Endangered Languages


To continue the saga of the stolen wordlists (see my own posts on this here and here, or Peter Austin’s posts here and here for background) I’ve decided that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

It is with that in mind that I give you (over the fold) the Murrinh-Patha crossword puzzle, my own creative work, using Philip M. Parker’s online dictionary of the Murrinh-Patha language.

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Over the weekend, David Nash drew my attention to a book that he found on Amazon, that purported to contain bilingual crosswords puzzles in English and Wageman.

I was a bit perlexed by this, since, well, Wagiman doesn’t have much in the way of practical applications such as second-language learning, that is, of course, beyond the community of Wagiman people. It should be noted at this point though, that this book is not being marketed towards the small community of non-Wagiman speaking Wagiman people, but to a North American audience.

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Not long ago, I received a call from a friend in Kybrook Farm. She informed me that an old lady, one of the last remaining Wagiman speakers, had died a little while earlier.

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Long term readers of this blog would probably know that I occasionally like to mess around with Google Earth and to try out new things to do with languages and so forth. It began with an exercise in mapping some known and established place names in the Sydney Metropolitan Area, mostly concentrated in and around the Harbour, and then it moved on to a small project of mine to map the region of the Northern Territory with which Wagiman is traditionally associated.

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In blogging, if you haven’t posted for a week, there’s a slim chance someone might consider you defunct. If you were a word, the OED might feel inclined to put an innocent looking (Arch.) next to you, or worse, (Obs.).

I feel then, that I should post something to keep the bloggospheric undertaker at bay and, quite fortuitously, there’s lots going on to discuss.

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This is a piece that Phil Cash Cash wrote for the Indigenous Languages and Technology list (ILAT). With his permission I am posting it here in full.

As we enter 2008, we are reminded to reflect on the unique status of human languages in the world. Never before has our humanity witnessed such a dramatic decline in our linguistic and cultural diversity.

“The loss of local languages and of the cultural systems which they express, has meant irretrievable loss of diverse and interesting intellectual wealth. Only with diversity can it be guaranteed that all avenues of human intellectual progress will be traveled.”

Ken Hale, 1992.

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