In Australia, what may be a 'new' indigenous language has been recorded


Given the number of languages that are disappearing it’s nice to hear of a previously unknown one coming to light.

I’m no expert, but that doesn’t sound like a new language - more of a creole or pidgin or something. I’m not sure how linguists draw the line, but there must be one.

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Apologies in advance:

“Come on, baby, Light Walpiri…”

I’m no expert, but I disagree with the experts!


From Wikipedia: “A creole language is a stable, full-fledged language that originated from a pidgin.”

So I guess I’m not sure what you’re actually saying here.

Cool, I didn’t know that. I guess I thought they were more or less the same thing. I guess I meant to say pidgin, but I was afraid it had racist overtones. Creole makes me sound cooler.

I’m no linguist either, but:

When speakers of different languages meet repeatedly as adults they create a pidgin - a smattering of words from one or both, with little or no grammar.

If there are enough children who grow up in a linguistically diminished environment together (such as mostly hearing a pidgin) they will, in one generation, create a fully-fledged language, adding all the necessary grammar, and creating or importing new words. That is a creole language.

Also, we actually have observed children doing this kind of thing – Nicaraguan sign language. In that case the “pidgin” would be each child’s “home signs,” the gestures they used with their families.


The last twenty years have seen significant change in remote Aboriginal communities as the sale of alcohol was banned entirely. As a result of this, there is now less engagement between white and black communities, more independence for aboriginal people, and better health as alcohol dependence is reduced. I think it is possible that this new language is a consequence of these changes.

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Damn that stuff is interesting, innit?

More independence for Aboriginal people?

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Different levels of independence at different levels of the society.

Kriol is not at all at all “a form of aboriginal english”. It is a close relative of Tok Pisin and Bislama, however, despite substantial lexical borrowings, it bears essentially no gramatical relation to English.

Aboriginal english, on the other hand is a distinct variety of English (in the same sense that, British, American or Austrlain Englishes are varieties), with many interesting pragmatic subtilties that get in the way of clear communication between speakers of Aboriginal and Australian english. The wonderful Diana Eades has written quite a bit about the practical differences between Aboriginal and Australian Englishes in the hope of fostering beter communication, however she stopped after she noticed one of her books on the desk of a lawyer for the prosecution one day who was using her research to actively provide a false impression to the jury.

A good example of the frequent assumption that Kriol and Aboriginal English are bastardised versions of English is the analysis of the morpheme ‘-fella’ as a borrowing from English ‘fellow’. As in blackfella, whitefella. If you stop and think about this it is actually quite strange, why of all the English words for person would fellow have been borrowed?

Excuse me, my good fellow, would your be so kind as to drink this water. It’s top stuff I just got from Myall Creek

Surely ‘man’ would be the most obvious word to borrow instead. But what’s more, why borrow a word for ‘person’. Do we seriously suposse that indigenous Australians didn’t have a word, or rather a whole range of words to deal with the concept person?

Instead the best bet (as of a few years ago at least), was that it is was originally from Eora, the now extinct language of much of the Sydney region and was is reconstructed as something along the lines of ‘-pela’ (going off memory here), a suffix added to an adjective to mark that the adjective is modfiying the noun. and spread as the English/Indig contact jargon/pidgin spread with colonisation. It can still be found in Tok Pisin ‘-pela’, and Bislama and Pijin ‘-fala’. It is was then borrowed from these creoles into Aboriginal English to become its most famous word (blackfella - n. Indigenous Australian).

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I wonder if this is a case of homologous words between languages, where two words that sound similar also have similar meanings. I grew up in New Zealand and this item may or may not have entered the vernacular over there too—it quite common to say to my friends something like ‘See you fullas after school’. In this case it seems to be a straight forward bastardisation of the word ‘fellow.’ However, the terms ‘white fullas’ and ‘black fullas’ also seemed to get used a lot as catch all terms for ethnicities. It never occurred to me (why would it?) that the different terms might have very different etymologies.

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