Hello to all, My name is Natalie. I am an undergraduate Linguistics/Psychology student at McGill University, and I am currently working on a research proposal to pursue the development of a writing system for ASL. If things go well, then in the new year, I intend to follow through with this proposal. First and foremost, however, I want/need to know YOUR opinion! How do you feel about ASL having a written form? Do you think it would be beneficial or do you think that it would be a complete waste of time and resources? Do you think it would have any hope of ever being accepted by the Deaf community? What do you think of Sutton’s existing system of SignWriting? Etc. Just to give you a better understanding of my idea, here are a few details... 1. The writing system will be logographic, meaning that arbitrary, abstract (not pictographic) symbols will be used to depict the vocabulary of ASL. Chinese writing is an example of such a logographic system. It will NOT be an attempt to directly depict signs in a written form (ie. SignWriting). I do not believe that Sutton’s approach is appropriate for a signed language, such as ASL. The signs of SignWriting are overly complex in all of their detail, which makes them too cumbersome to be written by hand and renders them impractical for everyday usage. Such an approach is unnecessary and is the result of taking techniques that are meant for spoken languages and using them on a signed language. 2. Word order and grammatical markers will reflect the grammar of ASL, not of English, or of any other spoken language. 3. The primary goal of this project is to empower the culturally Deaf. It is NOT meant in any way to imply that deaf people are somehow less capable of achieving perfect literacy in English. Its purpose is to provide the Deaf with the means to build bodies of literature and to record their history in their own native language, without recourse to a foreign language (ie. English). Imagine what it would be like if this very discussion board were written in ASL! However, to the extent that, in reality, SOME deaf people are functionally illiterate in English, a written form of ASL will provide those individuals with an alternate avenue to becoming fully-functional adults in Deaf society. (Note: This is assuming that written ASL will be easier to acquire than written English, and requires that the individual be a fluent, if not native, speaker of ASL.) Now at this point, I imagine that some of you are thinking, “Wait a minute. One’s degree of literacy has nothing do with one’s status in Deaf society. English literacy pertains only to the hearing world, it has nothing to do with the Deaf world!” Indeed, if any of you are thinking this, please tell me. I am curious to know whether or not that hypothetical statement is really true. I have noticed in some of the discussion threads on this board that people have attributed poor literacy to sheer laziness and lack of willpower or motivation to read. Since you are reading this, don’t forget that you yourself are a literate individual, so think carefully. If you identify yourself as Deaf, how do you really feel about others who are illiterate? I can’t imagine that the stigma would be the same as it is in the hearing world, but is it truly non-existent in the deaf world? 4. Written ASL is not meant to replace written English. Deaf children are strongly encouraged to learn both writing systems. Indeed, I believe that learning to write ASL first will greatly facilitate the later learning of written English. The psychological impact of having successfully attained literacy in one language, regardless of which language it is, will have significant rewards. Children and teachers will be confident in the fact that they CAN become literate, and so learning to read English will no longer be such a daunting task. In addition, the metalinguistic awareness that comes with literacy can be applied to learning to read English. What I mean by metalinguistic awareness is the knowledge that symbols represent signs, which in turn, represent things, and that the order in which the symbols are written reflects the grammatical rules of ASL, etc. Although the grammar of English is different than that of ASL, I subscribe to theory that there are certain universal grammatical principles that are shared by all human languages. Mastery of ASL, both written and spoken/signed will allow the child to capitalize on these principles during his/her acquisition of English. It is important to note that instruction in written ASL is targeted especially for deaf children of deaf parents. This is because prior fluency in ASL is the only factor that will make written ASL easier to learn than written English. However, the statistics show that deaf children of deaf parents already experience much greater success at achieving literacy in English than those of hearing parents. Therefore, it is a legitimate concern that having a written form of ASL will detract from the motivation to learn written English. This line of argumentation should sound familiar, and I do not believe it to be true, any more than I believe that learning to sign draws away from learning read, write, or speak English. 5. For those who are concerned that it would be too difficult to memorize the multitude of symbols of which a logographic system is composed, studies have shown that children who are learning a logographic system learn to read and write their first words earlier than children who are learning an alphabetic system. The reason for this is that a logographic system does not require the child to learn how to map the phonemes of his/her spoken language to the graphemes of his/her written language. The development of this phonological awareness is the greatest obstacle to both deaf and hearing learners alike. Note also, that Japanese employs what is primarily a logographic system, yet Japan boasts the greatest literacy rate in the world! This is getting to be a very long post, so I will stop here. But please, I encourage you to post a response! The more discussion the better. All opinions and viewpoints are welcome. Please indicate in your reply whether you identify yourself as Deaf, HOH, Hearing, etc. I am also interested in seeing personal testimonials about how you learned to read, if you can remember, or how your children learned/are learning to read. Also, if you would like to receive updates from me about this project, or are perhaps interesting in becoming a collaborator, please feel free to write me an email. My address is firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you in advance for your input! -natalie.