Indigenous Sign Language of Far North Queensland

lcj-16Suzannah J. Jackson

LCJ: Special Edition: Indigneous Sign Languages, 16, pp. 92-99

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Jackson, S.J. (2015). Indigenous Sign Language of Far North Queensland. Learning Communities: International Journal of Learning in Social Contexts [Special Issue: Indigenous Sign Languages], 16, 92-99. DOI:



Deaf Indigenous people living in urban centres of Far North Queensland (FNQ) claim to use a signed language system named Indigenous Sign Language or ISL. To date, there has been little investigation into both the origins and linguistic features of ISL. Consequently the language has been classified in the literature into the categories of either contact language (Johnston & Schembri, 2007) or idiolect (Fayd’herbe & Teuma, 2010). Nevertheless, Deaf Indigenous people in FNQ, who are the principal users of ISL regard their language as a functioning system of communication, derived from the Australian Aboriginal Sign Languages (AASLs) and Torres Strait Signed Languages used throughout the region. In this paper, new evidence is presented in two parts: Qualitative data elicited from a small group of Deaf Indigenous people outlining the social context supporting the acquisition of AASLs; and evidence from the ISL lexicon showing a direct connection between AASL, Torres Strait Signed Languages and ISL. The paper discusses the idea that ISL may be comprised of several contact languages, reflecting a mixed language environment that has mediated the preservation of AASLs in an environment of language decline. 


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