Australia’s indigenous sign languages have been recorded in an online dictionary.
The tumblr account will be the first of its kind, preserving Indigenous communication and culture in Central Australian communities.
Professor Ghil’ad Zuckermann, chair of Linguistics and Endangered Languages at the University of Adelaide told the Newsroom: “Language is linked to mental health, well-being, culture, heritage and the soul of an individual.
“By maintaining a language you achieve self and community empowerment and improve the mental health and well-being of participants.”
It is worthwhile for the government to invest in language revival, Professor Zuckermann said, as fewer people will need health support and more people will be employed.
“We need to teach the language at schools,” he said.
The website, iltyem-iltyem, meaning “signalling with hands” in the Anmatyerr language was developed by the Aboriginal people from the Ti Tree community in the Northern Territory – to record, protect and teach younger generations their traditional sign language.
Dr Jenny Green, a University of Melbourne researcher told phys.org, “Sign is used in various contexts. In some communities signing is used as a respectful form of communication to replace speech during times of mourning. Sign is used when hunting and when people are at a long distance from each other.
“The new web-dictionary includes traditional signs as well as signs for modern things, and will safeguard the practice for future generations.”
The project team plans to complete the website in 2016, where the content will be archived and possibly remain available as a public resource. – Keisha Miller
Top photo from ABC News feature on the iltyem-iltyem website project.