ASL SignBank

CLOSE glossesThe ASL SignBank is a tool being developed in relation to the SLAAASh Project in collaboration between researchers in our lab at UConn, and at Gallaudet University (Julie Hochgesang, lead). There is currently no one commonly-accepted orthography for American Sign Language. Additionally, the transcription systems used by different research groups are often inconsistent. The best practice is to base annotations on ID glosses. In an ID gloss system, exactly one word or phrase stands for exactly one sign. For this project, this means that for each ASL sign there is an English word that is used to label each sign consistently – regardless of meaning or of modification in context. Our laboratory has previously collaborated to create a database of conventions for ID glosses. The current focus is to improve, expand, and share this database.

ASLsignbank-screenshotThe ASL Signbank is not meant to be a dictionary, but rather a tool for researchers. It is currently under development and contains over 2000 signs. Researchers led by Onno Crasborn (Radboud University, Netherlands) are working to create a link between the ELAN program and the ASL SignBank. Changes or additions made to the online ASL SignBank will propagate through linked ELAN annotation files, making updates simple and straightforward for researchers to incorporate.


Research reported here was supported in part by the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01DC013578. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

4signbanksSome other SignBanks:

NGT Dr. Onno Crasborn (Radboud University, Netherlands)

BSL Dr. Kearsy Cormier (UCL, UK)

FinSL Prof. Ritva Takkinen (University of Jyväskylä, Finland)


Hochgesang, J.A. (2017). “Making sense of real data: considering usage-based theory in the analysis of lemmas in ASL data.” Invited Paper presented at SIGN8 International Conference of Sign Language Users, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (UFSC), Florianopòlis, Brazil. October. pdf

Hochgesang, Julie, Crasborn, Onno, & Lillo-Martin, Diane. (2017). “Building the ASL SignBank on the Shoulder of Giants.” CL2017 Pre-Conference Workshop 3: Corpus-based approaches to sign language linguistics: Into the second decade. University of Birmingham, July 24. pdf, handout

Hochgesang, Julie. (2017). “Our Data is Homeless.” Drs. John S. & Betty J. Schuchman Deaf Documentary Center Naming Day, Gallaudet University, May 3.

Crasborn, Onno. (2016). “New technologies for sign language research: ELAN & Signbank”. Opening keynote, 1st National Congress of Research in Linguistics and Sign Language, Florianópolis, Brazil. Nov 28.

Hochgesang, Julie. (2016). “Sustaining ASL Collections: What’s annotation and why does it matter?” Capturing Deaf Heritage Day, Gallaudet University, Oct 28.

Crasborn, Onno. (2016). “Using analysis tools in sign language research”. Invited talk, Sign Language and Social Communication: 2016 International Conference of the NIKL. Seoul, South Korea. Sept 7.