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8:4 Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A Reflection of Its Social Community

Experts Come Together to Produce an Extraordinary
American Sign Language Dictionary

Simply defined as texts that describe the meanings of words, with examples and pronunciation, dictionaries often are much more than that. Dictionaries frequently reflect the social community in which the language is used, and the language need not be a spoken one. Gallaudet University Press has published a dictionary that reflects the community of the first liberal arts university in the world. With renowned linguist and native signer Clayton Valli as Editor-in-Chief, a remarkable team of native ASL signers and linguists worked for more than six years to create The Gallaudet Dictionary of American Sign Language.

Now available, The Gallaudet Dictionary of American Sign Language is a learning tool for beginning signers, a reference tool for more advanced signers, and also an English vocabulary reference for Deaf people. Because American Sign Language, like all languages, contains a lot of variation, the editors of this dictionary have included several versions of some signs. To achieve this goal, the dictionary contains more than 3,000 ASL signs. The DVD enclosed with the dictionary includes live-action clips of signers making all of the signs and is completely searchable, allowing users to look up signs by typing in synonyms or to find signs with alternate meanings.

View sample illustrations, and order online now to receive a special savings of 20% off the regular price by typing “APR0620%” in the box marked “Comments or Special Instructions” below your credit card information. Or, order by mail.


In her upcoming book, Frequency of Occurrence and Ease of Articulation of Sign Language Handshapes: The Taiwanese Example, author Jean Ann explores handshapes in Taiwan Sign Language (TSL), one of the more studied sign languages of Asia. Jean Ann explains, “About fifty-six handshapes have been discovered for TSL (Smith and Ting 1979, 1984). The null hypothesis would predict that all fifty-six handshapes ought to occur with equal frequency in TSL. However, this conjecture is not the case; in fact, some handshapes occur with much greater frequency than others. Why should this variation occur? Linguists might hypothesize that ease of articulation has something to do with this phenomenon. In other words, the handshapes that are used most frequently are the easiest to articulate or make. This book examines that hypothesis.” Read more in chapter 2 “The Anatomy and Physiology of the Human Hand,” and order Frequency of Occurrence and Ease of Articulation of Sign Language Handshapes.


Just this month, Deaf Women’s Lives co-author Bainy Cyrus won a 2006 notable award from Writers Notes Magazine, an international resource for authors published by independent and small presses, for her memoir All Eyes featured in Deaf Women’s Lives: Three Self-Portraits, the third volume in the Deaf Lives series. In All Eyes, Cyrus vividly tells of how she was taught using the oral method at the Clarke School for the Deaf in Northampton, MA, and how two girls there changed her life later as an adult. Read an excerpt of Cyrus’s memoir, and order Deaf Women’s Lives here.


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