ELL: small but positive steps

Claire Bowern bowern at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Thu May 2 16:40:25 UTC 2002

On a similar note to Peter's story, Toby Metcalfe (a linguist who worked
with the Bardi Aboriginal community in the 1970s) is known as the linguist
who "put the nouns and verbs in the Bardi language"; ie, he made it into a
real language by writing it down and showing that it had structure. People
have also said to me that now Bardi has a dictionary (Aklif 1999) people
can't say it's not a real language anymore, because they've got a lot of
words and they can be written down just like English. Finally, when I was
asking the old women I worked with if I could use data in my academic
papers without clearing every sentence with them first (which would
effectively stop me publishing anything as I'm in the US and they are 250
km down a dirt road in North Australia with no email, unreliable mail
deliveries and intermittant phone access) they were pleased to grant
permission, as, they said, linguists use words from French and German all
the time and they don't have to ask permission for that, and they felt
Bardi should be up there in the linguistic literature with those other

Department of Linguistics
Harvard University
305 Boylston Hall
Cambridge, MA, 02138

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