Requests for new languages/Wikipedia American Sign Language

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American Sign Language Wikipedia[edit]

See also the second request (verfied as eligible).
submitted verification final decision
This proposal has been closed as part of a reform of the request process.
This request has not necessarily been rejected, and new requests are welcome. This decision was taken by the language committee in accordance with the Language proposal policy.

The closing committee member provided the following comment:

This discussion was created before the implementation of the Language proposal policy, and it is incompatible with the policy. Please open a new proposal in the format this page has been converted to (see the instructions). Do not copy discussion wholesale, although you are free to link to it or summarise it (feel free to copy your own comments over). —{admin} Pathoschild 22:02:28, 28 February 2007 (UTC)
Proposal summary
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  • Number of speakers: 500,000
  • Locations spoken: American Sign Language is the dominant sign language in the United States, English-speaking Canada and parts of Mexico. It is also used in the Philippines, Singapore, Hong Kong, Côte d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Chad, Gabon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Mauritania, Kenya, Madagascar, Zimbabwe.

    • Support--Buzkid Because it give deaf same right to enjoy Wikipedia. Maybe having a Wiktionary of png files for every sign then arranging these with image tags and forming sentences you can see. Like writing with pictographs, something like chinese does with it's writing, but using A.

S.L. grammar and order of words to display which is different from English written as I understand.

The median reading level for 18 year old deaf students is about the 4th grade level . Thus much of the internet and encyclopedias in general are inaccessible to these users due to the level of reading required. A survey of the readability of internet sites showed popular sites such a the NY Times and Nickelodeon were above 4th grade level ( The article on cats from Wikipedia receives the following scores Readability report for "cat" article in the English wikipedia readability grades:

       Kincaid: 11.0
       ARI: 12.2
       Coleman-Liau: 13.4
       Flesch Index: 52.5
       Fog Index: 14.4
       Lix: 49.1 = school year 9
       SMOG-Grading: 12.8

As you can see these are all well above the 4th grade level. Although strives to provide a version of English that is easier to read it does not totally meet the needs of deaf users. The readability of the “cat” article in simple wikipedia hovers at or slightly above the 4th grade level on 2 measures of readability and is above 7th grade on 3 measures of readability. Readability report for "cat" article in simple wikipedia readability grades:

       Kincaid: 4.6
       ARI: 3.9
       Coleman-Liau: 7.7
       Flesch Index: 85.4
       Fog Index: 7.4
       Lix: 27.0 = below school year 5
       SMOG-Grading: 7.7

To make information accessible to all deaf users sign language video is necessary that accompanies the English text. An ASL-English bilingual Wikipedia would provide deaf users with a tool for not only acquiring general world knowledge via an accessible medium (sign language video) but also a powerful educational tool for enhancing literacy by being able to compare the ASL video and English text. A tool is available for users to access the signs for each word of the English text. It is MySignLink and is available for free at . An ASL-English Wikipedia will also provide deaf students with a national project that all students can contribute to while producing their everyday reports for their classes in Social Studies, Science, etc… It will be a great motivator for students to produce a product that is actually of use to others and a great lesson for them to learn that their labor can help others.

  • Dear ..., the idea is sympathic, but I am afraid it is incompatible with the nature of Wikipedia. If videos are supposed to accompany text, how can you edit them, just to name one major objection? I see a little possibility, however, if someone invents a special way of animation, similar to Wikihiero (where you can write texts in hieroglyphs), which makes it possible with a simple code to produce animations of ASL-signs. An article built up that way could be edited, though both the code would have to be very smart and the user must have a skill they can't acquire anywhere presently. For the time being, a sign language Wikipedia is impossible. Caesarion Velim, non opto 22:42, 10 September 2005 (UTC)[reply]
  • The idea of making information accessible to users of sign languages (not only ASL) by means of videos available via the internet is surely a great one. However, I don't support this proposal for an American Sign Language/English Wikipedia for the following reasons:
- Sign languages are no written languages. Wikipedia is written literature.
- Like Ceasarion has already pointed out, ASL videos could not be created or altered in a wiki way. This wiki concept however is the very foundation upon which all Wikipedias are built.
- Bilingual editions are not part of Wikipedia's concept. The fact that even the proposers don't consider a monolingual edition (what would that homepage look like?) feasible shows that the idea is hardly workable.
- Wikipedias is not intended for purposes of language training or alphabetization ("...a powerful educational tool for enhancing literacy by being able to compare the ASL video and English text.").
- All websites made by deaf people for deaf people I have seen are in English (or any other non-sign-language). This, along with other personal experiences, intensifies my impression that natural languages are the preferred means of written communication among deaf persons and difficulties in being able to read them are not as severe as contended here.

