Australia: Aboriginal languages ‘dying out’

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Fri Sep 12 14:27:10 UTC 2008

Aboriginal languages 'dying out'

Campaigners in Australia have warned that indigenous languages are
declining at record levels.They believe that the country's cultural
heritage is at risk unless more is done to ensure the survival of
these ancient tongues. Experts estimate that before European settlers
arrived, hundreds of languages existed on the Australian continent.
But many of these languages have already been lost forever, and only a
few dozen still remain. As they die out, they take with them
irreplaceable parts of Aboriginal culture and history.

Colonisation and the forced removal of tribes from their land have had
a withering effect on language. There are, though, pockets of
resistance. In Australia's harsh Western Desert, indigenous groups
have been determined to keep hold of their ancient ways. Pitjinjara is
flourishing. It is spoken by about 3,000 people and is a symbol of
their cultural identity. "I spoke Pitjinjara from a tiny child and I
grew up always speaking Pitjinjara and now that's my first language,
Pitjinjara," one woman said.

"Our language is very important to us, and at the moment it's strong
and we wish to keep it this way for our grandchildren and all the
people that come after us," another added.Only one Australian state,
New South Wales, has a comprehensive indigenous language policy.
Campaigners have said it would be "absolute madness" if politicians
did not fight to preserve such an important part of the country's
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