Sign Languages of Aboriginal Australia



Originally published in 1988, Sign Languages of Aboriginal Australia was the first book-length study ever to be published on the subject of sign language as a means of communication among Australian Aboriginal people.

The work presented in this book fills an important gap in Aboriginal ethnography and linguistics. It also marks a major advance in the understanding of the relationship between medium of expression, code structure and communication; the processes by which spoken language may be represented in a non-vocal medium; and native speaker awareness of spoken language structure.

Based on fieldwork conducted over a span of 9 years, the book presents a thorough analysis of the structure of sign languages and their relationship to spoken languages.

Table of contents

1. Introduction 2. Aboriginal sign languages observed: a history 3. Aboriginal sign languages observed: geographical review 4. North central desert background 5. Sign structures 6. Sign forming and sign meaning 7. Sign organization and word structure 8. Signing spoken language grammar 9. Discourse in sign and speech 10. Signing and speaking simultaneously 11. Signs of kinship 12. Comparing Aboriginal sign languages 13. Australian Aboriginal sign languages and other semiotic systems 14. Aboriginal interaction and Aboriginal sign language Appendix I. Sign notation symbols Appendix II. Two versions of a Warlpiri story

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Harvard citation

Korff, J 2018, Sign Languages of Aboriginal Australia, <>, retrieved 5 July 2020

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