Word for Word #9 Australian Indigenous languages
Before 1788, hundreds of Indigenous languages were spoken in Australia. Today, that picture looks very different, but language remains an essential part of the fabric of Indigenous identity.
In this special episode of Word for Word, we explore a language with tens of thousands of speakers, as well as some languages spoken only by a handful of people; novelist Kate Grenville tells the story of an unusual First Fleet lieutenant and his attempts to learn the Gadigal language; and we meet a young Indigenous woman in the remote community of Ngukurr, who is determined to keep her grandmother's language alive.
Macquarie Dictionary acknowledges the traditional owners of country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, culture and community. We pay our respects to elders past and present. We acknowledge the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, their cultures, languages, communities and ways of life. We acknowledge there are differing usages of the terms “Aboriginal”, “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander”, and “Indigenous” within Australia, and use these terms respectfully throughout this episode.
Join us as we explore our language: the ways we use it, the ways we abuse it, and the ways we ultimately change it.
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Words from this episode
Mara or Marra
Pama-Ngyugan (and non-Pama-Ngyugan)
Also check out Dr Greg Dickson's illuminating piece about Kriol for The Conversation.
You can find the clip featuring Stan Grant Snr on the Guardian Australia website.
Other links of interest, which informed this episode:
- The Guardian series Our Country, Our Voices
- Information about Indigenous languages from Creative Spirits
- Information from the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, including the AIATSIS Map of Indigenous Australia
- This article about the Pama-Ngyugan language family from Science Magazine
- The Indigenous Atlas of Australia, published by Macquarie Dictionary & Pan Macmillan Australia
Word for Word is produced by Kate Sherington for Macquarie Dictionary and Pan Macmillan Australia.
Thanks are due to Dr Maia Ponsonnet, Dr Greg Dickson, Angelina Joshua, Kate Grenville, and the whole team at Macquarie.
Clips from the My Grandmother’s Lingo interactive animation are used by permission of SBS.
Sound effects are public domain and sourced from FreeSound.org.
Our logo is by Amy Sherington.