American Sign Language Medical Dictionary

Book Review 
by Kathleen Kelly MacMillan, 
Librarian, Maryland School for the Deaf
© 2003

American Sign Language Medical Dictionary
by Elaine Costello, 2000
Random House Reference, a division of Random House Inc.
New York, NY     ISBN: 0-375-70927-4, $24.95 US; $37.95 Canada

This dictionary of medical sign language contains over one thousand signs relating to medical terminology, from simple concepts (ear, blood, cold) to complex ones (Rh Factor, ventricular fibrillation, autoimmune system). Though common fingerspelled abbreviations such as "D-N-A" and "D-B" for decibel are included, the vast majority of the entries break down the meaning of the English terminology, giving truly coherent definitions in groups of ASL signs rather than simply mirroring English form. For example, the signs given for "immune system" gloss as "INSIDE BODY PROTECT DISEASE". Each entry gives the English term, along with common English synonyms, a definition in English, and then clear line drawings of the ASL sign or signs that delineate the concept. Each drawing is accompanied by an English gloss, as well as a written description of the sign's handshape, orientation, and movement. Information about register is also given where applicable, indicating whether a term is slang.

 In her helpful introduction, Costello notes that this book can be used not only as a resource for interpreters and deaf patients themselves, but also for medical personnel. The drawings are clear enough that even a doctor or nurse who knows nothing of sign language could point to the appropriate entries, serving as a communication bridge in emergencies. Overall, this is a valuable resource for medical personnel, and an outstanding ready reference for medical interpreters.

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