Project: On-line NZ Sign Language Dictionary
NZ Sign Language is the language of the Deaf community in New Zealand. Like
other Sign Languages around the world, it is a full language with its own
vocabulary and grammatical structure - it isn't a signed version of English and
it isn't just a collection of gestures. Like other Sign Languages, it is not a
written language, partly because it is hard to write down a language in which
the words and sentences involve simultaneous movements of parts of the body in
three dimensions. Another reason is that it is only in the past three decades
that NZ Sign Language has been recognised as a real, natural, human language.
NZ Sign Language is distinct from other sign languages used in other countries
around the world, though it is closely related to AusLan (Australian Sign
Language) and is descended from British Sign Language.
Studies Research Unit in the School of Linguistics and Applied Language
Studies) and the Deaf Association of NZ
produced a dictionary of NZ Sign Language. In some ways, the dictionary is an
ordinary bilingual dictionary - translating between English words and NZSL
signs. However, because NZSL is not a written language, the dictionary has
some interesting features:
- The NZSL entries involve images - drawings of each sign.
- The ordering of signs has to be based on properties of the sign, not on an
- The English to NZSL section is a little awkward to use - the
images take too much space to be able to repeat them in both the
NZSL to English and the English to NZSL sections, so the English to NZSL section
is really an index with page references back to entries in the NZSL to English
- The need for images means that the physical book is large.
I currently have a prototype electronic version of the
with a browser and a CD (no server required) or run over the web. It is just a
prototype, and has many limitations. However, one of its nice features is the
ability to create worksheets with your own selection of signs to assist in
learning the language.
The DSRU is currently creating a much better online dictionary for NZSL
which will incorporate video. It is scheduled for release in 2011.