Language

Loss of Aboriginal languages

Before invasion more than 250 Aboriginal languages existed in Australia. Only 60 of them are still considered healthy.

Why are so many lost?

Why are Aboriginal languages lost?

Many Aboriginal languages are lost because up until the 1970s government policies banned and discouraged Aboriginal people from speaking their languages. Members of the Stolen Generations were one such group.

In many cases, children were barred from speaking their mother tongue at school or in Christian missions.

“Sometimes Aboriginal parents also thought that their language would hold their kids back, so they wouldn’t use it,” Professor Michael Walsh, an expert on Aboriginal languages, says [1].

Early attempts to document Aboriginal languages usually focused on simple word lists for novel items such as weapons and animals.

First Fleet officer William Dawes is a notable exception. He recorded conversational snippets of the Dharug language spoken around Sydney that tell of the social and cultural contexts, personalities, actions and feelings of the Aboriginal people he interacted with [2]. Dawes was taught by a 15-year-old Aboriginal girl named Patyegarang.

Homework: Do languages die from “processes”?

Linguist Margaret Florey commented as follows when asked about the disappearance of Aboriginal languages [3]:

There were probably at least 250 languages at the time of colonisation. Now some of those languages have completely disappeared because of the processes that were associated with colonisation.—Margaret Florey

Questions

  • What are the “processes” Margaret talks about?
  • Why do you think she is using this expression?
  • What does this tell us of her view of Australian history? Do you think many people share Margaret’s view?

What happens if a language is lost?

Languages carry cultural knowledge, so the loss of a language means the loss of culture, of Aboriginal people’s connection to their ancestors.

This in turn has the potential to impact on Aboriginal people’s health and well-being. Research shows that strong culture and identity helps develop resilience [4].

Professor Ghil’ad Zuckermann, a linguist from the Adelaide University, agrees: “Without a language, you do not have cultural autonomy, you do not have intellectual sovereignty, you do not have culture, you do not have heritage,” he says [2].

The loss of languages is also associated with economic and social costs.

Map of Aboriginal Australia showing language groups. Aboriginal Australia language map. The AIATSIS compiled this map showing many of the language groups or nations that existed before invasion. The map is very popular and a good starting point to explore the diversity of Aboriginal Australia. Get a copy

How many Aboriginal languages existed before invasion?

Graphic: Books representing the number of languages spoken.
Aboriginal languages are critically endangered. Of the 250 Aboriginal languages which existed before colonisation, 145 were still spoken in 2005, but 110 of these are critically endangered (shown in red).

Only 60 languages remain “healthy”

The following text shows how few languages are still considered healthy.

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A list of known languages before invasion & genocide