My suggestion would be to create sign language videos and place them maybe on Commons on somewhere else on a Wikimedia server. Then you could add a link that says something like "Information on this subject is also available in ASL" (or maybe some catchy icon) to the English (or wherever it fits) WP article. On top of that I would like to add that I hope that deaf and hearing people will continue to cooperate fruitfully on the existing Wikipedias. Arbeo 10:19, 15 September 2005 (UTC)[reply]

  • If you have not worked in the field of deafness you have no idea of the difficulties a deaf reader has with English text. The information stated above in the proposal is accurate. Regardless of the reading ability of the deaf, it is just as legitimate to have a Wikipedia in American Sign Language as it is to have one in French, German, or any of the other natural languages represented in Wikipedias. ASL is a natural language. Broadening Wikipedia to include another medium (video) is a step forward not a violation of Wikipedia rites. It can allow users of other Wikipedias to add items to make their text clearer and bring Wikipedia into the 21st century. HHamilton
    • Thanks for your reply, HHamilton. You're right in that I actually can't imagine what it is like to learn a language without knowing what it sounds like. But if deaf people have such a hard time even reading English, why would you want them to write an encyclopedia in that language? I must admit having thought about ASL as a constructed language was slight misconception of mine. Having read a little more about the language and its origins now it's clear to me that it's a natural language. Regardless of that fact I've never questioned the legitimity of your proposal but rather the practicability of an ASL-English edition of Wikipedia. My concern is not about "rites" but rather about the quintessential principle of Wikipedia that any article must be instantly alterable by anyone at anytime. How do you do that with videos? Arbeo 10:50, 18 September 2005 (UTC)[reply]
    • Isn't there a system for writing ASL? As in, using symbols that represent the hand motions. I seem to recall reading that Unicode support for such a system was coming soon. I'd support creating a wiki using a written system, but I have concerns about the lack of editability of video -- it's very unwiki. Tuf-Kat 19:11, 18 September 2005 (UTC)[reply]
      • If there is a usable font: perfectly fine! You could then treat ASL just like any other language and simply grant it a monolingual Wikipedia (no need to make it bilingual with English). Arbeo 11:53, 19 September 2005 (UTC)[reply]
        • w:SignWriting might work with a system similar to the one for w:hieroglyphs, if it not is actually that system that is going to be added to Unicode. There is also a markup language (SWML, see WP article) available so even a solution similar to MathML could be used. Not sure how widespread the system is though. TERdON 12:47, 24 September 2005 (UTC)[reply]
  • If there is a way in which anyone can edit (anyone who can use the language, clearly), then there is no reason this shouldn't be set up. If this is not possible, it goes wholly against the wiki concept, and is thus unacceptable. Smoddy 20:38, 19 September 2005 (UTC)[reply]
  • For "editing" consider a video of ASL signing just as you would an image in Wikipedia. Wikipedia allows images to accompany the text but provides no way to edit the images other than complete replacement.

