Augmentative and alternative communication for Aboriginal Australians: Developing core vocabulary for Yolŋu speakers

Amery, Rebecca, Wunungmurra, Julie Gungungbuy, Raghavendra, Parimala, Bukulatjpi, Gurimanu, Dikul Baker, Rachel, Gumbula, Farrah, Barker, Ruth, Theodoros, Deborah, Amery, Howard, Massey, Libby, and Lowell, Anne (2022) Augmentative and alternative communication for Aboriginal Australians: Developing core vocabulary for Yolŋu speakers. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 38 (4). pp. 209-220.

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Yolŋu, Aboriginal people from Arnhem Land, Australia are at risk of Machado-Joseph disease, with progressive loss of speech. Yolŋu are interested in developing augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems in their own languages. This research aimed to develop a culturally responsive process to explore and create a core vocabulary word list for Yolŋu adults living with the disease for inclusion in AAC system prototypes. A list of 243 Yolŋu words and morphemes was created. In this highly collaborative, mixed methods, participatory action research, Balanda (the Yolŋu word for non-Aboriginal people) and Yolŋu researchers conducted cycles of transcription and analysis of a language sample, with oral group discussions to identify which words to include, omit, or add, based on Yolŋu perceptions of the structure and use of their languages. A Yolŋu metaphor, Gulaka-buma (“Harvesting yams”), was identified by Yolŋu researchers to represent and share the research process and findings. Three key themes were identified that summarize the main cultural and linguistic considerations related to changes made to the core vocabulary. Study findings emphasized the role of language as an expression of culture and identity for Indigenous peoples and the importance of considering cultural and linguistic factors in selecting vocabulary for AAC systems.

Item ID: 77376
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1477-3848
Keywords: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, augmentative and alternative communication, core vocabulary, cultural and linguistic considerations, Machado-Joseph disease
Copyright Information: © 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
Date Deposited: 01 Feb 2023 07:48
FoR Codes: 42 HEALTH SCIENCES > 4201 Allied health and rehabilitation science > 420110 Speech pathology @ 50%
45 INDIGENOUS STUDIES > 4501 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, language and history > 450108 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander linguistics and languages @ 50%
SEO Codes: 21 INDIGENOUS > 2103 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health > 210399 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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