March 19th 2012
There is a growing interest in bilingual studies within the field of language contact. Most of the studies concerned with language mixing, code switching and bilingualism concentrate on spoken languages. Studies on language contact between spoken and signed languages are rare.
In this study we examine a case of bimodal bilingualism (speech-sign) with Yolngu people at the Top End of Arnhem Land, Australia. It is a well-established fact that Aboriginal people are multilinguals. The Yolngu people involved in this study speak several Yolngu languages (Djambarrpuyngu, Gupapuyngu, Djapu and Gumatj) as well as Kriol and Aboriginal English. They also use a signing system referred to here as Yolngu Sign Language (YSL). For the hearing community YSL functions as an alternate sign language used in daily interaction, as well as for cultural purposes. It is also the first language of the Deaf members of the community. First, we discuss the sociolinguistics of YSL taking into account several factors such as the ecology of communication in remote Aboriginal communities, Aboriginal culture and conversational style. Second, we analyse instances of code-blending that involve the simultaneous production of speech and signs. In this respect this study aims at providing a unique window of opportunity onto the nature of bimodal bilingualism in a speech7sign community.
Professor Dr. Dany Adone is Professor of English Linguistics, and Chair of the English Department, University of Cologne. She received her PhD in General Linguistics, and a higher Doctorate (Habilitation) from the University of Düsseldorf, Germany. She has been successful in attracting competitive research funding from the European Science Foundation (EuroBabel) and numerous grant-giving agencies in Germany. She has done intensive fieldwork on a variety of Creole and Sign languages in Mauritius and in Australia. She is the author of several dozen articles and numerous books, including The Acquisition of Mauritian Creole, Amsterdam: Benjamins (1994), (with A. Gebert) Dictionary and Grammar of Mauritian Sign Language, Port-Louis (2006), and The Acquisition of Creole Languages, in press with Cambridge University Press. Her major research interests/areas of specialisation are Language Contact, Bilingualism, Sign languages, Creole languages, Psycholinguistics (First and Second Language Acquisition).
Ms Elaine Lawurrpa has a strong track record of involvement in participatory and action research projects funded by the Commonwealth around Indigenous health, education and community development. Since her involvement with the Graduate School for Health Practice, and now Research Centre for Health and Wellbeing, Lawurrpa has been involved in the ARC-funded 'Indigenous birth and family' project, FACSIA funded 'Footprints in Time' project, and Department of Health and Ageing funded 'Taking Control of Chronic Disease' project. She is currently coordinating research at Elcho Island for an NHMRC funded research project led by Menzies School of Health Research. Lawurrpa was foundational in establishing the Yalu Marnggithinyaraw Centre at Galiwin'ku, a centre using traditional Yolgnu clan structures of governance and management to promote physical, spiritual and emotional health of Yolgnu people.