Thus, just as an image is "edited" via replacement a video can be edited via replacement. Deaf users will build the English text part of the ASL/English Wikipedia just as anyone would. The English grammar and syntax may be perfect or less than perfect just as with any writer of a Wikipedia article. Others will be able to edit the articles and refine the English if they like. ( can provide a nice home for the videos that are made. If users of the ASL/English Wikipedia want to edit a video via replacement, they can simply store their version at OurMedia and change the link in the English text page. HHamilton

    • But for a minor part of the encyclopaedia to be uneditable is one thing, to make the entire text (or nearest equivilent) uneditable is quite another. This is far more akin to the spoken articles project on en:. That is a subset of the main encyclopaedia, and thus works. I get the impression that this wouldn't work with ASL, and am sorry if that is the case. Nevertheless, if it is the case, I don't see why we should bend the rules to allow it in this instance. After all, not everyone can edit it. They would need video cameras and suitable equipment, as well as suitable software. A signed encylopaedia is a very good idea, but I don't think wiki is the way to achieve it. Smoddy 17:00, 20 September 2005 (UTC)[reply]
  • Oppose unless there is found a well editable way of writing down signs for the Wikipedia, understood by more than a specialized group of people. Putting signed articles on video certainly has its advantages, but it is not a wiki and as such not something to make a Wikipedia out of. - 22:51, 25 September 2005 (UTC)[reply]
  • Support I'm a Valencian Sign Language user. Writting is capable not only on Oral Languages but also in Sign Languages. There are people willing to make an encyclopaedia in signwritting, why to ban them?. Remember diversity. In the other side, there are two more writting system for Signed Languages: HamNoSys from University of Hamburg (Germany), and latin alphabetic transcription of SL from University of Alacant (Valencia, Spain). --Joanot 13:39, 5 October 2005 (UTC)[reply]
  • Oppose I'm absolutely not against ASL Wikipedia, in fact, I'm would support this proposal enthousiasticly, but only if some kind of system to write ASL (like Wikihiero) will be proposed. Of cource I'm not against ASL videos either, but if you want to use them alongside with English text, you can just start a project like w:en:Wikipedia:WikiProject Spoken Wikipedia on English wikipedia, upload the videos to the commons, and then make a template "This article is also availible as ASL video file" to put on each wikipedia article that have ASL video version. So you dont need to create new wikipedia for this. If the system to write ASL will be proposed, please let me know on my Russian discussion page, and I'll change my vote into "support" Kneiphof 08:14, 26 October 2005 (UTC)[reply]
    • When you think of a signed article as a signed version of an English article, you have a point. There is no reason at all why the ASL article would follow the English. From a language POV there is no direct relation between English and ASL. GerardM 15:31, 5 November 2005 (UTC)[reply]
  • Support Sign Languages and their users must not be excluded by such an important project! Why not using videos? Participants could upload their videos in addition to other articles. But it is important that the other sign languages of the world are represented too. If you open Wikipedia to Video-Articles all the Sign Languages of the world could be represent. A Sign Language portal could serve for articles in different Sign Languages. An example for Information in different Sign Languages on the net is: Andreas Schodterer 2nd Nov. 2005
  • Support Sign languages are more different from the languages that are spoken in the same geographical area than the languages of the same language family. The only thing that is lacking is the proverbial army. GerardM 15:31, 5 November 2005 (UTC)[reply]
  • Oppose. This proposal misses some key points about wikis and Wikipedia itself. (1) A wiki is by nature a medium that is freely editable. A sentence of ASL on video is not editable with current technology. If I wanted to replace a particular sign, I would have to re-record the entire sentence. Watching a video like this would be excruciating, with a different signer every sentence, different video qualities, bad lighting, etc. A video wiki is not viable with current technology. (2) Sign languages do not have a written form that is in use by signers. Deaf people themselves write in English or whatever the language of their area. An article using an ASL writing system would not be readable by most Deaf people, and if you know sign language, is a very poor approximation of the expressiveness of sign language. Therefore, a written sign language wiki is not accessible by Deaf people. --K. AKA Konrad West TALK 04:12, 11 November 2005 (UTC)[reply]