there were two things that really got my attention. The first one said that not all the symbols that make up the total character set are to be used for one language. There are for instance characters specific to the Italian and the Ethiopian sign language. This lead to the observation that there is a need to identify the characters that are used for a particular language. This is similar to for instance the Latin script where only so many character are used for a language.

In the same way I appreciate this latest amazing story unfolds; there is a lot of documentation on how to use the SignWriting characters... People do not really read it. This is of course to be expected but it brings these wonderful moments where people find that there is more to it. That like for any other language, the basic tenets have to be really understood. That you can go find a character, a movement and it will be readable but it might prove not be the best one. What makes it so nice to read is the wonder and delight these people express that such great documentation exists.

I am impressed with SignWriting and I believe that it would be good when serious funding would find its way towards the further development of SignWriting. To sum up some points why; kids who learn to write their first language first have an easier time to learn the dominant written language that surrounds them, it gives the deaf people of the whole world the opportunity to express themselves in their own language. It allows for a better preservation of so many cultures that do not have anything but video.

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