HOLDING OUR TONGUES.

Australian ABC Radio has an excellent site, called “Holding our tongues,” about “the long and painful task of reviving Aboriginal languages… There are many different places on the net where people can find out about language revival and maintenance. The Holding our tongues site will be an ongoing project, aiming to bring as many of these resources as possible together in one place.” There’s a map you can click on, a page of links to websites and “Other publications,” and a radio show of about 23 minutes you can download or listen to via this page (which also has a transcript)—you can hear a lot of Aboriginal speech and some fairly in-depth discussion of languages like Kaurna (name sounds like GAH-na), Dharug, and Awabakal. There’s even some detailed morphological analysis, with examples. Thanks, Bathrobe!

Comments

  1. Thanks for the pointer, Hat. I’m adding it to my list, as a gesture of ANZAC co-operation, doing my bit to help promote conservation across the ditch. If othese preservation efforts had started say 40 years ago, when Aborginals got suffrage and citizenship, who knows where their tongues might be now?

  2. Exactly. It’s a shame how long it took to overcome ill-informed and/or malicious resistance.

  3. The podcast is quite poignant in places. The insistence by the Aboriginal people that the original languages are “sleeping”, not “dead”. The group who have been engaged in a long and fruitless search for the word for “sister”. They are still looking.
    There is also a segment about linguists, more specifically how linguists and aboriginals trying to revive their languages often find themselves at loggerheads.
    The general tone of the podcast is upbeat. Many of these languages were well and truly dead. It is amazing and heartening that people have the will to try and revive them against all odds.

  4. Yes, and it’s amazing how much success they’re having, all things considered.
    I must admit I get very impatient with the attitude of “We own our words and our language and how dare you use them to further your scholarly career,” but then I’m a privileged first-worlder who doesn’t know what it’s like to be at the wrong end of the stick.

  5. “I must admit I get very impatient with the attitude of “We own our words and our language and how dare you use them to further your scholarly career,”
    I have no career, scholarly or otherwise, but the sort of attitude you mention has long been a barrier to the use of Māori by non-Māori here. The language is viewed as a taonga (treasure) and I have in the past been abused for daring to attempt to use it. That sort of mindset was what put me off learning the language in my 20s, but now, nearly 20 years later, there is much less of that counter-productive preciousness, and use of the language by non-Māori is on the rise.

  6. That’s a big factor in archaeology in the American West, sometimes very reasonably (last several hundred years), sometimes less unreasonably, sometimes crazily, and sometimes in bad faith (a kind of extortion).
    Three of the very oldest human skeletons found in US territory were found in my general neighborhood, and there will be a new dig this summer at the Sauk Valley Man site less than ten miles from here, on the land of an ex-employer of mine.

  7. That’s a big factor in archaeology in the American West, sometimes very reasonably (last several hundred years), sometimes less unreasonably, sometimes crazily, and sometimes in bad faith (a kind of extortion).
    Three of the very oldest human skeletons found in US territory were found in my general neighborhood, and there will be a new dig this summer at the Sauk Valley Man site less than ten miles from here, on the land of an ex-employer of mine.

  8. marie-lucie says:

    I heard a paper once which showed that people who considered their language a treasure to be preserved were least likely to actually use it, thus defeating their conscious purpose of preserving it, while those for whom it was, after all, a language, were much more willing to try to use it as much as possible, even if they made mistakes.

  9. A.J.P. Crown says:

    people who considered their language a treasure to be preserved were least likely to actually use it
    That’s very funny and it doesn’t just go for language, I’d say.

  10. marie-lucie says:

    Yes, like the silver tea service that is only brought out once every few years, so that it is covered in black oxide by the time you want to use it.
    One group I heard of was arguing that their language was so sacred that it should only be used for ceremonies. What did they think their grandparents spoke in daily life? But we should not be too hard on such people: that’s what happened to Hebrew many centuries ago. Once people have switched to another language, the old one becomes sacred.

  11. I’m not sure if silverware is actually what AJP was talking about….

  12. marie-lucie says:

    I am aware that one can think of other possible interpretations. “Use it or lose it” can apply to a variety of contexts.

  13. The situation with Māori is not so much a “museum piece” sort of treaasure, it’s more specifically, “it’s ours, and YOU can’t use it”. The use of Māori is on the rise, but some Māori remain fiercely possessive of their language and object to its use by non-Māori.

  14. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Actually Dressing Gown’s inference hadn’t occurred to me, but we had the blackened silver teapot when I was young. It was supposed to make terrible tea and was never used. It was, as Marie-Lucie suggested, like treasure.
    It reminds me that Lars Vilks* suggested wrapping up a box and marking it ‘birthday present’, to be given to friend A on his birthday, but left unopened. Friend A would pass it on to friend B on B’s birthday — its utility being the time saved looking anxiously for token presents: pairs of socks and the like. So it saves a lot of trouble, but preserves the well-intentioned thought and the ceremony.
    * (the one who’s writing a musical about muslim fundamentalism — and jolly good it is, I’ve seen an early version)

  15. bruessel says:

    Well, I think it’s not much of a ceremony if you’re not even allowed to open the present. Are you at least allowed to open the card (assuming there is one)?

  16. A.J.P. Crown says:

    I suppose you could wrap up the wrapped present. Sure.
    Cards are optional, but best hand-made, in my opinion.

  17. marie-lucie says:

    some Māori remain fiercely possessive of their language and object to its use by non-Māori.
    I would guess that those people are not the oldest, fully fluent speakers, but people whose command of the language is shaky or who are trying to learn it from their older relatives. Understandably such people are resentful of outsiders trying to do the same thing and perhaps succeeding. I would think that the situation will stabilize as the language regains speakers, especially young ones who started as small children and who will not feel so self-conscious.

  18. Interesting comments, marie-lucie. They put a positive light on some of the more politicised elements of Māori uptake in recent years, thanks.

  19. There’s an econ paper on the deadweight loss of Christmas. Gifts that the receiver doesn’t want, which can be like throwing things away unused.
    I am a terrible gift-giver and a terrible person to give to. But anyone who wants to can give me one of de la Vaissiere’s several books on the Sogdians, which start at about $80 and go up to $200.

  20. There’s an econ paper on the deadweight loss of Christmas. Gifts that the receiver doesn’t want, which can be like throwing things away unused.
    I am a terrible gift-giver and a terrible person to give to. But anyone who wants to can give me one of de la Vaissiere’s several books on the Sogdians, which start at about $80 and go up to $200.

  21. There’s an econ paper on the deadweight loss of Christmas
    Does that paper factor in the role of online auction sites, like eBay? I was staggered to read once that NZ’s biggest auction site (not eBay) generates up to 65% of ALL NZ’s internet traffic, and it is choked solid with unwanted gifts in the days after Xmas. Perhaps that sort of thing reduces the deadweight loss?

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