Digging into Signs Workshop: Developing Annotation Standards for Sign Language Corpora

30th-31st March 2015


For sign languages used by deaf communities, linguistic corpora have until recently been unavailable, due to the lack of a writing system and a written culture in these communities, and the very recent advent of digital video. Recent improvements in video and computer technology have now made larger sign language datasets possible; however, large sign language datasets that are fully machine-readable are still elusive. This is due to two challenges.

  1. Inconsistencies that arise when signs are annotated by means of spoken/written language.
  2. The fact that many parts of signed interaction are not necessarily fully composed of lexical signs (equivalent of words), instead consisting of constructions that are less conventionalised.

As sign language corpus building progresses, the potential for some standards in annotation is beginning to emerge. But there have been no attempts to standardise these practices across corpora, which is required to be able to compare data crosslinguistically. The Digging into Signs project, funded under the Digging into Data Challenge, aims to create clear standards for addressing both types of challenges so as to make cross-linguistic corpus research possible for sign languages. The project puts these standards into practice by creating publicly accessible annotations for two sign languages, along with protocols for creating such annotations. We do this for two recent open access sign language corpora that are among the very first in the field – i.e. Sign Language of the Netherlands (Corpus NGT led by PI Onno Crasborn, Radboud University Nijmegen) and British Sign Language (BSL Corpus led by PI Kearsy Cormier. University College London).

The Digging into Signs team is hosting a workshop on 30-31 March 2015 at University College London to share our joint annotation standards with other sign language corpus projects and to get some feedback on them. The programme consists of presentations and posters by researchers who have sign language corpus projects underway and have begun annotation.  See below for draft programme. We have space for more posters, so if you have or are planning a sign language corpus, please contact Onno Crasborn, , by 13 February 2015.

The workshop will be free of charge and is open to anyone (space permitting), but registration is required (deadline: March 20). BSL/English interpretation and ASL/English interpretation will be provided.

A workshop dinner will be held on Monday 30 March at 7pm at Yialousa Greek Restaurant, 5-10 minute walk from the workshop venue. The cost is £21.50 per person for a 2-course meal, with drinks available for purchase at the bar. Dinner must be booked and paid in advance by Friday 20 March. Partners and friends are welcome but note that there is a limit of 70 people – first come, first served. (After booking, you will receive confirmation from uclonlinestore at ucl.ac.uk.) BOOK YOUR DINNER TICKET HERE

The Digging into Signs draft joint annotation standard, as well as separate NGT and BSL annotation conventions, are available here:

All presentations will be commentaries by researchers on similarities and differences between the Digging project annotation guidelines and the annotation guidelines or protocols for their own sign language corpus. Paper and poster presenters: please upload to Dropbox your draft notes/slides/posters by 20 March. (See further instructions in emails to send to corresponding authors 24 February.)

Presentations (in addition to Digging team)


More information