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First steps on the Ngunawal language revitalization journey

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Title:First steps on the Ngunawal language revitalization journey
Authors:Walsh, Michael
Troy, Jakelin
Contributors:Walsh, Michael (speaker)
Troy, Jakelin (speaker)
Date Issued:12 Mar 2015
Description:In this paper we present a research project driven by a community of Aboriginal people, the Ngunawal, in south eastern Australia who have joined the growing movement in our country to ‘wake up’ our sleeping languages. It is a unique partnering between a peak research agency for Indigenous studies in Australia and a community group formed specifically for the purposes of language revival – the Ngayuriija Ngunawal Language Group.

The ancestral territory of the Ngunawal includes the city of Canberra, Australia’s national capital. The focus on a programme of community outreach in our own region led us to seek to support the Ngunawal community to explore ways in which their language can be revitalized. It has also grown from our work on developing a national Framework document for teaching Australian languages in schools. This happened through the Australian Government initiative to develop a standard Australian Curriculum. Teaching languages in schools has been a driving force for communities keen to see their children have access to studying their own languages in our schools. Indeed this is a key motivating factor for many of the Ngunawal.

Unfortunately the documentation for this language is relatively meagre, much of it early manuscript sources and no more than a few minutes of audio-recording. This means that there will be a need to fill gaps not just in vocabulary but also in morphosyntax. Because each Australian Language has owners this will involve negotiations with neighbouring language communities.

We will describe the process of this language revitalization initiative from the perspective of the researchers as well as that of the Ngunawal community. It has been a slow process in part because of the limited documentation of the language but more importantly because of the need to form a partnership based on trust and commitment. As this partnership has developed the Ngunawal community has gradually revealed additional documentation which has been compiled within the community largely independent of the academy. We will display some of the products of this partnership and reflect on the impact of Ngunawal language revitalization not just on the Ngunawal community but also on the wider Australian community.
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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