Fieldwork in Port Moresby, PNG

In October 2018, supported by a Language Documentation Grant from the Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language, I worked with members of the Port Moresby deaf community to document sign language use in the national capital. We worked daily at the Red Cross School in Hohola, filming natural conversation and working to gloss it. The month culminated in a week-long interpreter workshop run by interpreter-trainer Zane Hema and facilitated by Callan Services.

PNGSL is a young deaf community sign language which has grown out of imported Australasian Signed English, a version of which is still used in deaf education in PNG. The deaf community in Port Moresby are fiercely proud of their deaf identity. During my work with them, I also documented emic perspectives on sign languages in Papua New Guinea. Deaf people in Port Moresby are aware of two meta-categories of sign language in PNG: PNGSL and DEAF CULTURE. DEAF CULTURE, also known as “culture sign”, “natural sign” or “aksen bilong ples” (village sign), is the emic term for both discrete local sign language varieties and the way deaf people communicate with hearing Papua New Guineans and other deaf people who do not know PNGSL.

I am now working on a sociolinguistic sketch of the deaf community in Port Moresby, as well as a basic picture dictionary of “culture sign”, which complements the new PNGSL dictionary which is in production by Callan Services.