Date of Award

Spring 5-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Resa Crane Bizzaro, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Gian S. Pagnucci, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Sharon K. Deckert, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Glenn Anderson, Ph.D.

Fifth Advisor

Patric A. Bizzaro, Ph.D.


The creation of an academic American Sign Language (ASL) dictionary to inform signers of ways to approach an academic style of written English is an important tool to help deaf students enter into the First-Year Composition (FYC) community within postsecondary education programs and institutions.

While the Deaf community is in need of a dictionary specifically for its ASL users, the difficulty of compiling a dictionary in ASL is challenging because large corpora of written texts in ASL do not exist and copious recordings of conversations are not feasible. As a proficient user of ASL, I have noticed that students use signs in a conceptual way. While they fully understand the concept of each sign, they often only have one English word to use for translation. Using available English dictionaries and creating a corpus, I have compiled a dictionary to assist Deaf students and their teachers in developing vocabulary, extending usage, and enhancing style.

The dictionary provides Deaf students with a tool to improve their academic writing and build their self-esteem. Additionally, the dictionary will help Deaf students to participate more fully in the FYC milieu, which will bring about an awareness of Deaf culture and improvements in writing pedagogy. The Academic ASL Dictionary is designed for an already competent user of ASL. While other sign language dictionaries have been compiled for translation purposes only, the creation of a dictionary for ASL users is valuable to the field of composition because it will not only teach students the deeper and more academic meaning of words and signs but also provide them with specific phrasing to use while composing papers.