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Signs of change: contemporary attitudes to Australian Sign Language

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journal contribution
posted on 03.05.2017, 01:15 by Slegers, Claudia
This study explores contemporary attitudes to Australian Sign Language (Auslan). Since at least the 1960s, sign languages have been accepted by linguists as natural languages with all of the key ingredients common to spoken languages. However, these visual-spatial languages have historically been subject to ignorance and myth in Australia and internationally. Absorbing these views, deaf Australians have felt confused and ambivalent about Auslan. Whilst recognising the prestige of spoken and signed versions of the majority language and the low status of their own, they have been nevertheless powerfully drawn to sign language. In the past two decades, a growing awareness and acceptance of Auslan has emerged among deaf and hearing Australians alike, spurred by linguistic research, lobbying by deaf advocacy groups and other developments. These issues are explored using semi-structured interviews with deaf and hearing individuals, participant observation in the deaf community, and analysis of government and educational language policies. Copyright 2010 Claudia Slegers. No part of this article may be reproduced by any means without the written consent of the publisher.


Date originally published



Australian Review of Applied Linguistics, vol. 33, no. 1 (2010), p. 5.1-5.20. ISSN 1833-7139