Search by parameter

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Here is one of SooSL's best features: you can search for a sign by handshape, location, motion, and other characteristics. All these characteristics are called parameters

The sections below explain how to use parameters to search for signs. First, open the search dialog, then choose one or more parameters that match the sign you are looking for.

Open the search dialog

To search by parameter (handshape, location, motion, etc.), first click the magnifying glass icon in the toolbar. You will see a search dialog. It looks a little different in SooSL Web and SooSL Desktop.

SooSL Web

SooSL Desktop

  • At the top left, there are 5 icons. These represent the 5 kinds of parameters. See below for explanations.
  • To see descriptions about what each icon represents, click the closed eye. Or, with a mouse, just hover over the icon. Then use the light bulb in some descriptions to see more details.
  • Click the hand next to the eye to see SignWriting symbols for handshapes. Click the SignWriting icon to go back to seeing handshapes.

  • You can change the width of the dialog by dragging the borders. You might need to do that to see all the tabs.
  • You can drag the whole dialog outside the SooSL window, even to a second monitor. That way, you can see both the dialog and the main SooSL window.
  • The 5 tabs represent the 5 kinds of parameters. See below for explanations.
  • Hover the mouse over an icon to see a description of what it represents.
  • There are icons in the main toolbar that control how things look inside the Search dialog box.

Near the top of this search dialog you will see icons for the 5 kinds of parameters. Click the links below to learn about each kind.

In the search dialog, click one of the five kinds of parameters. Underneath, you will see all the different parameters of that kind that are used in the dictionary. The number below each icon tells you how many signs use that parameter.

For example, if you click handshapes, you might see:

If the sign you are looking for has a handshape that isn't in the list, try using the closest handshape. Or, look for the sign using its other parameters.

If you click locations, you might see:

(SooSL Web does not display numbers on the body map. Instead, to see numbers, click the eye. You will see full descriptions, and the numbers are with the descriptions.)

Choose a parameter to search with

The next step is to choose which parameter(s) you want to search with. Think about the sign you are looking for and how you make it.

It usually works best to start searching by handshape and location. Add other kinds of parameters if you need them.

The numbers tell you how many signs use each parameter. If you choose that parameter, then the gloss list will get shorter; it will have only that many signs. If you want to narrow your search quickly, choose a parameter that has a small number. If you want to narrow your search more slowly, choose a higher number. What you want to do is gradually shorten the gloss list until you can find the sign you want.

Here's how you can choose a parameter.



  • Click the parameter you want to search for.

There are two ways to choose a parameter:

  • For most parameters, double-click the parameter you want to search for. For locations, single-click.
  • For everything except locations: drag the parameter to the top of the search dialog.

The parameter you choose will appear at the top of the gloss list (W) or the top of the search dialog (D). For example, if you click the Handshapes tab and then choose the graphic5 handshape you will see something like this:



First click the graphic5 handshape

then you will see

The gloss list now has fewer signs in it. It only lists signs that use the graphic5 handshape. You can click each gloss to see its video. (In SooSL Desktop, you might need to move the search dialog out of the way.) The search dialog also changes; it only shows the parameters that are used by the remaining signs. The numbers show how many of the remaining signs use each parameter.

However, the gloss list may still be quite long. The sign we want is somewhere in the list, but it is still hard to find. In that case, we add another parameter to the search to make the list shorter. Maybe you searched first by handshape; try adding a location. Go back to the search dialog and choose the parameter you want. Add as many parameters as you need, until the gloss list gets short enough that you find the sign. 

In our example, you might choose the lower torso from the Locations tab:



First click the lower torso

then you will see

Now the gloss list is even shorterjust three glosses, all for the same sign. Hopefully, that's the sign you want. Play the video to check.

If you don't find the sign you want, try searching for it another way. First, remove one or more of the parameters from the search dialog. SooSL Desktop has several ways to do this; SooSL Web is simpler.



  • Click the parameter you want to remove.
  • To remove all the parameters and go back to the full gloss list, click the red .
  • For most parameters, right-click the parameter you want to remove in the top part of the search dialog, or drag it onto the red .
  • For locations, right-click the area in the body map.
  • If you have only one button on your mouse (some Mac computers), you can use Control+Click instead of right-click. See this help topic for other ways to right-click on a Mac..
  • To remove all the parameters and go back to the full gloss list, click the red .

Then try searching with different parameters for the sign you want. For example, you might try sign type or one of the motion parameters. If there is a special facial expression or other body movement that always occurs with the sign, try the face/head/body parameters.

Of course, the sign might not be in the dictionary at all. No dictionary includes every sign in a language. If you can't find a sign, you might want to contact the people who made the dictionary and suggest they add it.

You can choose each parameter only once. For example, even if both hands use the graphichandshape, we only choose it once when we are searching. If you want to look only for two-handed signs, add one of the two-handed parameters from sign types: , or .

In the list of parameters that you've chosen, the icons are in a fixed order. For example, you might choose two different handshapes, because both are used in a sign. You might find the icons in the search area are not in the same order as in the sign. That's OK. The important thing is that they are included in the list somewhere, that's all you need to find the sign. 

SooSL Desktop only

SooSL Desktop has some special features for search:


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