Mara yurriku: Western Desert sign languages

Date

2019

Authors

Ellis, Elizabeth
Green, Jennifer
Kral, Inge
Reed, Lauren

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Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS)

Abstract

In the Ngaanyatjarra Lands of the Western Desert the phrase mara yurriku ‘moving the hands’ is used to describe communication by manual signing. This paper introduces some of the forms and functions of sign, based on previous documentations of sign in the Western Desert, as well as on new research supported by an ARC-funded research project on Western Desert Verbal Arts (2015–19). We describe the contexts of sign language use, illustrating how sign fits into the communicative ecology of Ngaanyatjarra Lands communities. The paper discusses some linguistic features of sign, including the handshapes used, the semantic domains represented in the lexicon and the development of new signs for contemporary concepts. The paper also situates sign language within the spectrum of multimodal communicative practices in the Western Desert, including the innovation of ‘air writing’. The paper provides a Western Desert perspective on sign, as the first author is a Ngaanyatjarra/ Ngaatjatjarra speaker and is knowledgeable about signing practices.

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Source

Australian Aboriginal Studies

Type

Journal article

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Restricted until

2037-12-31