Unlike spoken languages, sign languages display a considerable amount of iconicity, where the meaning of a concept often influences the form of the signs expressing that concept. Our goal is to quantify the nature of this influence across many sign languages, in order to answer questions on iconicity and the limits of arbitrariness in language. In the end, this can lead to a deeper understanding of the relationship between human cognition and language.

Data sets
We have used automatic video processing of a multilingual sign language dictionary, Spread The Sign, to display the average hand activity across the approximately 30 sign languages each concept is expressed in. These visualizations are described in Östling, Börstell & Courtaux (2018). URL: mumin.ling.su.se/sl/

See also
Some of the data used in this project is from the Swedish Sign Language Lexicon (Swedish only)

Östling, Robert & Carl Börstell & Servane Courtaux. 2018. Visual Iconicity Across Sign Languages: Large-Scale Automated Video Analysis of Iconic Articulators and Locations. Frontiers of Psychology 9:725. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00725

Börstell, Carl & Robert Östling. 2017. Iconic locations in Swedish Sign Language: Mapping form to meaning with lexical databases. In Jörg Tiedemann (ed.), Proceedings of the 21st Nordic Conference on Computational Linguistics (NODALIDA 2017), NEALT Proceedings Series 29, 221–225. Gothenburg: Linköping University Electronic Press, Linköpings universitet (ACL Anthology).

Börstell, Carl, Ryan Lepic & Gal Belsitzman. 2016. Articulatory plurality is a property of lexical plurals in sign language. In Peter Lauwers & Marie Lammert (eds.), Lexical plurals and beyond: Special issue of Lingvisticæ Investigationes 39(2): 391–407.

Lepic, Ryan, Carl Börstell, Gal Belsitzman & Wendy Sandler. 2016. Taking meaning in hand: Iconic motivations for two-handed signs. Sign Language & Linguistics 19 (1): 37–81.

Contact: Robert Östling