One of the barriers to conducting corpus-based phonetic and phonological research on signed languages is the lack of tools for streamlining phonetic annotation in a way that is then compatible with other corpus-analysis resources. SLP-Annotator is a free, open- source software program that is designed to implement a (slightly modified) version of Johnson and Liddell’s anatomically based and phonetically detailed Sign Language Phonetic Annotation (SLPA) system (2010, 2011a, 2011b, 2012). The software creates corpora that are compatible with the more general program Phonological CorpusTools (PCT; Hall et al. 2016) to allow relatively automated phonological analysis.
SLPAnnotator follows the guidelines laid out in Tkachman et al. (2016) to modify SLPA. Specifically, each handshape annotation consists of exactly 34 slots, each of which can consist of a pre-determined list of annotations (see Fig. 1). Completely standardizing the input format of each transcription makes it possible to (a) facilitate the transcription process by providing the transcriber with both visual and written information about what can be entered into each slot; (b) provide automatic checks for inaccurate transcriptions (e.g., warning users when they enter anatomically or phonologically implausible configurations); (c) create automatically rendered images of the transcribed handshape, facilitating readability and human-led accuracy checks; and (d) create corpora that are compatible with automated analysis. For example, after creating corpora using SLPAnnotator, one could import them into PCT to test claims about sign language phonology and typology, such as the proposal in Johnson and Liddell (2011b: 21) that when the proximal joints are all extended, the fourth finger is always abducted. This can be done by searching for certain finger configurations in a corpus, in a manner similar to how PCT allows searching for words with segments matching specific phonological features. PCT will also makes it easy to run a variety of common analyses that have rarely, or never, been used with sign languages, such as calculations of functional load or neighbourhood density.
[ _ ]1 [ _ _ _ _ ]2 [ _ _ ∅ / _ _ _ _ _ _ ]3 [1_ _ _ ]4 [ _ 2 _ _ _ ]5 [ _ 3 _ _ _ ]6 [ _ 4 _ _ _ ]7
Figure 1. The template for SLPA handshape annotation in SLPAnnotator: (1) forearm, (2) thumb configuration, (3) thumb-finger contact, (4) index finger, (5) middle finger, (6) ring finger, (7) little finger.
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Johnson, Robert E. & Scott K. Liddell. 2012. Toward a Phonetic Representation of Hand Configuration: The thumb. Sign Language Studies 12.316-33.
Tkachman, Oksana, Kathleen Currie Hall, André Xavier & Bryan Gick. 2016. Sign Language Phonetic Annotation meets Phonological CorpusTools: Towards a sign language toolset for phonetic notation and phonological analysis. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of Phonology.