Volume 18, Issue 2-3
  • ISSN 1568-1475
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9773
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In Australian Indigenous societies the means for demonstrating kinship-based respect are rich and varied, and mastery of their ideological and contextual dimensions is highly valued and an indication of communicative expertise. Special speech registers, sometimes referred to as ‘mother-in-law’, ‘brother-in-law’, or ‘avoidance’ languages, are one aspect of this complexity. Another dimension of respect is afforded by Australian Indigenous sign languages, used in contexts where speech itself is disallowed as well as in everyday interactions where signing is practical and useful. What is lacking from the majority of accounts of these special semiotic repertoires is an investigation of the ways that speech and communicative actions, such as sign or gesture, may work together in such contexts. Also neglected is the possibility that the articulation of signs and gestures may be modified to indicate a respectful stance towards avoided kin. Drawing on both archival sources and recent fieldwork, this paper delineates some of the articulatory dimensions of signs and gestures used in this domain.


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