Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Australia: A Dying Language?

When British settlers first arrived to Australia in the late 18th century some 200 Aboriginal languages were spoken. Of those 200 about 50 are now extinct, 100 are dying and some-odd 50 are inactive first-language use, more-so along the north coast of western and central Australia. English is the first and only language of some 83 % of Australia's current population. Minority languages during the 19th century included Chinese in goldfield communities, German in a Lutheran settlement in South Australia, and Gaelic and Welsh in rural families.

To get an idea of how serious these dying languages are, it is reported that of the withering Mati Ke language of aboriginal peoples of Australia's northern coast along the Timor Sea only 3 speaker remain. That's right just 3 people in the world still speak this language. Of the 3 people, 2 are brother and sister and are forbidden by their tribal custom from speaking to one another after puberty. So 2/3 of the people who are knowledgeable of the language are forbidden to speak it? I see. And the third does not live in the area and speaks a completely different dialect of the language. Therefore, of the 3 speakers remaining, their is virtually no common interaction and ultimately no one to pass the language to. It is unbelievable how a language of the world becomes extinct about every 2 weeks or 14 days. There are less than 7,000 languages spoken today, half of them bearing no written form to look back on. Some may say this is partly due to the overbearing dominant language such as the English language. The question of the matter is, "Should anyone care?" and if so, "What could be done to save these dying languages?"

The word "LOVE" in 28 different languages

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