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 timeframe 2010 to 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. In 2024 to 2025, further data will be collected with Deaf people aged 18 to 32 years to document the recent language change observable in DGS.

The selection and description of entries of the electronic dictionary is primarily based on this corpus which allows all signs to be viewed in context.

A representative sample of the videos, with annotation as well as metadata for research purposes, is already available online

Dictionary entries of the Digital Dictionary of DGS (DW-DGS) have been published successively in a preliminary form since 2018.


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)