Nicholas Bakalar has a quite decent NY Times story about Light Warlpiri, a mixed language of Australia that’s developed in the last few decades:

The language, called Warlpiri rampaku, or Light Warlpiri, is spoken only by people under 35 in Lajamanu, an isolated village of about 700 people in Australia’s Northern Territory. In all, about 350 people speak the language as their native tongue. Dr. O’Shannessy has published several studies of Light Warlpiri, the most recent in the June issue of Language.

“Many of the first speakers of this language are still alive,” said Mary Laughren, a research fellow in linguistics at the University of Queensland in Australia, who was not involved in the studies. One reason Dr. O’Shannessy’s research is so significant, she said, “is that she has been able to record and document a ‘new’ language in the very early period of its existence.”

Everyone in Lajamanu also speaks “strong” Warlpiri, an aboriginal language unrelated to English and shared with about 4,000 people in several Australian villages. Many also speak Kriol, an English-based creole developed in the late 19th century and widely spoken in northern Australia among aboriginal people of many different native languages.

Lajamanu parents are happy to have their children learn English for use in the wider world, but eager to preserve Warlpiri as the language of their culture.

There’s a brief post about it by Sally Thomason at the Log. (Thanks for the Times link, Bonnie!)


  1. Fascinating, especially given the dire state of many of the remaining aboriginal languages in australia. Tangential, but it’s odd to me, as an australian, to see the word ‘villages’ used in this context. In an Oz I feel like the term would be townships or settlements.

  2. Trond Engen says

    Asya Pereltsvaig did a short post on it on GeoCurrents a couple of weeks ago, linking to a Yahoo News article by Denise Chow.

  3. I just finished reading the article. What interests me about is the hypothesis that mixed languages arise (or can arise) from a grammaticalization of code-switching: kids are spoken to in a code-switched baby-dialect, and they internalize it and then use it with their peers.

  4. About the article, that is. Scheiße (non-catastrophic variety).

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