Academic journal article Sign Language Studies

Brazilian Sign Language Lexicography and Technology: Dictionary, Digital Encyclopedia, Chereme-Based Sign Retrieval, and Quadriplegic Deaf Communication Systems

Academic journal article Sign Language Studies

Brazilian Sign Language Lexicography and Technology: Dictionary, Digital Encyclopedia, Chereme-Based Sign Retrieval, and Quadriplegic Deaf Communication Systems

Article excerpt

The Brazilian Sign Language digital encyclopedia contains a databank of fifty-six hundred signs glossed in Portuguese and English, along with descriptions and illustrations of their sign form (sublexical structure) and meaning (referent). The encyclopedia includes a sublexical-component indexing system and a menu-based sign-retrieval system. These allow deaf users to locate specific signs based on five parameters, their cheremes, and allochers: (1) hands: articulation (e.g., 1-9, A-Z), orientation, and relationships; (2) fingers: type and articulation; (3) place; (4) movement: type, frequency/intensity, hand, finger, and body; and (5) facial expression. By taking advantage of imagery and linguistic processes involved in mental-lexicon access, the sign-retrieval system takes sign language dictionaries beyond the traditional alphabetical indexing of glosses. Utilizing the extensive sign bank, an eye-blink, air-puff-operated communication and telecommunication system allows deaf users with quadriplegia to select automatically scanned animated signs, compose messages, and have them printed and spoken with digitized speech in Portuguese and English.

THIS ARTICLE DISCUSSES three encouraging new developments in Brazilian Sign Language (Lingua de Sinais Brasileira, or Libras) lexicography and technology.1 These are as follows:

1. An illustrated trilingual encyclopedic dictionary with 1,620 pages and 9,500 entries in English, Portuguese, and Signwriting, with grammar classifications, definitions, and examples of the appropriate use of glosses and signs, as well as thousands of lifelike illustrations and descriptions of sign forms (i.e., cheremic structure) and meanings (i.e., sign referents).

2. A digital encyclopedia with a databank of fifty-six hundred signs glossed in Portuguese and English, each fully described and illustrated in its sign form and meaning. The digital encyclopedia is composed of two subsystems:

2.1. A sublexical indexing system that analyzes the structures of sign forms and displays them as alphanumeric code sequences in which letter strings correspond to cheremes and digits correspond to their respective allochers. By examining the signs and their sublexical components, users are able to retrieve the signs they are looking for.

2.2. A menu-based, sign-retrieval system that allows deaf users to search for and locate specific signs based on five parameters (i.e., hands, fingers, place, movement, and facial expression) along with their respective cheremes (e.g., articulation, orientation) and allochers (e.g., 1-9, A-Z). Because deaf users can search for signs on the basis of their sublexical components, this system enables them to dispense with traditional and less effective strategies, thus taking sign-language dictionaries beyond the alphabetical indexing of glosses and sign-language handbooks beyond the semantic grouping of signs.

3. A face-to-face communication and telecommunication system that deaf users with quadriplegia can operate with an eye-blink or air-puff. This enables them to easily select scanned, animated Libras signs and to compose Libras-based sign messages. Once the messages have been composed, the system enables these users to send the messages via computer networks. It also allows them to convert the messages into ASE-based sign messages. Finally, it enables users to have the messages printed and spoken with digitized speech in Portuguese and English. By allowing Brazilian deaf people with quadriplegia to compose messages in Libras and to convert them to spoken Portuguese, the system makes it possible for them to converse with both deaf and hearing blind people. And by converting those messages from Libras to both ASL and English, it permits them to communicate with American and Canadian interlocutors and hearing blind people.

The Brazilian Sign Language Trilingual Encyclopedic Dictionary

The first dictionary of Brazilian Sign Language has recently been published (Capovilla and Raphael 2001c, 2001d). …

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