I was excited to discover that young linguists are currently contributing to giving Australian languages a new lease on life. One student, Andy Zhang, has traveled from the United States to Western Australia to help Australian linguists construct a grammar of the Tjupan language. Although some rudimentary materials exist, such as a picture dictionary with a limited vocabulary of verbs, there is no complete grammar. Constructing this grammar is particularly important since there are only about 6 fluent speakers of the language and no children currently learning to speak Tjupan. In addition the program aims to record as much spoken Tjupan as possible in hopes that they can prevent the language from completely dying out.
I was also happily surprised to find that the money used to fund this research came from the Maintenance of Indigenous Languages and Records program. After reading about the lack of funding for Aboriginal language programs in Australian schools in Topic 10 of our unit, it was encouraging to know that the Australian government provided funding for this initiative. So far the funding has helped linguists uncover nearly 1000 Tjupan morphemes but this is not enough to keep the language alive. A working grammar will be immensely profitable to the future of this language. As one Tjupan interviewee noted “We lose it if we don’t try and preserve it”.
The two articles reference from the ABC can be viewed here:
In addition here is the link to the Tjupan picture dictionary: