small vital languages

Ruth Singer rsinger at UNIMELB.EDU.AU
Thu Dec 23 08:32:33 UTC 2010

Hi Steven,

I was just thinking about putting out a similar query, but about
Australian languages in particular. The language Mawng (Maung) which I
work on has between 3-500 speakers and is still being acquired by
children, even many who have one parent who does not speak Mawng.

In addition, Mawng does not seem to have undergone any big changes to
morphosyntax or phonology due to contact with English as is the case
for Tiwi. As far as survival prospects for the long term, they look
okay. I am actually about to start a survey of how Mawng is used
across different age groups as I've mainly worked with speakers
between 40-60 so far.

The only other Australian languages I know of which are still strong
have at least 2000 speakers: Murrinhpatha, the Bininj Gun-wok dialect
chain and the Yolngu-matha group. So, I am wondering if there are
other Australian languages which are healthy but have less than a
thousand speakers.


On Thu, Dec 23, 2010 at 5:05 PM, Steven Bird <sb at> wrote:
> Can anyone suggest the names of languages having small speaker
> populations that still have a good level of intergenerational transfer
> and good survival prospects?
> Thanks,
> -Steven Bird

Please note: the email address r.singer at is no longer operating

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