Claire Bowern of Anggarrgoon has a post at Crikey’s very own language blog describing an archival find she made some time back, and a very lively read it is; here’s a sample paragraph:

The recordings had been made outside, and there was a lot of wind noise. I was feeling a bit seasick at this point; the tapes were stereo and the microphone hadn’t been held too steadily, so there was a lot of rocking back and forth. Stick a pair of headphones on and slide the balance meter back and forth to get a sense of what this feels like. I’d been listening to tapes for many hours, including some German drinking songs, and was just about ready to call it quits for the day. One more tape, I thought. I stuck the reel* on the machine and cued it up. I heard Peile ask “What’s the name of that language? Nindi nindi?” The speaker replied, “Nyindinyindi.” Hmmm, I thought. That’s a new name on me. So I did what all good academics do when they come across something new – googled it. Nothing.** Then the speaker started telling a story in the language, and I could understand most of it. It was close to Bardi, the language I did my PhD on (and can speak pretty well). I went back to the audition sheets for that tape, and I saw it had been listed as recorded at “Tinder Bay.” There’s no Tinder Bay in the right area, but there is “Pender Bay.” A few years later I was able to play the tape to Bardi speakers. No one knew the name “Nyindinyindi,” but they confirmed that the language on the tape was similar to Bardi.

Go to her post for the footnotes, and for the rest of the story. Makes me want to go get my hands dusty!


  1. “Business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming.” -I’m rescuing this from the spam comments. It seems relevant here.

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