Exploring Phonological Aspects of Australian Indigenous Sign Languages

Eleanor Jorgensen, Jennifer Green, Anastasia Bauer
2021 Languages  
Spoken languages make up only one aspect of the communicative landscape of Indigenous Australia—sign languages are also an important part of their rich and diverse language ecologies. Australian Indigenous sign languages are predominantly used by hearing people as a replacement for speech in certain cultural contexts. Deaf or hard-of-hearing people are also known to make use of these sign languages. In some circumstances, sign may be used alongside speech, and in others it may replace speech
more » ... y replace speech altogether. Alternate sign languages such as those found in Australia occupy a particular place in the diversity of the world's sign languages. However, the focus of research on sign language phonology has almost exclusively been on sign languages used in deaf communities. This paper takes steps towards deepening understandings of signed language phonology by examining the articulatory features of handshape and body locations in the signing practices of three communities in Central and Northern Australia. We demonstrate that, while Australian Indigenous sign languages have some typologically unusual features, they exhibit the same 'fundamental' structural characteristics as other sign languages.
doi:10.3390/languages6020081 fatcat:vfvfg2vatjasdf2ookxamwxn5i