Language and Identity

Hi All,

The following is an interview with Jeanie Bell from the Batchelor Institute for Indigenous Tertiary Education, held at the 2010 Manning Clark Weekend of Ideas.  The theme was “Fair suck of the sauce bottle: A celebration of Australian Language”.

Jeanie identifies as Aboriginal, descended from the Kamiliroi, Yuggera and Dulingbara peoples of QLD.  She discusses how opportunities for learning traditional ways and language were stolen from Aboriginal people, when they were rounded up and taken to missions/reserves in the late 1800s.  Jeanie’s maternal grandmother and her sister were among those taken to the Cherbourg reservation, where they were taught White culture and English, and were punished if they spoke their traditional languages.

Jeanie goes on to talk about efforts to revive Australian languages, and how this is part of the healing process for her people.  In particular, Jeanie is involved in the revival of Badjala and Gubbi Gubbi, and has created a Badjala dictionary, which has attracted a lot of interest in the Badjala community.  She also had a program underway for Badjala to be taught in schools in the Hervey Bay region (I cannot find any information as to whether this is still underway).

Something I found quite intersesting, which was also touched upon in Topic 6 of our course, is that the Badjala language, like most Aboriginal languages we’ve looked at, is an agglutinating language, and a case language, which makes it very difficult for adults who only speak English to learn.  In the revival process they tend to make the language a bit easier, and don’t necessarily use the same grammar patterns that were a part of the traditional language.

This is quite a personal insight into the topics we’ve been studying in LING366/566, and shows how language deprivation, and language revival has affected the Aboriginal Community.

To listen to the interview or see the transcript, click here.

To see the whole Weekend of Ideas program, click here.

Amy Parncutt, LING366


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