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Knowledge of Sign Language in an Australian Aboriginal Community

Adam Kendon
Journal of Anthropological Research
Vol. 40, No. 4 (Winter, 1984), pp. 556-576
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3629797
Page Count: 21
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Knowledge of Sign Language in an Australian Aboriginal Community
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Abstract

A sample of Warlpiri women from fifteen to over sixty years of age living at Yuendumu, central Australia, were interviewed for their knowledge of Warlpiri sign language. The youngest in the sample commanded some sign language vocabulary, but only those over thirty showed extensive knowledge. Although women who had been widowed showed more knowledge of sign language than those who had not, the main correlate of sign language knowledge was found to be age. It is suggested that sign language is acquired as part of the process of integration into the social and ritual life of older women and not only in connection with mourning. Sign vocabulary was found to be acquired at markedly different rates in different semantic domains.

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