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Yolŋu woman showing handsign

The Illustrated Handbook of Yolŋu Sign Language

Thursday 5 August, 6.30pm
Linguist and anthropologist Dr Bentley James introduces an incredible project documenting over 500 hand signs used by the Yolŋu people of Arnhem Land.

Directed by the Yolŋu signers and speakers of this rare, endangered language, the Illustrated Handbook Of Yolŋu Sign Language of North East Arnhem Land was created over 25 years in the many homelands and communities of the region.

In this talk, Dr Bentley James examines the roots of the project to enhance the intergenerational transmission of ancestral knowledge, and the ethno-linguistics of alternate sign language (Adone, James, Kendon).

Dr James will describe the who, what and where with pictures and something of the five hundred signs of Yolŋu sign language collected from the east to the west of Yolŋu Country.


Linguistic anthropologist Dr Bentley James works in Arnhem Land preserving indigenous languages. His interests include sign, ritual, magic, social organisation, archaeology and heritage material culture skills. He creates projects in support of bilingual education and linguistic, cultural and biological diversity.

Watch recording

Accessibility: An Auslan interpreter was present at this event and a transcript has also been provided.

    Download transcript (docx. 960KB)

Featured image (top of page): Handsigns break down into laughter. Photo: Theresa Ritchie.