Auslan is the name used for Australian Sign Language, and is the natural language signed by members of Australia’s Deaf and hard of hearing community. Dr Trevor Johnston, sign linguist and lexicographer of the Auslan Dictionary, coined the term, Auslan in the 1980’s. Auslan evolved from the British Sign Language and Irish Sign Language, signed by Deaf people who immigrated to Australia during the nineteenth century.

According to research, Auslan is not based on spoken language, because many aspects of the vocabulary and grammar of Auslan are not related to English. Furthermore, Auslan has its own vocabulary and grammar as well as gesture-like signs. The connection between Auslan and Deaf Culture has been well established.

Dr Laura-Ann Petitto, neuroscientist, has provided us with research evidence that the brain does not discriminate against sign and that language patterns (either speech or sign) are important to the brain for both signed and spoken language development. Therefore, acquiring or learning any signed language will not damage auditory brain tissue, but will help the deaf or hard of hearing child to develop their speech. Plus, early language exposure is important for behavioural control and cognitive skill development.

Johnston, T. & Schemer, A. (2007). Australian Sign Language (Auslan): An introduction to sign language linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Johnston, T. (ed.) (1998). Signs of Australia: A new dictionary of Auslan (the sign language of the Australian deaf community). North Rocks: North Rocks Press.

Research information on brain and language laboratory for neuroimaging can be found on this link: or