The Challenge of a Computer Representation of Sign Language: Capturing a “Visual-Spatial” Language Electronically

The Challenge of a Computer Representation of Sign Language: Capturing a “Visual-Spatial” Language Electronically

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The Challenge of a Computer Representation of Sign Language:
Capturing a “Visual-Spatial” Language Electronically

Signed languages are not simply another means of communicating a spoken language. Individual signed languages are linguistically unique forms of communication, with their own grammatical constructs, word order, sensibility, and rules. American Sign Language, used in the United States and parts of Canada, is not the same as English. (Fox 2002).
Like many people who share common beliefs, customs, and behavior, the Deaf community has developed a coherent culture. At its most basic, culture is a means of adapting to one’s environment. For the deaf, the environment is one with a distinct orientation to sound, especially in human communications. Withstanding years of oppression, disparagement, lack of understand, and inequitable services and access, deaf people have often been forced to rely on each other. Their shared experiences and struggle have created a distinct way of life that goes beyond a common physical impairment or language (Valios, 2002). Sign language is a unifying element of this culture.
Because of its complex, visual-spatial nature, signed language-communication has been a special challenge to preserve. Written English is a two-dimensional representation of spoken sound; each letter represents a sound (or sounds). When letters are strung together, words are formed — words that conjure up specific objects or concepts. The written form of English allows for the preservation and sharing of speech or thought, in widely-ranging formats such as books, e-mail, film, and newspapers. Signed languages incorporate complex, three-dimensional elements that include hand shape, movement, position, and facial expr...


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...rieved Feb. 3, 2006 from http://signwriting.org/library.
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Han, A. (1999, November). A new controversial approach to literacy: SignWriting: will it work?. Silent News, 31(11), 14.
Holt, J.A., Traxler, C.B., & Allen, T.E. (1997). Interpreting the Scores: A User's Guide to the 9th Edition Stanford Achievement Test for Educators of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students. Gallaudet Research Institute Technical Report 97-1. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University.
Rosenberg, A., (1999). Writing Signed Languages. Unpublished masters thesis, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas.
Valios, N. (2002). Deaf culture club. Community Care, (1423), 34-35.Van Cleve, J.V. & Crouch, B.A. (1989). A place of their own. Washington, D.C: Gallaudeet University Press.

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