Sign languages in Central Australia

Welcome to Iltyem-iltyem

Iltyem-iltyem is an online resource for sign languages used in Indigenous communities in Central Australia. This site contains several hundred video clips of signs for public view. The project was piloted by members of the sign language team from Ti Tree in Central Australia.

This website is for people who want to teach and learn Central Australian sign languages. It will also help people learn spoken language, as most of the video clips contain sign language and speech together. The word  iltyem-iltyem is used in Anmatyerr to mean ‘signalling with hands, using handsigns’. It comes from the word iltya, ‘hand, finger’. Because this sign language project began with Anmatyerr people from the community of Ti Tree, we have named the website,  iltyem-iltyem. This word is equivalent to iltyeme-iltyeme  in Eastern/Central Arrernte and rdaka-rdaka in Warlpiri. In Kaytetye eltye eltyarrenke means ‘use hand signs’.


How to use the iltyem-iltyem website

The iltyem-iltyem website is organized around short video clips. The clips are grouped into categories, which roughly follow the categories found in the IAD Picture Dictionary series. Read on for instructions about how to interpret the identifications that go with each clip, and how to browse and search.

More information…

Access to the content is restricted.

Please join or sign in to view the sign videos.

Molly Napurrurla Presley signing ‘speak using handsigns’.

What is iltyem-iltyem?

Iltyem-iltyemel anwern angkem nheng amerneh arlka. And thamptheng apaywenherremel amernarl. Tyerrty nhak apek ntwarr angerr arlkemarl, ntwarreng apekarl arem, kel iltyem-iltyemarl angkem tyerrty nhakeh anwern. Tyerrty ahert mapeh anwern iltyem-iltyem angkem – merneh arlka apek petyetyeh arlka apek nheng mern arlkwetyeh, tea arlka apek arlkwetyeh anetyeh apek war. War anwern iltyem-iltyem angkem.


We ask for food and things like that using hand signs. Or if we see a person calling out in the distance then we use hand signs to speak with that person. We use hand signs to talk to people who are deaf – to talk about food, or to ask them to come over to eat or drink tea or sit down with us. We just use hand signs.


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Sign films

Signing with sand stories

Eileen Pwerrerl Campbell uses handsigns while telling a sand story.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the content on this website may contain images and voices of people who have passed away.