Indigenous Languages

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State of Indigenous languages in Australia - 2001
by

Patrick McConvell
Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies

Nicholas Thieberger
The University of Melbourne

November 2001

Australia: State of the Environment Second Technical Paper Series No. 2 (Natural and Cultural Heritage)

Environment Australia, part of the Department of the Environment and Heritage

© Commonwealth of Australia 2001

This work is copyright. It may be reproduced in whole or in part for study or training purposes subject to the inclusion of an acknowledgment of the source and no commercial usage or sale. Reproduction for purposes other than those listed above requires the written permission of the Department of the Environment and Heritage. Requests and enquiries concerning reproduction and rights should be addressed to the State of the Environment Reporting Section, Environment Australia, GPO Box 787, Canberra ACT 2601. The Commonwealth accepts no responsibility for the opinions expressed in this document, or the accuracy or completeness of the contents of this document. The Commonwealth will not be liable for any loss or damage occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the contents of this document. Environment Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication McConvell, Patrick State of Indigenous Languages in Australia 2001 / by Patrick McConvell, Nicholas Thieberger. (Australia: State of the Environment Second Technical Paper Series (No.1 Natural and Cultural Heritage)) Bibliography ISBN 064 254 8714 1. Aboriginies, Australia-Languages. 2. Torres Strait Islanders-Languages. 3. Language obsolescence. I. Thieberger, Nicholas. II. Australia. Environment Australia. III. Series 499.15-dc21 For bibliographic purposes, this document may be cited as: McConvell, P. and Thieberger N. 2001, State of Indigenous languages in Australia 2001, Australia State of the Environment Second Technical Paper Series (Natural and Cultural Heritage), Department of the Environment and Heritage, Canberra. http://www.ea.gov.au/soe/techpapers/index.html For further information, please contact the Community Information Unit of the Department of the Environment and Heritage, GPO Box 787, Canberra ACT 2601. Phone, toll free, 1800 803 772, Facsimile 02 6274 1970.

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Table of Contents
Preface Acknowledgments Abstract VII VII VIII 1 2 2 4 5 7 9 9 10 12 13 16 16 16 18 22 25

1. INTRODUCTION 2. MAIN FINDINGS
2.1 STATE OF INDIGENOUS LANGUAGES 2.2 DATA GATHERING, METHODS AND OUTCOMES 2.3 RECOMMENDATIONS 2.4 INDICATORS

3. ENDANGERED LANGUAGES: THE GLOBAL SCENE
3.1 MASSIVE LOSS OF INDIGENOUS LANGUAGES 3.2 PROSPECTS FOR THE COMING CENTURY 3.3 ENDANGERED LANGUAGES RESEARCH: DOCUMENTATION 3.4 ENDANGERED LANGUAGES: ACTION AND INTERVENTION

4. ENDANGERED LANGUAGES IN AUSTRALIA
4.1 NUMBER OF INDIGENOUS LANGUAGES IN AUSTRALIA BEFORE SETTLEMENT 4.2 DECLINE IN NUMBERS OF LANGUAGES AND SPEAKERS 4.3 MEASURING LANGUAGE LOSS AND ENDANGERMENT: CANADIAN MODELS 4.4 OTHER MEASURES OF LINGUISTIC VITALITY 4.4.a Wurm’s indicators of language endangerment

4.5 SOCIAL ROLE OF LANGUAGES AND MULTILINGUALISM

26 27 30 32
32

5. LANGUAGE, CULTURAL HERITAGE AND ENVIRONMENT 6. KEEPING LANGUAGES STRONG 7. INDICATORS OF THE STATE OF INDIGENOUS LANGUAGES 7.a Number of Indigenous language interpreters

7.1 Number of people who identify as knowing an Indigenous language [Indicator IL.1] 7.1.a The Indigenous language database 7.1.b Australian Bureau of Statistics data 7.1.c The 1996 Census 7.1.c.i ABS Census procedures 7.1.c.ii Geographical distribution of languages

33
34 36 40
40 45

7.1.d Other survey data 7.1.e Gender

48 49

7.2 Number of people in age group who identify as knowing each Indigenous language; proportion of total identifying as Indigenous [Indicator IL.2] 50

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7.3 Number of traditional...
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