BRL: Braille through Remote Learning

Intro to Braille Course

Session 4 page
Session Objectives

Session Topics
  • Introduction to Braille Contractions

  • Contraction Exercise

  • Other BRL Courses
  • Transcribers Course
  • Special Codes Course

    BRL Reference Desk
  • Summary of Rules
  • Contractions Lookup
  • Contractions List
  • Braille only contractions
  • Problem Words
  • Webster's Dictionary
  • Braille Formats (BANA rules for transcribing textbooks)
  • Reading List

    Other Resources
  • Contact instructor
  • Online gradebook
  • Main BRL page
  • Flashcard program (Java)
  • Downloadable Software
  • Braille Supplies

    Other Links
  • American Printing House for the Blind (APH)
  • Braille Authority of North America (BANA)
  • National Braille Association (NBA)
  • National Library Service (NLS, Library of Congress)

  • Session 4: Introduction to Braille Contractions

    At this point, you have been introduced to the basics of braille -- a little bit of its history, the cell and its structure, the alphabet, punctuation marks, and the special symbols known as composition signs. We're ready to move into the heart and soul of braille -- contractions. Clearly one of the problems with braille is its bulk. Braille books are large, often come in multiple volumes, and, in general, lack the convenience of portability that we find in a good paperback novel. The problem would be even worse were it not for contractions. Contractions have as their purpose the reduction of the number of cells needed to represent printed words. This reduction naturally results in smaller transcribed books, but of course increases the complexity of reading and writing braille.

    This section is designed to introduce you to contractions and the generalized rules for their usage. There are approximately 189 contractions. These contractions fall into three categories:

    1. Part-word contractions: one- or two-cell contractions which represent parts of words, such as "bb", "ing", "com", or "ness".
    2. Whole-word contractions: single- or multiple-cell contractions which represent whole words, such as "the", "and", "cannot", "conceiving", or "world".
    3. Multiple-use contractions: those contractions which can act as part- or whole-words, such as "st - still", "ch - child", "en - enough", or "ou - out".

    We can also classify contractions as follows:

    1. Whole-word contractions
      • those formed using upper and lower cell dots (1-2-3-4-5-6)
      • those formed using only lower cell dots (2-3-5-6): called "lower sign" contractions
    2. Part-word contractions
      • those formed using upper and lower cell dots (1-2-3-4-5-6)
      • those formed using only lower cell dots (2-3-5-6)
    3. Single letter contractions: whole-word contractions represented by a single letter, such as "b" for "but" and "d" for "do"
    4. Initial-letter contractions: two cell contractions which are formed by the initial letter of the word preceeded by either Dot 5, Dots 4-5, or Dots 4-5-6. Examples are "time", "word", "work", and "young".
    5. Final-letter contractions: part-word, two-cell contractions formed by the final letter of the part-word and preceeded by Dots 4-6 or Dots 5-6.
    6. Double-letter contractions: examples are "bb", "cc", "dd", "ff", and "gg" ("ea" is included in this category).
    7. Short-form words: contractions made up of the letters of the alphabet but with abbreviated words, such as "brl" for "braille", "afn" for "afternoon", and "td" for "today".
    The meat of this course (besides to have you read and write a lot of braille!) is to assist you in your efforts to learn these contractions and the rules for their use. Before we get into the "formal" rules for the use of contractions, here are some questions that you need to ask yourself when you are pondering the use of a contraction:

    • Does it save space?
    • If so, is it at the expense of clarity?
    • Does its use alter the intent, style, or format of the text?

    One of the chief guidelines given to transcribers is that we are not editors. Some transcribers take that guideline very seriously, and argue that at no time should a transcriber do any editing. My view is that transcribers have the responsibility to think-- that is, we need to be smart enough to be able to look beyond the words of the text, have some sense of what the text is saying, and strive to transcribe it faithfully (even if that means some editing for purposes of clarity, space-saving, etc.). I would welcome a reasoned discussion of this, although that might be better suited for the next course!

    Most braille transcribers are superb spellers, but are never very far away from a dog-eared dictionary of note, such as Webster's or the Oxford Dictionary. The task is somewhat easier for the braillist who is also the author (such as teachers), but the same rules apply. Be faithful to the rules for use of contractions, but don't be a slave to them!

    The general rules for use of contractions are given in the reference "Summary of Rules for Use of Contractions", which you should read for this session and use as a reference. This reference comes from the Instruction Manual for Braille Transcribing, Third Edition, 1984, authored by Maxine B. Dorf and Barbara H. Tate.

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