Lori Whynot


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Measuring Lexical Similarity across Sign Languages in Global Signbank
Carl Börstell | Onno Crasborn | Lori Whynot
Proceedings of the LREC2020 9th Workshop on the Representation and Processing of Sign Languages: Sign Language Resources in the Service of the Language Community, Technological Challenges and Application Perspectives

Lexicostatistics is the main method used in previous work measuring linguistic distances between sign languages. As a method, it disregards any possible structural/grammatical similarity, instead focusing exclusively on lexical items, but it is time consuming as it requires some comparable phonological coding (i.e. form description) as well as concept matching (i.e. meaning description) of signs across the sign languages to be compared. In this paper, we present a novel approach for measuring lexical similarity across any two sign languages using the Global Signbank platform, a lexical database of uniformly coded signs. The method involves a feature-by-feature comparison of all matched phonological features. This method can be used in two distinct ways: 1) automatically comparing the amount of lexical overlap between two sign languages (with a more detailed feature-description than previous lexicostatistical methods); 2) finding exact form-matches across languages that are either matched or mismatched in meaning (i.e. true or false friends). We show the feasability of this method by comparing three languages (datasets) in Global Signbank, and are currently expanding both the size of these three as well as the total number of datasets.