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Help Page
    This page provides information on how to use the search system as well as the approach to describing signing gestures.
If you do not find your answers here, please let us know and we will email your answer to you (and post it to this page, if appropriate)

  • Overview
        This search engine is designed to help a Deaf person find the English word for a given sign. In order to "look up" the sign, the gesture must be described (at least in part) and the database then looks up all the corresponding words. To do this, certain parts of the sign need to be entered.
    1. Signs have three main parts that are easy to describe:
      • Handshape - The shape of the hand used during the sign's movement
      • Orientation - The direction of the hand during the sign's movement
      • Location - The starting and ending locations of the hand during the sign's movement
      Each of these parts have a starting entry and an ending entry.

    2. In addition, there are two other aspects to the sign:
      • Movement - The type of movement of the hand (up, down, sideways, etc.)
      • Descriptors - Other descriptive aspects of the sign

    3. Finally, because signs may be one-handed or two-handed, we need some way of referring to each hand independently:
      • Dominant Hand - The hand used to sign one-handed signs (usually the right hand)
      • Passive Hand - The other hand used in two-handed signs (usually the left hand)
      For "left-handed" signers, the "dominant" and "passive" hands are switched but for purposes of the search system, we'll assume "dominant" is the right hand and "passive" is the left.

  • Handshape
    The shape of the hand tells a lot about the sign. Besides the 26 alphabet shapes, there are an additional 28(?) shapes of the hand.

  • Orientation
    The orientation of a handshape describes which way the palm of the hand is facing: up, down, left, right, inward (if it is facing the signer) or outward (if it is facing away from the signer). For purposes of the search engine, the right hand is assumed to be the dominant hand, so the sign for "fine" would have the dominant hand (the right hand) with a left orientation (the palm of the right hand is facing left)

  • Location
    The location part of a sign is where on the body (or near the body) the hand is located. There are nine areas for a sign to be located: three near the top of the head (left, center, right), three near the chin (left, center, right) and three near the body below the neck (left, center, right). For signs that do not have a specific location, you can leave this area blank (none)

    There is a starting and ending location for each signing hand.

  • Movement
    The movement of the hand during the sign helps identify it easily. Movements are either up, down, left (which also includes sideways motion such as the sign for "exit"), right, inward (if it is moving toward the signer), outward (if it is moving away from the signer), diagonal, repeated or circular (which also includes a twisting motion, such as in the sign for "cute" or "cookie")

    There is a movement for each signing hand.

  • Thanks,
    The ASL Project Team

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