Aboriginal affairs have become very topical in Australia over the last few months and, as a result, a lot of different language groups get a mention in the news. Here is a typical opening line of such a news report:

The people of [town], [distance in kilometres] [cardinal direction] of Alice Springs, still speak their traditional language.

Every time I hear this I expect and hope that the full-stop is instead a comma followed by the name of a language, after all, it could be expressed in just a few syllables. Invariably however, there is no mention of the language. I accept that there are probably a number of reasons for this, but I still think it would be helpful to know exactly what language is actually spoken there. Especially since the journalist has gone to the trouble of pointing out that the language is alive and well. I’m sure they just think no one is interested, or perhaps simply not interested enough to force them to learn to say something like Nangikurrunggur, for example.

It is possible to find out from other means, such as browsing Ethnologue or the AIATSIS database, but neither yeild as good an answer as might be supplied by the journalist in these situations.

(Just out of interest, the news report concerned the federeal government’s plan to scrap the permit system, which allows traditional owner (rightly) to control access to their land. The whole story is available here, but the quote above came from an AM report which should be available for podcast from here by later today. The town in question was Yuendumu (300 km North-West of Alice Springs) and I was able to narrow the field of languages down to either Pintupi-Luritja or Warlpiri)