The BSL SignBank Dictionary

The BSL SignBank Dictionary has two primary sources: One is the BSL Corpus. The other is the British Sign Language/English Dictionary (Brien, 1992). Many signs are found in both the BSL Corpus and in Brien (1992). Some are found in the BSL Corpus but not in Brien 1992. Some are found in Brien (1992) but not (yet) in the BSL Corpus – some of these signs are suspected to be older/obsolete signs that are no longer in use, or they are signs that we have not yet come across in the BSL Corpus.

The current version of BSL SignBank (last updated mid-2014) includes over 2500 signs from roughly 12 hours (50,000 sign tokens) from the BSL Corpus conversation data from Bristol, Birmingham, London and Manchester, and from the “What’s your sign” task from all 249 signers from Belfast, Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, London, Manchester, and Newcastle. As more work on the BSL Corpus continues, future updates will include more signs from more regions and more tasks in the BSL Corpus. We also aim to include new proposed signs from the deaf community where appropriate. You can report a missing sign with this form (requires registration).

For more details about how BSL SignBank was created, see Cormier et al. (2012), Fenlon, Schembri, Rentelis, Vinson & Cormier (2014), and Fenlon, Cormier & Schembri (2015).

For information about the regional signs presented in BSL SignBank, see Stamp et al. (2014).

How To Use the Dictionary

1. Browse by two of the major sign features in BSL – i.e. handshape or location. Click on Search by Sign Features and pick a handshape and/or a location to see signs that match. You may optionally also type in an English keyword (see 2 below). Note that for signs which involve a change in  handshape or change in location, this browses by the feature at the start of the sign. So if you choose signs produced at the Eye, it will return signs that are located at (or start at) the eye. Researchers may also register with SignBank to request to access advanced features including more detailed search abilities by sign features.

2. Type an English word in the Search using English box above (click on Search or just press Enter on your keyboard). You will then be taken to the sign (or signs) that are linked to that English word. If more than one English word matches what you have typed, you will then see a list of words to choose from (just click on the word you wanted).

If there is no match try typing a simpler form of the word (e.g., walk, NOT walked; shine, NOT shone; apple, NOT apples), or just try typing the first few letters of the word rather than the whole word.

Use the feedback button at a sign to tell us if a sign entry needs fixing. Does it need a new English keyword? Is the way you make the sign described properly?

Use the missing sign feedback to tell us if a sign you know is missing from the dictionary—What does it mean? What does it look like? After all, deaf people, deaf students, interpreters and teachers of the deaf are creating and using new signs all the time. Although BSL SignBank currently exists as a representation of signs from the BSL Corpus and Brien 1992, we would like in future to try to document the language as completely as possible, which means including signs from beyond these two sources; we will need your help to do this!

Brien, D. (Ed.). (1992). Dictionary of British Sign Language/English. Boston: Faber & Faber.

Cormier, K., Fenlon, J., Johnston, T., Rentelis, R., Schembri, A., Rowley, K., Adam, R., Woll, B. (2012). From corpus to lexical database to online dictionary: Issues in annotation of the BSL Corpus and the development of BSL SignBank In O. Crasborn, E. Efthimiou, E. Fotinea, T. Hanke, J. Kristoffersen, & J. Mesch (Eds.), Proceedings of the 5th Workshop on the representation and processing of sign languages: Interactions between corpus and lexicon [workshop part of 8th International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation, LREC 2012, Istanbul, Turkey] (pp. 7-12). Paris: ELRA.

Fenlon, J., Schembri, A., Rentelis, R., Vinson, D., & Cormier, K. (2014). Using conversational data to determine lexical frequency in British Sign Language: The influence of text type. Lingua, 143, 187-202. doi:10.1016/j.lingua.2014.02.003

Fenlon, J., Cormier, K., & Schembri, A. (2015). Building BSL SignBank: The lemma dilemma revisited. International Journal of Lexicography, 28(2), 169-206. doi:10.1093/ijl/ecv008

Stamp, R., Schembri, A., Fenlon, J., Rentelis, R., Woll, B., & Cormier, K. (2014). Lexical variation and change in British Sign Language. PLoS ONE, 9(4), e94053. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0094053

No copying or linking (except to the BSL SignBank website) without the prior written permission of UCL.