Abodja, Adinda, Adnyamathanha, Adyinuri, Aghu-Tharngala, Agwamin, Aji, Alawa, Algan(Wig-), Alngith, Alura, Alyawarre, Amangu, Ami, Amurrag, Anaiwan, Andajin, Andigiribinha, Angkamuthi, Anguthimri, Anindilyakwa, Anjingid, Antikirinya, Arabana, Aragawal, Arawari, Aridinngidhigh, Arngam, Arrernte, Awabakala, Ayabadhu, Ayerrerenge, Ba rangu, Ba:na, Ba:nggala, Baanbay-Ahnbi, Badimaya, Badjalang, Badjiri, Bagandji, Baganu, Balardung, Balgalu, Balmawi, Banambila, Bandjagali, Bandjin, Banjgaranj, Banyjimad, Baraban, Baradaybahrad, Baramangga, Baranbinja, Baraparapa, Bardi, Bardrdala, Barunggama, Batjala, Bayali, Bedaruwidj, Bemba, Berrkali, Biangil, Bibbulmann, Bidawal, Bidia, Bididji(Gugu-), Bidjara, Bigambul, Bilamandji, BilinBilin, Bin-gonginad, Binbinga, Bindal, Binggu, Binjarub, Birbai, Birdingal, Biri, Birladapa, Birniridjara, Bolali, Bouliboul, Brabirawilung, Brabralung, Braiakaulung, Bratauolung, Buan, Bugongidja, Bugula, Bujibada, Bujundji(Gugu-), Buluguda, Buluwandji, Bun wurrung, Bunara, Bundhamara Punthamara, Buneidja, Bungandidjk (=Buandig ), Bunggura, Bunuba, Bural-bural, Buranadjinid, Burarra, Cabbee, Coastal Lamalama, Da:rdiwuy, Da:wa(Gugu-), Dadi-dadi, Dagoman, Daguda, Dainiguid, Dajoror, Damala, Dambu-gawumirr, Danganegald, Dangbon, Darambal, Dargudi, Daribelum, Darkinyung, Darmarmiri, Daungwurrung, Debidigh, Dhaapuyngu, Dhalla, Dhalwangu, Dhanggagali, Dhanggatti, Dharug, Dharumba, Dhawa, Dhayyi, Dhiyakuy, Dhuduroa, Dhurga, Ding-Ding, Diraila, Dirari, Diyari, Djabadja, Djabwurrung, Djadja wurrung, Djadjala, Djagaraga, Djagunda, Djalarguru, Djalgandi, Djamandja, Djambarrpuyngu, Djambarrpuyngu, Djandjandji, Djangun, Djapu, Djarawala, Djargudi, Djarn, Djarrwark, Djerag, Djeraridjal, Djerimanga, Djial, Djidjijamba, Djinang, Djinba, Djirin, Djiru, Djuban, Djulngai, Djungurdja, Do:dj, Dolpuyngu, Dudu, Dulua, Dungidjau, Dyeraid, Dyirbal, Dyirringany, Dyowei, Eastern Torres Strait, Eora, Gabalbaral, Gabin, Gadang, Gadyarawang, Gagadju, Galali, Galawlwan, Galibamu, Galpu, Galwa, Galwangug, Gamberra, Gambuwal, Gamilaraay, Ganalpuynguh, Ganganda, Ganggalida, Gangulul, Garama, Garandi, Garanggaba, Garanguru, Garanya, Garawa, Garendala, Garingba, Garmalanggad, Garuwali, Gawambaray, Gay-Gay, Gayiri, Geawegal, Geinyan, Giabal, Gidabal, Gidjingali, Gigi, Gilibal, Gingana, Giraiwurung, Girramay, Giya, Go:la, Gobadeindamirr, Goinbal, Going, Golpa, Gonani:n, Gonggandji, Gonin, Gonjmal, Gooniyandi, Goreng, Goreng goreng, Grawadungalung, Gudabal, Gudjala, Gudjalavia, Gudjandju, Gugada, Gugu Warra, Gugu Yalanji, Gugu-Badhun, Gugu-Dhayban, Gujambal, Gujangal, Gulin, Gulngay, Gulumali, Gulunggor-Gulungo, Guluwarin, Gumatj, Gumbainggirr, Gun-djeihmi, Gunardba, Gunavidji, Gundara, Gundidy, Gundudj, Gundungura, Gungabula, Gungadidji, Gungaragan, Gunggalenjad, Gunggarbara, Gunggari, Gunggariganhgg, Gunindiri, Gunjbarai, Gunya, Gupapuyngu, Guragone, Gurdu(-wanga), Gureendyi, Gurindji, Gurnuornu, Gurung, Gurungada, Guugu