Helen Davidson reports for the Guardian that “while the vast number of Indigenous languages are considered endangered, there are many that have a good chance of survival if they are nurtured”:
The world of mobile apps and online research tools are making languages, their history and their context more accessible to non-Indigenous Australians who wish to better understand and interact with the oldest continuing culture in the world.
Last year Charles Darwin University launched a searchable online dictionary of Yolngu Matha – the languages spoken across much of Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. Its success has prompted Garde to begin work on a similar project for Bininj Kunwok. A key concern, he says, is to make sure the language is controlled by the community to ensure they retain ownership over a significant part of their culture. The same concerns are held about language programs in mainstream education, outside the control of community groups and caretakers of traditional knowledge.
In March Canberra’s Australian National University launched the Austkin database of Indigenous kinship terms and skin names, which seeks to preserve those still heard every day in communities, as well as create a database of terms in languages which are essentially extinct except for mentions in historical archives.
There’s lots more good stuff at the link (“Some of the children who learn Gumbaynggirr through the centre are ‘right into it’ but others are more focused on learning swearwords, he says, laughing”), including a nice map of “the language, social or nation groups of Aboriginal Australia”; thanks, Trevor!