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The Gallaudet Dictionary of American Sign Language

Clayton Valli, Editor in Chief

Illustrated by Peggy Swartzel Lott, Daniel Renner, and Rob Hills

View select illustrations.
Read reviews: Library Journal, Choice Wisconsin Bookwatch, ARBAonline, Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education.


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From American Reference Books Annual (ARBA) online

The Gallaudet Dictionary of American Sign Language is the most complete sign language dictionary on the market today. More than five years in the making, this dictionary illustrates more than 3,000 words, along with finger spellings when appropriate. The full index at the back of the volume allows users to cross-reference words and signs throughout the entire volume.

       The book is arranged in alphabetic order with each word providing its own illustration. The illustrations are about 2-x-2 inches in size and show the motion of the sign with the use of arrows. The bold printed part of each illustration indicates the conclusion of each sign. The introduction to the work provides valuable information for those unfamiliar with sign language. The word order of sentences in American Sign Language can be very different from that of the spoken word. Often grammatical information is depicted with expression, body language, and surrounding space. The introduction to this volume describes how there are five parts to each sign that make it distinctive from the meaning of other words. These include the hand shape, the location of the hand in relation to the body, the movement of the hand (up and down, or side to side), orientation of the hand (palm up or palm down), and nonmanual signs (facial expressions, eye gaze, body position). The introduction is followed by a section on the importance and use of classifiers in American Sign Language. Classifiers are a critical element of sign language as they allow the signer to express whole phrases with a single sign. Following this is a list of words that are typically spelled out in sign language (e.g., air, ice, mud, nap, social security number).

       Because sign language cannot easily be learned through the use of a book alone, this volume also comes with a CD-ROM that provides ASL signers demonstrating each of the 3,000 signs. The CD-ROM is fully searchable and allows users to quickly view a sign and go directly to its synonyms. This feature makes this book ideal for reference use, instructors, students, and those just learning the language. This volume will become the standard in sign language reference sources and should be made available in public, college and university, and many school libraries.

Clayton Valli was an assistant professor in the Master’s Interpreting Program at Gallaudet University.

ISBN 978-1-56368-282-7, 7 x 10 casebound, 600 pages, 3000+ sign illustrations, index, full-color DVD


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