Yimithirr, Guurindyi, Guwa, Guwamu, Guwij, Guyangal, Gwandera, Gwijamil, Ia:d, Ibarga, Indjilinji, Inggarda, Iningai, Jaabugay, Jabirr jabirr, Jagalangu, Jalugal, Jalung (Gugu-), Jalunju(Gugu-), Jambina, Jaminjung, Jan(Gugu-), Janari, Janggondju, Janjango, Janju(Gugu-), Jardwadjali, Jaru, Jawa(Gugu-), Jawaraworgad, Jawi, Jawoyn, Ji:randali, Jiduwa, Jingilu, Jirgandji, Jiwarli, Jugaiwadha, Jukun, Jurruru, Juwula, Kala, Kalaku, Kalamaya, Kalkatungu, Kamu, Kanai, Kaniyang, Karajarri, Kariyarra, Kaurna, Kayardild, Kaytetye, Kija, Kiyajarra, Kokatha, Koko bera, Kolakngat, Ku-ring-gai, Kugu-Muminh, Kukatj, Kukatja, Kulin, Kunbarlang, Kune, Kunjen, Kunwinjku, Kurrama, Kurtantji, Kurtjar, Kuthant, Kuuku-Ya u, Kuwarra, Kuyani, Kwini, Ladamngid, Ladji-Ladji, Lama-Lamai, Lamami, Laragiya, Lardil, Lewurung, Linngithigh, Liyagalawumirr, Luritja, Luthigh, Mabuyag, Madarrpa, Madhi-madhi, Madngele, Madoidja, Magalranalmiri, Maia, Maidjara, Majuli, Malak Malak, Malara, Malarbardjuradj, Malardordo, Malkana, Malngin-Maialnga, Malyangapa, Mamangidigh, Mamu, Mamwura, Manatja, Mandandanji, Mandelpi, Mandjigai, Mangarayi, Mangarla, Mangeri, Manggalili, Mangu, Mangula, Manjiljarra, Manu, Manunguy, Mara, Maradanggimiri, Maramanindji, Marangu, Maranunggu, Mararba, Marawara, Maraway, Mardidjali, Margany, Margu, Marrakulu, Marrithiyel, Martuthunira, Martuwangka, Marulda, Marungun, Maung, Mawula, Mayali, Mayi-Kulan, Mayi-Kutuna, Mayi-Thakurti, Mayi-Yapi, Mbabaram, Mbambylmu, Mbara, Mbiywonn, Mbo aru, Meindangg, Meriam, Mian, Midhaga, Midjamba, Milamada, Miliwuru, Min-kin, Minang, Mini(Gugu-), Minjangbal, Miriwoong, Mirning, Miwa, Moil, Mpalityanh, Mudalga, Mudumui, Muluridji(Gugu-), Mulyara, Mun-narngo, Munumburru, Muralag, Murngin, Murrinh, Murumidja, Muruwari, Mutpurra, Nabarlgu, Nada (-jara) (-wanga), Nakkara, Nalawgiynhahlhaw, Nambuguja, Nangadadjara, Nanggumiri, Nangiblerbid, Nangorg, Narangga, Nargala, Nargalundju, Nari-nari, Narrinyari, Natanya, Nawo, Ndorndorin, Ndra ngidh, Ngaanyatjarra, Ngaatjatjara, Ngadhugudi, Ngadjuri, Ngagu, Ngajan, Ngaladu, Ngalakan, Ngalgbon, Ngalia, Ngaliwuru, Ngambaa, Ngamini, Ngandangarad, Ngandi, Ngandjar (Wig-), Ngangurugu, Ngarduk, Ngarigu, Ngarinyin, Ngarinyman, Ngarkat, Ngarla, Ngarluma, Ngaro, Ngatjumaya, Ngawait, Ngawun, Ngayawung, Ngayimil, Ngengenwurung, Ngewin, Nggerigudi, Ngindadj, Ngiyampaa, Ngkoth, Ngoera, Ngorbur, Ngu