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Background and aims

Preparation Project for an ‚iLex-Corpus-Lexicon' for Swiss German Sign Language (Deutschschweizerische Gebärdensprache, DSGS)

Since 1995 there is a lexical database for the Swiss-German sign language. By using the software ‚iLex', developed at the University of Hamburg, this database can now be expanded: Sign language videos of longer sign language text can be linked with this database to develop a ‚corpus dictionary'. It serves the purpose to not only collect already existing and future sign language video archives from different sources, but also to facilitate a more efficient search and to provide access for different teaching and research purposes. The base for an iLex corpus dictionary for the Swiss-German sign language (DSGS) was created in this pre-project between May and December 2011.


The implementation of the corpus dictionary requires technical and content measures: While the software iLex can be used locally by all employees on their computers, the iLex corpus dictionary has to be backed up on an external server. Thanks to an agreement between the HfH, the Institute for Computer Linguistics (ICL) of the University of Zurich and the Research Center for Sign Language (FZG) in Basel, iLex is now hosted on the ICL servers. In order to provide for the export of the filemaker database in iLex, many changes needed to be made to the current database. Half of the approx. 8'000 entries could be adapted in the pre-project. The remaining work will be done by the Research Center for Sign Language in Basel until June 2012. Thus, the iLex project is based on the cooperation with the University of Hamburg, where the iLex software was developed, with the Institute for Computer Linguistics at the University of Zurich, who provides a server for the database, as well as with the Research Center for Sign Language Basel.


A central work is the notation, meaning the formatting of the sign language. This will enable searching not only glosses, but also forms in the dictionary. The Hamburg notation system for sign languages (HamNoSys), a "phonetic" transcription system for hand signs, served as a basis. More than thousand hand signs were annotated overall. In order to continue this important work and to process the remaining hand signs in the database, the training of further persons in this computer based notation system is required. Furthermore the first practical experiences were made. A 2-day workshop took place, aiming at learning about the iLex database. It was run by a deaf employee of the University of Hamburg. At a later date another intensive day of training was carried out, where all project members of staff practiced the basic software steps together and asked questions. The workshops provided the base for the employees to practice and deepen the iLex functions individually in the coming months.


During the pre-project a SNF research project was drawn up, which will especially use the new corpus dictionary technology. The main objective of the project is to prepare a closed corpus, in which productive hand signs as well as productive use of conventional hand signs are analysed in different conversational types (narration, conversation, interpretation) and participant constellations (native speakers, hearing aid users, interpreters). The SNF request was submitted in October 2012.



Project Management

Financial support


Forschung und Entwicklung
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