Bergeron, L.-F. et A.-M. Parisot (2005) "Relevance of a writing system for a sign language? A question of form and context", affiche présentée au Xth International Congress for the study of child language, Berlin, juillet.
Written representational systems have been investigated in the case of many
signed languages, such as French Sign Language (Boutora, 2003; Prélaz,
2004), American Sign Language (Flood, 2002), Nicaraguan Sign Language (Gangel-Vasquez,
1997), etc. Parallel to this descriptive line of research, some studies address,
from various angles, the problem of access to the written form of a second language
(L2) in a bilingual education setting when the oral form of this language is
not accessible and when the signed first language (L1) does not have a written
form (Cummins, 1992; Flood, 2002; Mayer & Akamatsu, 1999). Based on this
research, the issue of the relevance of a writing system for Quebec Sign Language
(LSQ) in a bilingual education setting is examined.
The objectives of this poster are to present 1) the situation of written language in a signed/oral language bilingual education setting 2) a formal and functional typology of existing writing systems for signed languages and 3) a critical analysis of these writing systems with regards to their form and their use in a bilingual education setting.
The writing systems that were looked at are, amongst others, SignWriting (Sutton, 1996), HamNoSys (Prillwitz & Zienert, 1990), Jouison (Jouison, 1989; 1990), Tilkin (Tilkin, ms). The use of glosses was also considered. Glosses are frequently used in the notation of sign language, in LSQ for example, in research settings.
First, a typology of the different written representation systems in signed languages will be presented. Studies on the typology of oral languages were used to identify the relevant descriptive criteria for written systems of signed languages (Haas, 1976; Pulgram, 1976; DeFrancis, 1989). The typology proposed here accounts for the different types of systems (transcription and writing), for levels of representation (phonological and semantic) and for the characteristics of the chosen graphemes (aspect and layout). Secondly, a critical analysis of these writing systems will be presented according to the following variables: formal aspects of sign language (motivation and use of space), economy issues (for the reader, writer and for the inventory of symbols), compatibility issues in a bilingual context (Coulmas, 1989).
In conclusion, it is suggested that linear and descriptive systems, such as HamNoSys, Stokoe, Jouison and Tilkin, do not represent the use of space in signed languages in such a way that the system is readable or economical enough to be used as an everyday writing system. Furthermore, systems in which graphemes have little or no links with the formal components of signs (handshape, location and movement, etc.) are more opaque and may hinder reading and writing. Finally, the SignWriting system stands out for its iconic, transparent, figurative and synthetic representations which integrate the fundamental characteristic of the visual-gestural modality of LSQ and facilitate global decoding. The bi-dimensional layout of the graphemes in this system offers a graphical economy of the representation of space and of its interpretation by providing a global vision of the signs.