Advertisement
Professor Dany Adone, linguist and presenter of seminars on alternative sign languages and Biomodal Bilingualism within Indigenous communities. (Charles Darwin University)

An International Professor has been working with Yolgnu people for more than 20 years and explores how First Nations people have a history of communication other than speech.

By
Kirstyn Lindsay
Published on
Tuesday, September 5, 2017 - 16:41
File size
3.6 MB
Duration
7 min 46 sec

Professional Fellow Dany Adone held seminars on Biomodal Bilingualism or speech-sign last week at the Northern Institute at the Charles Darwin University in the Northern Territory.

Dr Adone is the Chair of Applied Linguistics in the Department of English at the University of Cologne in Germany and started working with Yolgnu people on alternative sign languages in 1993.

"We find the hearing community are using these sign languages under certain circumstances, such as for ritual purposes, long distance communication and in early times- times of mourning and taboo when speech is forbidden or at least silence is requested."

Dr Adone says she can only do this work because she has the support and permission of Yolgnu people who work with her to present the information to the rest of the world.

"The Yolgnu sign language is strong, and there are other sign languages that are not that strong and Elders have been complaining that they don't see the kids using enough of these sign languages."

Primary sign languages are the first language of the deaf community, alternate sign languages are sign languages used by the hearing community.

Professor Adone says that in Yirkalla, Milingimbi and Gali'winku, the Yolgnu people use sign language as an alternate speech on a daily basis.

"We find the hearing community are using these sign languages under certain circumstances, such as for ritual purposes, long distance communication and in early times- times of mourning and taboo when speech is forbidden or at least silence is requested."

Language, structures and language endangerment

Dr Adone says there has always been investigation into the endangerment of spoken First Nations languages.

"It's only recently people have started working on sign languages in Australia. The work in Arnhem land and some in Western Australia shows us very clearly these languages need to be preserved, it's part of cultural heritage," she says.

Listen to the podcast with Professor Dany Adone on NITV Radio to hear the story on speech-sign and alternate languages within Indigenous communities.