ASL from AND TO English?

A bidirectional dictionary for American Sign Language.

Any English speaker who wants to learn how to sign (in American Sign Language) a meaning for a hearing-impaired person can look up the meaning in a dictionary to find the appropriate gestures. Or, for immediate gratification, one could look it up online. But what if someone is looking at an ASL gesture and needs to find its meaning?

According to Technology Review new sign-language dictionary is being developed that allows the user to look up gestures in order to glean their meaning. Developed at Boston University as part of the American Sign Language Linguistic Research Project, the system lets users communicate a gesture into a computer camera and submit that as a query to the dictionary.

Additional applications besides a strict dictionary include the possibility of a Google-like search based on sign-language. It seems to me that someone who is hearing impaired could probably zero in more precisely for search results by using the same keyboard input that others use. But, usually a development such as this has benefits and ramifications beyond what was ever pictured (or signed) for it.


Donna Parrish
Publisher of MultiLingual, Donna Parrish is also co-organizer of the LocWorld conferences. Coming into the language industry from a background of mathematics and computer programming, she has an appreciation for the wizardry of language technology and an awe for linguists.

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