An Australian language spoken by "barely anybody"

Originally published at: An Australian language spoken by "barely anybody" | Boing Boing


Sorry to bring this up in the first response to your post, but that’s a point in the invasion of Ukraine. The Russian propaganda even denies there is such a thing as Ukrainian.


Yesterday and today, whenever I’m trying to watch a video on Boing boing, I get a mysterious autoplay ad for some hepa filter come up, audio only, which plays over the audio of the video I want to watch. There doesn’t seem to be any autoplay video associated with this that I can turn off. This has happened on different computers. Anyone else having the same problem?

Also, there is a movement in Ontario, at least for First Nations children, and anyone interested, to learn ancestral languages. Some were offered through the Toronto Public Library, before COVID.


Before today I didn’t have a favorite word in this language either, but mine is also wija-wijab. That kid is adorable.

Unless I exerted conscious effort to weed my speech of colloquialisms, I would unintentionally create hurdles

When having to speak “plain” English, it’s disturbing to look back and see how much of one’s “normal” English is Darmok and Jalad at Tenagra.

I mean, Temba with arms wide! amirit?


A few things the representative of the language center in this video said seemed questionable.

In modern Australia, it’s difficult for any minority language to survive. Wherever you have a language that is very dominant, smaller languages will struggle.

Really? Or does it depend on the language and who speaks it? Doesn’t it also depend on what’s accepted / encouraged vs. discouraged and actively suppressed?

It seemed odd that the first benefits mentioned about indigenous people learning their ancestral language were put in terms of being “successful in life.” That’s with “success” defined as more likely to work at a job and take classes in school - also less likely to have substance abuse issues or commit a crime. :unamused: I wish he’d just left it at strengthening a person’s sense of identity and community, without the model citizen messaging.


I don’t think that you and I were the target for that statement though.

Next time he’s seeking any government funding, that clip will definitely come up. And how can a savvy politician possibly deny funding for such a noble project when it’s had international reporting AND it produces model citizens?

That man is playing a longer game than it first seems…

And if it helps keep this language alive, I can live with it.



Whether you’re asking the local council, or the state government, or the federal government, you don’t get money for “strengthening senses of identity”. I mean, sure, you might put that in the application, but then you still have to explain why that’s a good thing.

In the end, if you can’t boil it down to how your project will decrease crime and/or increase the economy at some scale, then government will just look at you blankly and move on to the next project who did put it in those terms.

That, or your grant is from a cultural board, academic board, or arts council. In which case their desired goal is to turn the language into a cultural display, a set of papers, or an exhibition somewhere. The common good through individual wellbeing via the survival of cultural and societal identity is really hard to get funding for. “Crime prevention” is really easy to get funding for.


So, preserving languages on terms that are acceptable to those responsible for the oppression that nearly destroyed it is fine with you. Good to know. I disagree with continuing to promote the attitudes that led to the people who speak those languages being marginalized in the first place. Maybe we need more research, studies, and language classes to address that so that cycle can finally be broken. I’m sure when we point out the benefits of making people less likely to stereotype and commit crimes against BIPOC we’ll get funding and support from pols, and…oh, right. Nikole Hannah-Jones beat me to it.


pauper begging child GIF

Begging for kindness from systems of oppression always works… who cares what the facts are… /s


This makes sense. I mean, it doesn’t actually make sense, but I get what you’re saying. It’s depressing, but kind of a, “well, this is how the game works right now, so how can we play it to win for the cultures whose languages we’re trying to save right now?”
But like @PsiPhiGrrrl wrote, we need to break these cycles somehow. I have a small glimmer of hope that maybe preserving the language is a first step in that direction. Here’s hoping!


Meme Reaction GIF by Robert E Blackmon

told you so agree GIF by Bounce

People should not have to beg for support from a government entity that bears responsibility for the near destruction of those people’s culture and language in the first place. The fact that we’re still debating whether or not people deserve to have access to their culture and language based on what a imperialist government believes is pretty shocking to me. We’ve learned nothing, it seems.


I didn’t say I liked it. I didn’t way it was moral or right.

I’m just saying that if this is the only way to keep it alive, I can live with it. We can look for better ways once more people speak the language.

You’re right. They should not. Should never have. But they do.

So in the quest for purity of purpose, should we just let the language die? Can’t we keep the language alive and build the situation where it doesn’t need to beg for resources?

We are debating nothing of the sort. We, and people who are working on this, including people like the linguist Stephen Bird (whom I know), are working on this with the assumption that the people and the societies and the languages have their own inherent worth and deserve to survive because they just do.

It’s the imperialist government which is still controlling access to the money, however, and if you want to get any of the money which you need to run the research and the programs to give those people and languages what they need, then you’re going to have to speak their language.

Yes, it sucks. Yes, it’s unfair and unjust. But those governments aren’t going away any time soon.

So the question comes down to: how much of the good are you willing to let die in your quest for the perfect?


I did not mean it like that, and I apologise for making that impression.

I just wanted to make the point that there are people working for the good of the people and the good of the language for the sake of the good, not the sake of the crime stats. They’re just using the tools of the oppressors to do it. We would all like for that not to have to happen, but for the time being, it does.


Here’s an interesting article that includes the history behind the current situation, describes language preservation approaches, and points out how government support could be improved:

The article raises concerns about the goals of some researchers, too:

The research in such centers is under communal control, for the benefit of indigenous speakers who wish to maintain their languages as living systems. These two-way programs, in which black and white researchers exchange knowledge and share power, contrast with much of current academic endangered languages research. The latter, although it claims to save languages, tends to focus, not on the preservation of living languages, but on writings and archival materials deemed beneficial to linguists.

In the US, funding remains a challenge for indigenous language preservation projects. Hopefully, funding for these efforts in Australia and elsewhere will increase to enable more people to reclaim their languages and cultures.


I know Stephen Bird’s efforts have been community centered. He developed an app where people could just say things in Language into the device, and then later others in the community could transcribe them at their leisure, and translate them if needed. It’s all about giving the community the resources it needs to build its own corpus from which to develop dictionaries, grammars, pronunciation guides, and teaching tools.

He tested the concept in PNG, and moved from Melbourne to Darwin so that he could implement it in the Northern Territory communities.

AIUI, the biggest problems to overcome are 1) (well founded) community distrust of whitefellas offering help, and 2) access to power to charge the devices.


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