Here is a short video of Janie Mpetyane, a Kaytetye signer and speaker from Wilora community (250 km north of Alice Springs). The video compiles clips exported from Elan software, which we are using to annotate hand sign recordings. It has been put together in Final Cut Pro, including the titles.

This video is an experiment in ways to present information about signs in these videos to make them more useful to learners.  Part of this involves identifying the signs with an identification label, in a way that is consistent for each speaker, between different speakers, and across different communities and language groups which use similar signing practices. However, we also need to consider speech, as most of Janie’s recordings are of composite utterances – that is, she speaks and signs simultaneously.This is typical of signers, most people use speech and sign in complementary ways (rather than just signing, or just speaking, although this happens too).

Showing all of the information packed into an utterance isn’t viable – the screen would have to display representations of the differernt modes of communication (sign and speech), as well as translations into English. This could lead to a very cluttered screen, with a lot going on at once – given that these signs are presented in real time, and often occur in sign sentences, with a number of signs in rapid sequence.

In this video we have presented the sign labels, which based on Katyetye dictionary headwords, in yellow. These appear on screen when the signer/speaker makes the sign. The white text is a basic guide in English to what is being expressed. It is not a translation, just a summary of the main ideas being expressed.

We are now at the stage where we are starting to filter some of this material back to the project participants. Sign language material from a number of speakers at Wilora has been annotated at a basic level – sign utterance, speech and id labels for right and left hands (there’s heaps more to do on this!). The best examples are exported as clips, and we are compiling them into short films based around themes, such as kinship, animals, actions and people. Some signers have recorded longer stretches of speech and sign, and these are compiled as ‘sign stories’.