Systematically capture and document German Sign Language in all its diversity and create an electronic dictionary based on the corpus data.
The dictionary is expected to become an important source of information not only for German Sign Language (DGS) users in everyday life, but also for DGS learners as well as linguists. In addition, the corpus will serve as a valuable data source for further research on DGS: The DGS Corpus team is doing pioneering work in developing corpus-based methods for sign language research.
German Sign Language has naturally developed over the centuries into a visuo-gestural language with a full-fledged lexicon and grammar. Sign Language is not international – DGS differs from other national sign languages, and there is also regional variation (dialects) within DGS.
In the timeframe 2010–2012, 330 Deaf people were filmed at twelve different locations all over Germany. Approximately 350 hours of video are now being analysed by a team of Deaf and hearing researchers. The result is a growing annotated corpus. This material contains many interesting anecdotes from Deaf life in Germany. This means that the corpus has a substantial value for cultural heritage as well.
The selection and description of the 6000 entries planned for the electronic dictionary is primarily based on this corpus which allows all signs to be viewed in context. Moreover, the project involves the language community for double-checking information to be provided in the dictionary.
A representative sample of the videos, partially with annotation as well as metadata for research purposes, is already available online. The same is true for a first set of preliminary dictionary entries which are to be expanded and revised as more data is being analysed.
University of Hamburg
The long-term project is funded within the framework of the Academies’ Programme, which is coordinated by the Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities.