Deaf News: New features added to BSL Signbank, DCAL’s online sign language dictionary

Posted on September 26, 2016



Academics behind BSL Signbank, the first ever British Sign Language (BSL) usage-based dictionary, have added two new features to mark the second anniversary of its launch. The new functions will not only allow users to test their knowledge on BSL signs and regional variation but also to search the dictionary using specific sign features.

BSL Signbank is a dictionary that has been developed by researchers at the Deafness Cognition and Language (DCAL) Research Centre at University College London. Launched two years ago, BSL SignBank is based on signs collected from the BSL Corpus, a large video collection of signing by 249 Deaf people filmed in 8 cities across the UK.

It differs significantly from other dictionary-type BSL resources because it has been developed in a way that more consistently uses the same principles as dictionaries for spoken languages. Until BSL Signbank was established, online dictionaries available to BSL users and people learning the language just consisted of BSL signs that are translation equivalents of English words, perhaps based on information from only a small number of people.

To mark the Signbank’s second anniversary, researchers working on project have added two new features to the online resource – the first a quiz, to test users’ knowledge of regional signs and the second, a sign feature search tool that will allow users to browse by different handshapes and by different locations on the body where signs are produced.

Dr Kearsy Cormier is the Director of the BSL Corpus Project and is one of the leading researchers working on BSL Signbank. Commenting on the launch of the new features, Dr Cormier said:

“When my colleagues and I launched BSL Signbank two years ago, we said it would be a living dictionary that would grow as we view and study more of the BSL Corpus.

“The two new features being added to the website compliment the information included last year on regional sign variation and allow users to search and test their knowledge on these signs.

“For me, the sign search tool is an extremely innovative feature and will allow users to browse the dictionary specifically by handshape and by positions on the body where signs can be produced. This is the only online BSL dictionary resource that allows browsing by sign features – this is an important step towards making Signbank a bidirectional bilingual dictionary, like bilingual dictionaries of spoken languages where you can search by either language

“BSL Signbank will continue to develop and as we use crowdsourcing to seek more and more views of the Deaf community on missing signs, it will be the most up-to-date and informative resource available.”

BSL Signbank can be found on

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Posted in: deaf news