Thursday, September 04, 2014

The Directory Of Signs & Signals: A Guide To Signs, Codes And Signals From Across The World

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

I’ve always had an interest in communication, whether it be learning to communicate or different forms of communication.  Usually, I’ll read newspaper articles or get books from the library.  When I came across a book on signs and signals that was on sale, I decided to pick up a copy.

It’s a fairly simple book that covers various forms of nonverbal communication.  There are five groupings of signs and signals in the book:  Distance communication, personal communication, survival, sports and miscellaneous.  Each section is further divided into a few forms of signs.  Distance communication has semaphore, Morse code and maritime signal flags.  Personal communication has Braille, American Sign Language, British Sign Language and Emoticons.  Survival has ground-to-air signals, body signals and trail signs.  Sports is American football hand signals, soccer hand signals and motor-racing flags.  Miscellaneous is simply trading signals and weather symbols.  There are tabs on the side of the pages to make it easy to find each main section.

Each of the sections is broken down into two or three subsections.  There’s a brief (two-page) overview of the system, covering things like how it was invented or how it’s used.  There’s usually a few pages showing all of the symbols.  After that is several pages showing larger images of each symbol.  So, the semaphore section will have two pages, one showing A-O and the next showing P-Z, error and numerical sign.  After that comes pages showing two letters at a time.  Each letter is shown with an image of a head, feet and hands holding the flags.

With American Sign Language and British Sign Language, it’s just the letters and maybe one or two words.  There’s nothing on grammar or syntax or anything.  If you wanted to learn sign language, this would be a very basic introduction.  If you were going camping and wanted to know about using trail signs or ground-to-air communication, I’d recommend getting a better book than this.  I don’t think that this is meant to be comprehensive.

The subtitle indicates that the signals are supposed to be from across the world.  Yes, Morse code is used internationally, but there does seem to be a slant towards British and American.  Things like Braille and Morse code don’t even have international letters.  Other languages, like French and German, use letters that aren’t included in this book.

I feel compelled to write a very long review, but there’s not that much to the book.  It consists mostly of pictures with very little writing to it.  What writing there is doesn’t really go into much detail.  I’m sure that there are must more detailed books out there, especially on sign languages.  If you were interested in the history of Morse code or Braille, I’m sure you could find books dedicated to either one.  The book is nice to look at, but I don’t think is intended to be full-on reference.

That said, it’s worth getting if you can get it on sale.  I don’t know that I’d recommend paying more than a few dollars for it.

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