rand, Nguburindi, Ngugi, Ngumbarl, Ngunawal, Nguramola, Nguri, Ngurlu, Ngurlu, Nhanta, Nhuwala, Nimanburru, Njegudi, Njirma, Njunggal(Gugu-), Njuwadhai, Nordanimin, NorweilimilLemil, Ntrangith, Nuguna, Nundjulbi, Nungali, Nungara, Nunggubuyu, Nungulrulbuy, Nunugal, Nyagi-Nyagi, Nyamal, Nyangga, Nyangumarta, Nyawaygi, Nyikina, Nyininy, Nyiyaparli, Nyulnyul, Ogerliga, Oidbi, Olgol, Palyku, Payungu, Pinikura, Pintupi, Pitjantjatjara, Pitta-pitta, Portawulun, Pulinara, Purduna, Putijarra, Raggaja, Raijang, Ralwia, Ramindjari, Rarmul(Gugu-), Rembarrnga, Rereri, Ribh, Ringu-ringu, Rirratjingu, Ritharrngu, Takalak, Thaayorre, Thalanyji, Tharrkari, Thiin, Tiwi, Tjungundji, Ulaolinja, Ulwawadjana, Umbindhamu, Umbuigamu, Umpila, Ungawangadi, Unggumi, Unjadi, Urningangg, Waanyi, Wad:a, Wada wurrung, Wadi-Wadi, Wadi-wadi, Wadi(-wanga), Wadigali, Wadja, Wadjabangaid, Wadjingi:n, Wadyalang, Wagaman, Wagara (Gugu-), Wagelag, Wageman, Waiangara, Waidjinga, Wailywan, Wajarri, Wajuk, Wakaya, Wakirti, Wakka-wakka, Walajangarri, Walamangu-Walamangu, Walandja(Gugu-), Walangama, Walbanga, Walboram, Waldja(Gugu-), Walgal, Walgi, Walmajarri, Walmbaria, Walu, Walyan, Wampaya, Wandandian, Wangaypuwan, Wanggamala, Wanggamanha, Wangganguru, Wanggadyara, Wanggara, Wanggatha/Wangkatja, WanggumaraWangkumara, Wangurri, Wankan, Wanudjara, Wanyiwarlku, Wanyjirra, Wanyurr, Wardal, Wardaman, Wardandi, Wardibara, Wareidbug, Wargi, Warlmanpa, Warlpiri, Warndarang, Warnman, Warramiri, Warray, Warrgamay, Warriyangka, Warrumungu, Warrungu, Warrwa, Watjanti, Wawula, Waygur, Wemba, Wembria, Wengej, Widi, Widjabal, Widjandja, Widjilg, Wiilmana, Wik-Epa, Wik-Me anha, Wik-Mungkan, Wik-Ngathana, Wik-Ngathara, Wik-ompona, Wilawila, Wilingura, Wilyagali, Wilyali, Wilyara, Wimarangga, Wiradjuri, Wirangu, Wirdinya, Wiri, Wiriyaraay, Witukari, Wogait, Woljamidi, Wonganja, Wonggadjara, Wonnarua, Woralul-Uronlurl, Worgabunga, Worla(ja), Worrorra, Wotjobaluk, Wubulkarra, Wudhadhi, Wudjaari, Wulagi, Wulbudyibur, Wulguru, Wulwulam, Wunambal, Wunumarad, Wurangu, Wurangung, Wurungugu, Wuy wurrung, Yabula-Yabula, Yadymadhang, Yakara, Yalanga, Yanda, Yandruwantha, Yanga, Yangga, Yangkaal, Yangman, Yanhangu, Yankunytjatjara, Yanyuwa, Yaraldi, Yaraytyana, Yardliyawara, Yari-Yarit, Yarluyandi, Yawuru, Yaygirr, Yidiny, Yiiji, Yilba, Yilngali, Yiman, Yindjibarndi, Yinhawangka, Yinwan, Yir Yoron, Yirawirung, Yitha Yitha, Yiwayja, Yorta yorta, Yu-yu, Yu:ngai, Yuat, Yubumbee, Yugambal, Yugul, Yuin, Yukulta, Yulparija, Yumu, Yunggor, Yuru, Yuwaalaraay, Yuwibara

Source: [5]

Footnotes

View article sources (5)

[1] 'Project aims to halt loss of Aboriginal languages', AFP 26/10/2010
[2] 'Website helps to keep Darug language alive', Koori Mail 463 p.14
[3] 'Digital lifeline for Aboriginal languages facing extinction', ABC - The World Today 22/4/2014
[4] 2009 Social Justice and Native Title Reports, community guide
[5] treatyrepublic.net/content/all-australians-should-learn-aboriginal-language, retrieved 4/2/2013

Cite this article

An appropriate citation for this document is:

www.CreativeSpirits.info,
Aboriginal culture - Language - Loss of Aboriginal languages, retrieved 23 November 2017