Linguistically Motivated Sign Language Segmentation

Amit Moryossef, Zifan Jiang, Mathias Müller, Sarah Ebling, Yoav Goldberg

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Sign language segmentation is a crucial task in sign language processing systems. It enables downstream tasks such as sign recognition, transcription, and machine translation. In this work, we consider two kinds of segmentation: segmentation into individual signs and segmentation into phrases, larger units comprising several signs. We propose a novel approach to jointly model these two tasks. Our method is motivated by linguistic cues observed in sign language corpora. We replace the predominant IO tagging scheme with BIO tagging to account for continuous signing. Given that prosody plays a significant role in phrase boundaries, we explore the use of optical flow features. We also provide an extensive analysis of hand shapes and 3D hand normalization. We find that introducing BIO tagging is necessary to model sign boundaries. Explicitly encoding prosody by optical flow improves segmentation in shallow models, but its contribution is negligible in deeper models. Careful tuning of the decoding algorithm atop the models further improves the segmentation quality. We demonstrate that our final models generalize to out-of-domain video content in a different signed language, even under a zero-shot setting. We observe that including optical flow and 3D hand normalization enhances the robustness of the model in this context.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFindings of the Association for Computational Linguistics
Subtitle of host publicationEMNLP 2023
PublisherAssociation for Computational Linguistics (ACL)
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9798891760615
StatePublished - 2023
Event2023 Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2023 - Singapore, Singapore
Duration: 6 Dec 202310 Dec 2023

Publication series

NameFindings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2023


Conference2023 Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Association for Computational Linguistics.


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