Corpus of grammar and discourse strategies of deaf native users of Auslan (Australian Sign Language)
Trevor Johnston, Macquarie University
Major Documentation Project. Duration: 2004-2007. £73,586
Auslan (Australian Sign Language) is the native signed language of the deaf community in Australia. It has evolved from forms of British Sign Language, which were brought to Australia in the 19th century. The purpose of this project is to secure a corpus of digital video recordings of naturalistic, controlled and elicited Auslan from deaf native signers, before finding reasonable numbers of such signers becomes increasingly difficult. The number of deaf users of Auslan peaked in the early 1980s at approximately 6,500 and entered a period of decline in the mid 1990s. Predictions are that this decline is accelerating though aging and decreasing incidence rates of permanent early childhood severe and profound deafness and, thus, in the number of new signers. Within a generation the language community may cease to be viable and a relatively ‘old’ and established signed language will be permanently lost to linguistic science. The corpus will support initial and future corpus-based grammatical description of the language and serve as a basis for comparison with emerging signed languages in newly created deaf communities in the developing world.