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American Sign Language is a language like any other—but it can’t be easily organized like a traditional English dictionary. This and other barriers make it hard for parents of deaf children to aid them in language acquisition, says Naomi Caselli, a lecturer on Deaf Studies at Boston University’s School of Education.
Caselli and her team decided to take all of the ASL data available to them and organize it in a new way. ASL-LEX organizes 1,000 signs into groups based on things like similar hand shape or movement. What’s more, these little nodes are sized according to their common usage, so words like “book” are a little easier to find than a word like “castle.” It’s already helping hearing teachers and parents communicate with deaf children, and Caselli says the researchers are working hard to ensure that trend continues.