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Unfinished business: Some issues in need of attention in Australian language revitalisation

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Title: Unfinished business: Some issues in need of attention in Australian language revitalisation
Issue Date: 12 Mar 2015
Description: The alarm bells have been ringing long and loud for Australian languages and, over the last half century, people have increasingly begun to heed them and respond. Rather than simply bemoaning the grim progress of attrition, Indigenous Australian community members and supportive linguists are increasingly talking in terms of saving languages and acting with the stated goal of bringing them back. The recent publication of Re-awakening languages: Theory and practice in the revitalisation of Australia’s Indigenous languages belatedly marked this turning point by evidencing sufficient activity to sustain a substantial volume of papers. However, (10 words identifying information omitted) it also starkly highlighted several of the issues in the process that are currently not being talked about – at least not publicly.

This paper seeks to shine a spotlight on some of the larger ‘elephants in the room’ of Australian revitalisation in the hope that doing so will spur people to start discussing them openly, and avoid the risk that continuing to disregard them could limit progress or frustrate the achievement of desired outcomes. Issues to be considered include the need to identify clear and realistic goals and make concrete plans for their attainment; whether documentation, technology or school are the answer; the role of linguists, and; whether protocols are helping or hindering the process. While the discussion is focused on the Australian context it is certain to resonate with the experience of others also fighting to recover from language loss. It relates directly to the conference theme and reflects on the relationship between documentation and language revitalisation, and the role of formal instruction in that. It also reflects on the topics of communities’ experiences of revitalisation, language planning, the role of technology in teaching/learning small languages and assessing success in revitalisation strategies.
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections:4th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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