Publication details

Sign language lexicography: a case study of an online dictionary



Year of publication 2021
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Slovenščina 2.0: empirical, applied and interdisciplinary research
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Keywords sign language; lexicography; dictionary; methodology
Description As a growing field of study within sign language linguistics, sign language lexicography faces many challenges that have already been answered for audio-oral language material. In this paper, we present some of these challenges and methods developed to help navigate the complex lexical classification field. The described methods and strategies are implemented in the first Czech sign language (ČZJ) online dictionary, a part of the platform Dictio, developed at Masaryk University in Brno. We cover the topic of lemmatisation and how to decide what constitutes a lexeme in sign language. We introduce four types of expressions that qualify for a dictionary entry: a simple lexeme, a compound, a derivative, and a set phrase. We address the question of the place of classifier constructions and shape and size specifiers in a dictionary, given their peculiar semantic status. We maintain the standard classification of classifiers (whole entity and holding classifiers) and size and shape specifiers (SASSes; static and tracing specifiers). We provide arguments for separating the category of specifiers from the category of classifiers. We discuss the proper treatment of mouthings and mouth gestures concerning citation forms, derivation and translation. We show why it is difficult in sign language to distinguish synonyms from variants and how our proposed phonological criteria can help. We explain how to construct a semantic definition in a sign language and what is the solution for multiple meanings of one form. We offer simple guidelines for forming proper examples of use in a sign language. And finally, we briefly comment on the process of the translation between sign and spoken languages. We conclude the paper with a summary of roles that Dictio plays in the ČZJ-signing community.
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