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Bilingual (Swiss German Sign Language DSGS/German) Interactive Web-Lexicon for Technical Terms (07-10)


Educators and professionals working in a wide variety of fields, as well as Deaf persons themselves, report that Deaf adults often face obstacles in their understanding of technical terms. The primary aimof this lexicon project is to provide explanations of technical terms in Swiss German Sign Language (Deutschschweizersiche Gebärdensprache, DSGS) videos as well as in written German texts, for useby hearing-impaired sign language users as well as for teaching personal, on-the-job supervisors, professional consultants, interpreters and interpreter trainers.In this 2 1/2 year Swiss Science Foundation - DORE project, it would have been impossible toresearch ALL fields of technical terms. The project therefore concentrated on terms from two areas,with the idea that on the basis of the linguistic and technical experienced gained from developingthese first fields, other technical fields and terms could later be added. The two technical areaschosen for this project represent fields using both abstract and practical terms, and are fields that areof importance for the partner schools, as well as for the Sign Language Interpreter Training Programof the HfH:

  • 2007/08 Economy (finance, mathematics, contracts, etc.)
  • 2008/10 Nutrition (gastronomy, cooking, foods, nutrients, etc.)


1. Product: Web Lexicon for Economy and Nutrition Technical Terms in Swiss German SignLanguage (DSGS) videos and written German texts

This web lexicon was completed within the original two-year schedule and original budget for the collection of the targeted two sets of technical terms. The lexicon has been posted with continual updates since September 2008 on the following website: The finallexicon contains a total of 756 signs for 392 economic terms and 293 nutrition terms and includes commonly used form variants 46 economy and 25 nutritional terms.All terms have video entries showing the forms of the signed equivalent of the technical term as wellas a definition and one or more example of the term's meaning both in videos of Swiss German Sign Language (Deutschschweizerische Gebärdensprache, DSGS) and in written German. The website includes introductory and help information in four written languages (German, French, Italian and English), as well as in videotaped Swiss German Sign Language. The two sets of signs were testedwith Deaf students from the partner professional school (Berufsschule für Gehörlose in Zürich), whose suggestions, together with the website's 'feedback' from registered users, have given the teamvaluable information on the entries.The Deaf expert group developed new signs for ca. 30% of these technical terms that did not have anexisting signed equivalent. Whether a sign is an existing or a newly developed form is clearly markedin the lexicon. The project team is fully aware that the new signs in this collection are merely suggestionsfrom one group of signers and only time will tell if these terms will be adopted by the DSGSsigning community and/or sign language interpreters. In the opinion of the project team, the lexicon'sexplanations of the meanings of the targeted terms, by means of DSGS and written German definitionsand examples, together with the supplementary explanatory material, will be the most usefulaspect of this lexicon for its targeted audience, young Deaf adults in secondary and professionaleducation.


2. Linguistic Issues addressed in the analyses of data from this project:

2. 1. The Development of a Methodology for signed definitions and examples of technical termsThe process for building up and refining the definitions and examples turned out to be somewhatmore complicated than originally planned, and in the end involved the following steps:

a) Written German definitions were discussed within the 'expert group' which consisted of Deaf signers who have professional knowledge of the technical field, together with the twonative DSGS signing team members and the video sign language model. The expertgroup also proposed several examples of uses of the term. All of the discussions of theexpert group were videotaped.
b) When the expert group was satisfied that they all understood the definition properly, and had appropriate examples, the team members worked together with the video model onthe sign language version of the definitions and examples, which were then videotaped inthe studio.
c) The studio definitions and examples were then sent to the two sign language interpreters, who translated the sign language versions into written German.
d) These translations and videos were then checked both by the expert group and the hearing expert from the partner school who served as external advisor for the field.
e) In some cases, where the meanings of the studio videos were found by the expert groupor outside advisor to be misleading, too vague or otherwise inadequate, the signed entrieswere reworked, re-filmed, retranslated and rechecked. Some written German translationsalso had to be revised in order to make them more appropriate and/or more specific to the technical field.

2.2. Issues involving translating sign language texts into written spoken language dictionary entries

2.3. Analyses of the linguistic status of the signs for these technicals terms (proportion ofconventional, known and new signs in this corpus)

2.4. Analyses of the linguistic composition of this set of signs (conventional vs. productive elements, degree of following the linguistic ordering of morphemes in the German termequivalent)

2.5. Factors which seem to influence this group of signers' coining of new signs for these technical terms

All of these linguistic issues are discussed in more detail in planned publications: Boyes Braem & Tissiand in Stocker.

3. Experience gained in Internet technology

One of the initial reasons for putting this lexicon on the Internet was to avoid the well-known problems of CD-ROMs and DVDs, which must constantly be updated to keep up with new computer operatingsystems. What the team learned in the very final weeks of this project was that data placed on an Internet website must also be constantly monitored for effects of changes made to the host server (changes which turn out are not always announced in advance by the server provider), and which cansuddenly and severely affect the functioning of an existing website.

Future of this Technical Terms Lexikon

  • After completion of the project, the 'Fachgebaerden' website is to be turned over to the Swiss Deaf Association (SGB-FSS), which will decide if it will be maintained or be integrated into theweb platform which this organization is currently developing as a general information and teaching dictionary for Swiss sign languages.
  • In addition, all lexical information, videos and supporting material which appear on the technical terms website lexicon from this project are stored at the HfH, where they could be made available to this institution's students and teaching staff.

Presentations of the Project at Conferences and in the Media

  • The lexicon project was presented on October 23, 2007 in Rome at an European conference on Dictionaries for the Deaf, as well as to staff and students at the Hochschule für Heilpädagogik in HfH-Colloquiums in November 2007 and July 2010.
  • The DORE/HfH website for this lexicon was shown to a group of Deaf persons from all areas of Switzerland at the Third National Congress of the National Deaf Association (SGB-FSS) in Locarno (September 27, 2008).
  • A lengthy report on the project was published in the magazine for the hearing-impaired, together with a full page article 'Was ist ein DORE Projekt?” (Sonos. Nr. 1, Jan. 2008, pp. 12 - 15). On February 28, 2008, a portrait of the DORE lexicon project was included in Swiss German Television science program 'Einstein'.
  • On February 28, 2008, a portrait of the DORE lexicon project was included in Swiss German Television science program 'Einstein'.
  • A report on this project appeared in the newspaper article, Bern Zeitung-Gebaerdensprache2.4.09 (PDF, 377kB)


  • Boyes Braem, P., Groeber, S., Stocker, H. & Tissi, K. (2012). Weblexikon für Fachbegriffe in Deutschschweizerischer Gebärdensprache (DSGS) und Deutsch. eDITion, 2, 8-14.
  • Ebling, S., Tissi, K. & Volk, M. (2012). Semi-automatic annotation of semantic relations in a Swiss German sign language lexicon. In: 5th Workshop on the Representation and Processing of Sign Languages: Interactions between Corpus and Lexicon, LREC 2012, Istanbul, 21 May 2012 - 27 May 2012, 31-36.



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