Australia: Linguists fear Indigenous language extinctions

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sun Mar 1 17:56:52 UTC 2009

Linguists fear Indigenous language extinctions
Posted Sun Mar 1, 2009 4:31pm AEDT

Map: Katherine 0850
 A linguist working to preserve threatened languages in a Northern
Territory town has criticised the Territory Government for its policy
of forcing Aboriginal language schools to teach in English. Garth
Agius says bilingual education is the most powerful way to stop
languages from being lost.
The Katherine region, south of Darwin, is home to a rich diversity of
Indigenous languages but only one, Warlpiri, is considered culturally
strong and safe.

The Katherine Language Centre is working to preserve 22 of the
region's 29 languages. Mr Agius says the Northern Territory
Government's uncertain policy for the future of bilingual education is
damaging the centre's work in remote community schools, which involves
supporting elders in sharing their language. "It does hinder because
with the new Government policy, kids have to speak English for the
first four hours of the day," he said. "When those sorts of things
happen it cuts back the time that they have with the kids in schools."
 He says bilingual education is the most effective way to engage
Indigenous children in education and stop endangered languages from
becoming extinct.  There are six languages in the Katherine region in
that critical category because they are only spoken by a handful of
elders. Mr Agius says he is struggling to find enough linguists to
preserve these traditional languages and is on the hunt for five
linguists to join the cause.

"Like everybody else around the world, you know we are concerned
about, everybody is concerned who has a passion for Aboriginal
languages," he said. "We could do with more linguists in this region."
 The UNESCO Atlas of world languages in danger predicts almost half of
the 6,700 languages spoken worldwide are in danger of extinction,
including more than 100 languages in Australia.
N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to
its members
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner
or sponsor of
the list as to the veracity of a message's contents. Members who
disagree with a
message are encouraged to post a rebuttal. (H. Schiffman, Moderator)

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list