For someone who has been born – or, in early life become – significantly deaf, the language that is their primary language is often a signed language. In Australia, Auslan, or Australian Sign Language, is this language.
Auslan is a visual, gestural and spatial language that is not a visual representation of English. Therefore, even though a person can be born and educated in Australia, their first language will not be English; it will be Auslan.
As in all signed languages, an Auslan sign represents a concept. This is the same as how an English word represents a concept. Therefore – to be clear – an Auslan sign does not represent an English word.
Auslan is a rich language with a capacity to express all aspects of human communication – including the abstract, metaphor, humour, sarcasm and so forth – equally as well as English or any other spoken language.
Like all languages, Auslan is culturally bound so that some things or concepts which hold cultural relevance are more extensively encoded into the language whereas other concepts which do not hold much cultural relevance have a paucity of lexical items (signs) to express them. [see more]