Development of a corpus-based electronic dictionary of German Sign Language - German

German Sign Language (DGS) has naturally developed over the centuries into a visual language with a comprehensive lexicon and a nuanced grammar. Sign Language is not international – DGS differs from other national sign languages and there is also regional variation (dialects) within DGS.


  • Systematically capture and document DGS in all its living diversity

  • Create an electronic dictionary based on the corpus data

Project Description

The dictionary is created to become an important reference work for everyone who uses DGS to communicate, both for DGS users in everyday life and also for DGS learners and linguists. In addition to the dictionary, the corpus will in the longer term also offer a variety of possibilities for researching numerous aspects of DGS: the DGS Corpus team is doing pioneering work in developing corpus-based methods for sign language research.

In the period from 2010 to 2012, 330 participants were filmed at twelve different locations in Germany. Around 560 hours of video are now being edited and analysed by a team of deaf and hearing researchers. The result is a growing annotated corpus. The videos contain a lot of interesting information from the life of deaf people and therefore they also have a high value as a cultural heritage.

The selection and description of the signs in the 6000 entries planned for the electronic dictionary are based primarily on this corpus. This means that all information about the signs can be confirmed through their use in context and the active involvement of the sign language community.

A representative sample of the videos, partly with annotation and metadata for research purposes, is already available online. Dictionary entries are also published successively in preliminary form.


The Long-term Project is funded in the framework of the Academies Programme, which is coordinated by the Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities.

The Long-term Project is carried out in cooperation with the Universität Hamburg at the Institute of German Sign Language and Communication of the Deaf (IDGS).

Key facts
Complete title of the Long-term Project:

DGS Corpus. Development of a corpus-based electronic dictionary German Sign Language (DGS) - German.


Prof. Dr. Annika Herrmann und Thomas Hanke


01.01.2009 bis 31.12.2027

For more information:

Project flyer

Project website

Project film with German Sign Language synchronisation

The AGATE-Portal (research information system of the Academies of Sciences and Humanities)



DGS-Korpus project

Institute of German Sign Language and Communication of the Deaf (IDGS)
Universität Hamburg
Gorch-Fock-Wall 7
20354 Hamburg
Email: info(at)

Press reports

"Ein elektronischer Duden für Gehörlose" - (An electronic dictionary for the Deaf) - Welt am Sonntag, 24.12.2019

"Prof. Haartolles Wortgestöber" - (“Professor Cockscomb’s Wordflurry”) - SPIEGEL, 21.08.2011


Susanne König / Gabriele Langer:
“Signs Fiction? Ein Wörterbuch DGS - Deutsch wird entwickelt” [Signs fiction? A German Sign Language – German Dictionary is being developed]
In: Das Zeichen 81 (2009)