About the Entries
The dictionary contains approximately 4,000 entries for NZSL signs. Where a single sign has two distinct senses, each meaning has a separate entry. Each entry shows a sign as a line drawing, as a videoclip, and as used in an example sentence. The sign is translated with equivalent English words - usually a main gloss, and secondary or other possible meanings. Both main and secondary English glosses are included in a sign search.
All the sentence examples reflect natural NZSL usage, and the structure of the signed sentence is represented in a literal gloss displayed below the videoclip. Notice that each written sign gloss in a sentence can be clicked to link to the entry for that sign within the dictionary. An English translation of example sentences is provided to show the meaning and grammatical context for using the sign.
Drawings and video clips will be the most important way for learners to see how to make a sign. But some entries also contain a ‘hint’ that helps to remember the way a sign looks, based on a visual aspect of the sign.
Entries contain grammatical information about how a sign is formed and used, including the following: its main grammatical role in NZSL (verb, noun, adjective, pronoun, interrogative, etc); whether it can be made in varying locations or directions to express spatial information, or moved in varying directions to show person (agent-recipient) meaning; whether a two handed-sign is optionally made with one hand; whether a sign can be modified to show adverbial meaning (such as manner), or to incorporate number meaning.
Information about the origin and the users of particular signs is shown in some entries. Where this information is known (not in every case), origin of a sign is noted (for example, within NZSL or adopted from Auslan, BSL or ASL). Certain signs are known to be used more by one generation than another, in which case the entry will indicate ‘older’ or ‘younger’ use.
A small number of signs are marked as archaic or rare, meaning that they are no longer, or very infrequently, used. Other signs that have been recently coined (sometimes for specialised or educational purposes) and are not yet in widespread use are marked as neologisms. Signs that are regarded by the NZSL community as obscene, or as informal slang, are marked as such.
Glossary of terms
Archaic signs are no longer in common use.
A signer’s stronger hand, usually their writing hand. One-handed signs are made with the dominant hand. In two-handed signs where the handshapes differ, the dominant hand often has a more complex handshape or movement.
This sign includes one or more letters of the fingerspelling alphabet. See alphabet tab.
The facial expression and/or movement of this sign can be changed to show how an action was performed and differences in intensity.
The movement of this sign can be repeated to show that there is more than one thing, animal or person.
The movement of this sign can be changed to show differences in the duration or regularity of the action.
These colloquial signs are mainly used in informal situations, usually between signers who know each other well.
Many signs, especially nouns and verbs, can be accompanied by silent mouthing of a spoken word that corresponds to the sign meaning. Some signs are formed with specific movements of the lips, tongue and mouth that are not related to speech, but contribute to the meaning of the sign.
Neologisms are signs that have only recently come into use and may not be known by the whole NZSL community. Many neologisms have developed in educational settings.
The signer’s weaker hand, usually their non-writing hand. In two-handed signs where the handshapes differ, the non-dominant hand usually has a less complex handshape and movement than the dominant hand.
Movements of the eyebrows, eyes, mouth, cheeks, head and upper body that add grammatical meaning to a sign or phrase.
The handshape of this sign can be changed to a number handshape (usually from 1-5, occasionally from 1-9) to show how many items or people are involved. See numbers tab.
These signs could be considered rude (for example because they are a swear word or have sexual reference).
This sign can be produced either with one hand or with both hands. In some two-handed signs, the non-dominant hand is commonly dropped (especially when it is a base handshape that does not move), to produce a one-handed form. Some one-handed signs may be duplicated on the non-dominant hand.
The movement of this (verb) sign can be directed to different locations in the signing space to show who is carrying out an action and who is the recipient.
Some signs are used rarely, or only by a small proportion of NZSL users, because another variant has become more popular.
The location or movement of this sign can be changed to show the direction of an action or the location of an object.
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