Random house webster s american sign language dictionary compact edition
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Random House Webster’s American Sign Language Dictionary Compact Edition. Michael Conyers LIBR 150 Spring 2009. Call Number – 519.703 C8242R Citation - Costello, Elaine. Random House Webster's American Sign Language Dictionary . New York: Random House Reference, 2008. .

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Random house webster s american sign language dictionary compact edition l.jpg
Random House Webster’sAmerican Sign Language DictionaryCompact Edition

Michael Conyers

LIBR 150

Spring 2009

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Call Number – 519.703 C8242R

Citation - Costello, Elaine. Random House Webster's American Sign Language Dictionary. New York: Random House Reference, 2008.

Bibliographic Information

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Arrangement and Indexing

Table of Contents listed by subject

Preface, introduction, guide on how to use the dictionary, abbreviations, handshapes and manual alphabet fingerspelling are preambles to the dictionary itself

The alphabetical dictionary makes up a bulk of the book, and is followed by specialized sections – Days of the Week, Colors, Pronouns and Geographical References

There is no index provided

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Preface: Why This Dictionary?

Introduction: American Sign Language in Context

Deafness and the Deaf Community

The Nature of American Sign Language

In Conclusion

Guide: How to Use this Dictionary

What this Dictionary Contains

How to Find a Sign

How to Make a Sign

Abbreviations Used in this Dictionary

Handshapes Used in this Dictionary

Manual Alphabet and Fingerspelling


Days of the Week



Geographical References

Table of Contents

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This title was revised and updated in 2008 based on the Random House American Sign Language dictionary originally published in hardcover in 1994. This has the most recent vocabulary and signs available in print.

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  • This book features over 4,500 signs

  • Thousands of cross references.

  • An extensive alphabetical dictionary of signs for easy reference

  • Helpful guides on how to use the book and apply signs

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Intended Purpose

This is a compact version of the hardcover dictionary and it is intended to be used as a reference for signing anywhere. It is geared towards beginners as the preface gives guides on how to use the book, and a background on sign language. Continuing with that theme the definitions are purposely made easy to understand with an illustration for each sign.

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Additional Purposes Served

  • This book can be used by students and teachers, especially children as the illustrations are large and full torso. This make it easier for young people to mimic.

  • Can also be used by parents to teach toddlers early basic signs before they can speak. This can let parents know when the child wants to eat, is sleepy and other simple communications.

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Format and Special Features


Paperback, single volume book, xl, 581 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.

Also available in hardcover and a larger unabridged version containing 5,600 signs and a subject index

Special Features

Full torso illustrations of each sign

Lists alternate signs for the same meaning, and different signs for different meanings of the same word

Compact size makes it easy to carry in purse or small bag, although not pocket sized

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Author Dr. Elaine Costello has worked with the deaf community for over twenty five years as an educator and author. She holds a Master of Science Degree in deaf education from the University of Kansas and a doctorate in instructional technology from Syracuse University.

She has published 62 works in 114 publications. Her most widely held work is “Signing: how to speak with your hands” with 7 editions printed between 1983 and 1995 and is held by 2,356 libraries worldwide.

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Examples of Reference Use

Questions that could be asked which this book might help answer:

Q: How do I properly make a handsign when using sign language?

A: Refer to Guide section of the book, How to make a sign, which gives descriptions and hints.

Q: How do I say “Hello” in sign language?

A: Look up word Hello in dictionary section. Gives an explanation of what to do, along with an full torso illustration of the motions to make.

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Complementary Sources

Random House Webster's Unabridged American Sign Language Dictionary (Hardcover)

– This book is the larger more complete version of the compact edition. It contains 1,100 more uncommon signs and a subject index.

Getting Started In Signing (DVD)

– This DVD offers step by step lessons on how to sign by the American Sign Language Dictionary author, Dr. Elaine Costello. This offers a visual supplement to the dictionary and features over 800 signs.

Both of these titles can be used to help one learn sign language at home, and the compact edition of the ASL Dictionary can be used as a reference when needed in public

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Personal Impression

This book stood out to me over other sign language dictionaries because of the full torso illustrations. Sign language does not just consist of hand signs, but also involves body motion, so to me this helped a lot.

I had interest in this book as I have a 14 month old son who is just learning to sign with us, very basic signs like I’m hungry and I’m tired. As I’ve tried it with him I found it to be very easy and fun to do.

There is more of a physical feeling to communication with handsigns. I’d compare it to listening to music (just talking) and dancing to music (signing). You just have more of a chance to “get into it”. That’s my best explanation as to why it’s fun to do.

Looking at the fingerspelling chapter it seems challenging, but not impossible. Just like a foreign language, if you can practice with one who knows the language I feel as if it would be easy to catch on.