Making an online dictionary for Central Australian sign languages

lcj-16Margaret Carew & Jennifer Green

LCJ: Special Edition: Indigneous Sign Languages, 16, pp. 40-55

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Carew, M., & Green, J. (2015). Making an online dictionary for Central Australian sign languages. Learning Communities: International Journal of Learning in Social Contexts [Special Issue: Indigenous Sign Languages], 16, 40-55. DOI:



In Central Australia, sign languages are used alongside speech, gesture and other semiotic systems such as sand drawing. These sign languages have been described as ‘alternate’, as they are not generally the primary mode of communication in these communities but rather used instead of speech in particular cultural circumstances (Green & Wilkins, 2014; Kendon, 1988 [2013]). In this paper we discuss a sign language documentation and online resource development project for Indigenous sign languages from Central Australia. In particular we track our workflow, from sign recording sessions through to the publication of selected video clips of sign in an online sign language dictionary ( This project represents the first comprehensive attempt to document sign language knowledge in the Central Australian region since Kendon’s research in the 1980s, and his in-depth analysis of the sign languages found in some Central Australian communities provides a foundation for the current research (Kendon, 1988 [2013]). 


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