Happy International Day of Sign Languages!
As a part of the International Week of the Deaf, 23rd September is celebrated worldwide as the International Day of Sign Languages. For this special day, we look at four of our collections from the ELAR archive about signed languages of the world!
Kata Kolok is a sign language used by about 1200 signers in rural Indonesia. It has been in use for over 5 generations of signers and has been endangered in recent time due to a change in marital patterns and by the increasing number of sign-bilinguals using Indonesian Sign Language.
A number of structural characteristics, such as a preference for an absolute Frame of Reference in spatial descriptions, make Kata Kolok stand out from other sign languages. The ELAR collection for it has over a hundred files of visual and textual recordings of Kata Kolok that can be accessed by requesting the depositor. These measures ensure that the recording are only accessible as per the wishes of the community member and the depositors.
Ivorian Sign Language
Ivorian Sign Language or Langue des Signes de Côte d’Ivoire (LSCI) is a provisional label for the local varieties of signed languages used by people in West Africa. As ASL is the preferred language of instruction in the deaf community and symbolizes higher status, it has pushed LSCI into disuse over the last few decades.
The ELAR archive for LSCI includes almost 200 videos and images of the language in use, all of which can be accessed by any registered user. This includes use of LSCI by signers of varying age, gender or cultural/linguistic affiliation, in signed discourse, in addition to a lexical database and a description and analysis of selected features of the language.
Macau Sign Language
Macau Sign Language is used by about 200 users in Macau, a small city in Southern coast of China. Due to the enforcement of inclusive education and lack of resources to support sign language interpretation service, Macau Sign Language has ceased to pass on to the deaf youngsters under the age of 20. This language is expected to disappear from Macau entirely in the coming few decades if no intervention is carried out to preserve it and promote its use.
ELAR houses a collection of Macau Sign Language, with around 6500 minutes of data from 16 signers of different ages, including lexical signs, stories and personal accounts. Most of these can be accessed by any registered ELAR user.
Auslan (Australian Sign Language) is the signed language of the deaf community in Australia. It has evolved from forms of British Sign Language (BSL) which were brought to Australia in the 19th century. It is used by an estimated 6,500 deaf people as their first or preferred language. The number of deaf users of Auslan appears to have peaked in the 1980s and now seems to be declining due to a variety of factors, such as aging, decreasing incidence rates of permanent early childhood severe and profound deafness, and high rates of cochlear implantation. Consequently, the number of new deaf signers being added to the community on a year by year basis is modest and the language is likely to become endangered within a generation or two.
The deposit consists primarily of video recordings of 100 native or near-native deaf signers and linked ELAN annotation files. Each participant took part in three hours of language-based activity that involved an interview, retelling stories, recalling personal events, responding to a questionnaire, engaging in spontaneous conversation, and responding in Auslan to various stimuli such as a picture-book story, a filmed cartoon, and a filmed story told in Auslan.
The deposit is intended to support initial and future corpus-based grammatical description of the language and serves as a basis for comparison of this relatively old and established signed language (due to its BSL lineage) with the emerging signed languages of newly created deaf communities that can be found in the developing world.
This blog was written by Francesca Brown and Anushka Kulshreshtha.