Ngalia: Language Revival

The Western Desert language of Ngalia, spoken around the Leonora area of Western Australia, is highly endangered. There are currently 2 speakers, the Muir brothers, although others in the community are partial speakers or have passive knowledge of their language.  In 2012, the community was reported to have no children speaking or learning Ngalia.  One of the speakers Kado Muir (skin group Tjarurru) is an accomplished artist, social anthropologist and indigenous rights activist.

He has been working with linguist Sue Hanson and others to produce a range of resources to enable the language revival of Ngalia.  The Muir family had been recording the language for a decade, but finally federal funding was approved to permit the production of the essential triad of dictionary, grammar and recordings.  Several linguists worked with Kado Muir, his brother Zabar, and the Leonora community to develop orthography, an initial picture dictionary and a sketch grammar.

Muir and Hanson published a book ‘Learn Some Ngalia’ in March 2014 which contains 30 lessons.  These are supported by online resources such as audio recordings and downloadable alphabet/syllable charts which cover the first 9 lessons.  Further resources will be added to this site as they are created.  These resources, provided under the auspices of the Goldfields Aboriginal Languages Project, are suitable for use in schools, or for the independent learner.

With adequate funding the project will be able to extend the lexical and grammatical documentation of this language and obtain a broad selection of recorded speech.  This will act as a valuable language resource for future generations of the Ngalia people and for those who seek to study their language and culture.

Jude Brown

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