Auslan Sign Language Analysis

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Introduction This assignment is concerned with Auslan, the sign language used in Australia. I chose this topic because I am interested in sign languages and moreover because I like the country and I already spent 15 months travelling and working there. The first chapter provides information about what Auslan is, who the speakers are and how it is related to other sign languages. It also informs about Auslan in the media today, its development over time and its future situation. The second chapter deals with a more detailed investigation of Auslan and English by including the phenomena fingerspelling and Signed English. This chapter also gives information about Auslan variations. In chapter three I will turn to the question if Auslan can be…show more content…
Auslan, BSL and NZSL originated from the same parent language, a deaf sign language that has been used during the 19th century in Great Britain. It is said that the first deaf person who introduced BSL to Australia was John Carmichael, an engraver who moved to Sydney in 1825 from Edinburgh.[2] The term BANZSL has been coined by Adam C. Schembri and Trevor Johnston and it represents a name for British, Australian and New Zealand Sign Language. When I was reading about sign languages, Auslan, BSL and NZSL were often referred to collectively as BANZSL, but there is to say that these languages are still individuals. Adam C. Schembri worked at a number of institutions as a research assistant, lecturer and sign language interpreter, including the University of Sydney, the Macquarie University and the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children in Australia. The three sign languages of BANZSL use the same manual alphabet, the same grammar and they have a high degree of lexical sharing, also called overlap of signs.[3] The sign for ‘sister’ (tapping the nose twice with the pointer finger in hooked shape) is the same in Auslan, BSL and NZSL because these languages are historically related. (For all the signs I am using as examples in this assignment there are illustrations provided in the appendix. See illustration 1a for ‘sister’) Contrarily, a user of ASL signs ‘sister’ by…show more content…
Is Auslan a language at all? Most people think that the sign a deaf person performs is always a one to one representation of what it means. If we take the word ‘house’ and look at the according Auslan sign, the above theory applies because the signer actually moves his hands in a way that the shape of a house can be recognized (see illustration 4). If a sign language user shows two fingers it is also quite obvious that he or she refers to the number ‘two’ (see illustration 5). From the two above examples one could assume that sign language is exclusively iconic. One could see sign language as a type of communication using signs that have a close relation to what they represent, just like a smiley on ICQ refers to a smiling face. Now, just imagine a user of Auslan would show a sign looking like this: both hands are positioned in front of the chest, the fingers of the left hand are facing down and the right hand swings repeatedly over the back of the left hand as if it was trying to wipe something away (see illustration 6). How could we possibly find out that this motion of all things refers to the animal ‘cat’? According to Johnston and Schembri the sign for ‘cat’ has iconic character, because the motion imitates the stoking of a cat’s fur.[9] To be honest, I would not have known the meaning of this sign just by seeing it. Somebody could

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