Death by neglect

19 09 2007

The shameful loss of Indigenous culture continues in Australia’s rural and remote communities.  Of the original 250 + Australian languages, only 145 are still spoken.  Of these, only perhaps 18 languages are considered strong.  Most of the remainder are spoken by either one or just a handful of people.

Will we rise to the challenge and help protect Australia’s indigenous cultural diversity and identity?  It may soon be too late.

Australia tops list for vanishing languages

Northern Australia is the region where most Indigenous languages are under threat, the study says. (File photo) (AFP: Torsten Blackwood)

Australia has topped a list of “hot spots” for the extinction of Indigenous languages.

The list was put together by linguists from the Enduring Voices project, which seeks to document and revitalise languages slipping toward oblivion.

David Harrison of Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, the project’s co-director, says there are 6,992 recognised distinct languages worldwide.

He says on average, one language vanishes every two weeks, often as its last elderly speakers perish.

The project, backed by National Geographic magazine, named a region of northern Australia including parts of Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia as the place where local languages are most threatened.

The linguists say Aboriginal Australia harbours some of the most endangered languages, with 153 different ones spoken in this region.

Read the rest of this story at the ABC news website. Click here.

See also the results of this study into Australian Indigenous language stabilisation which has been comprehensively ignored at the political level.




2 responses

25 09 2007
John Feeney

And this is a good reminder that one of the things lost to things like land development, deforestation, and population growth more generally is indigenous cultures. All part of the homogenization of the world, it seems.

28 09 2007

For sure. I believe the arguments for global cultural diversity are almost as strong as those for global biological diversity. How often we are told “there is no alternative” – some refer to this as the TINA approach. This shows a lack of imagination. It is too easy to believe we have perfected economic or political systems. Every generation has made this foolish error. Typified for example by Francis Fukuyama “the end of history”.

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