Yolŋu Sign Language

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Yolŋu Sign Language
Murngin Sign Language
RegionGove Peninsula, Northern Territory, Australia
EthnicityYolngu people
Native speakers
5,000 natively bilingual (2012)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3ygsinclusive code
Individual code:
yhs – Yan-nhaŋu Sign Language

Yolŋu (Yolngu) or Murngin Sign Language is a ritual sign language used by the Yolngu, an Aboriginal community in the Arnhem Land region of Australia. As with other Australian Aboriginal sign languages, YSL was developed by the hearing for use when oral speech is forbidden, as during mourning or between certain family relations. (See speech taboo.) However, "YSL is not a signed version of any spoken Yolngu language... YSL also serves as a primary means of communication for a number of deaf members in Yolngu communities... YSL functions as both an alternate and primary sign language".[3] That is, it is used for communicating to the deaf, but also when communicating at a distance, when hunting, or when ceremonies require silence. It was acquired from birth by the hearing population. YSL is now considered an endangered language.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Yolŋu Sign Language at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Yan-nhaŋu Sign Language at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Yolngu Sign Language". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Maypila, Elaine and Dany Adone. 2012. Yolngu Sign Language: A sociolinguistic profile. Sign Languages in Village Communities: Anthropological and Linguistic Insights ed. by Ulrike Zehan and Connie De Vox, pp. 401-404. Berlin: De Gruyter.
  4. ^ Endangered language


  • Yolngu Sign Language project at the University of Central Lancashire
  • Kendon, Adam (1988) Sign Languages of Aboriginal Australia: cultural, semiotic, and communicative perspective. Cambridge University Press.
  • Warner, W. Lloyd (1937) "Murngin Sign Language", A Black Civilization. New York: Harper and Row, pp. 389–392.
  • Bauer, Anastasia (2014) "The use of signing space in a shared sign language of Australia", Sign Language Typology 5, De Gruyter Mouton & Ishara Press. Berlin & Nijmegen.

External links[edit]