Hope for revival of dormant indigenous languages

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Australia's endangered and already dormant indigenous languages, and how to revive them, will be the focus of an international conference being held at the University of Adelaide this week (25-28 July).

The 2013 Australex (Australasian Association for Lexicography) conference will also celebrate the 175-year legacy of Lutheran missionaries' work to document Aboriginal languages.

Featuring speakers from Australia and overseas, the conference is centred on the theme Endangered Words, and Signs for Revival.

"Throughout the world there are hundreds of 'sleeping beauty' languages that desperately need the kiss of life, and Australia has its fair share of these," says Professor Ghil'ad Zuckermann, Chair of Linguistics and Endangered Languages at the University of Adelaide and Conference Convener, assisted by Dr Julia Miller and with support from Adelaide City Council.

"The conference will address some of the burning issues faced by communities and scholars alike in attempting to reclaim, revitalise and empower languages.

"For example, how to measure language endangerment, how to assist indigenous people interested in reconnecting with their dormant language, how to reconstruct and create user-friendly dictionaries for a fragmented tongue; how to coin - if desirable by Aboriginal people - new words for modern concepts in a language that was subject to linguicide. What role does oral history have in sustaining a language? Should we promote what I call 'Native Tongue Title', the compensation for the loss of language?

"These fascinating and multifacted questions ought to be thoroughly answered because language is directly linked to wellbeing, mental health, cultural autonomy and intellectual sovereignty," Professor Zuckermann says.

Professor Zuckermann is currently working with the Barngarla Aboriginal community to help revive the Barngarla language.

For more information about Australex 2013, visit the conference website.


Contact Details

Professor Ghil'ad Zuckermann
Email: ghilad.zuckermann@adelaide.edu.au
Chair of Linguistics and Endangered Languages
The University of Adelaide
Business: 08 8313 5247
Mobile: 0423 901 808

Mr David Ellis
Email: david.ellis@adelaide.edu.au
Website: https://www.adelaide.edu.au/newsroom/
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762