Kado Muir
Yale Linguistics Department helping to save a Northern Goldfields language - ABC Goldfields WA - Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Yale Linguistics Department helping to save a Northern Goldfields language – ABC Goldfields WA – Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Yale Linguistics Department helping to save a Northern Goldfields language – ABC Goldfields WA – Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Tjupan is a language of which there are only six native speakers left in the world. A Perth linguist has enlisted the help of a Yale University student to help preserve it.

Saving Tjupan

Linguist Sue Hanson, community leader and anthropologist Kado Muir and Yale Linguistics…

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[New post] Yale Linguistics Department helping to save a Northern Goldfields language – ABC Goldfields WA – Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Post  : Yale Linguistics Department helping to save a Northern Goldfields language &; ABC Goldfields WA &; Australian Broadcasting Corporation
URL  : http://wangka.org.au/2014/07/23/yale-linguistics-department-helping-to-save-a-northern-goldfields-language-abc-goldfields-wa-australian-broadcasting-corporation/
Posted  : July 23, 2014 at 16:26
Author  : kadomuir
Categories : Publications

Yale Linguistics Department helping to save a Northern Goldfields language - ABC Goldfields WA - Australian Broadcasting Corporation ( http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2014/07/22/4051205.htm#.U89xBQy4mBk.wordpress ) .

Tjupan is a language of which there are only six native speakers left in the world. A Perth linguist has enlisted the help of a Yale University student to help preserve it.

http://www.abc.net.au/reslib/201407/r1306068_17920301.JPG

Linguist Sue Hanson, community leader and anthropologist Kado Muir and Yale Linguistics Student Andy Zhang (Rebecca Brewin - ABC Goldfields)

Related Photos ( http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2014/07/22/4051205.htm# )

Yale linguistics student Andy Zhang and linguist Sue Hanson have arrived in the Goldfields to help save the Aboriginal language of Tjupan, which has its origins in the far northern Goldfields near Wiluna.

"Earlier this year a group of students in the Yale Linguistics Department partnered up with Susan Hanson here in Australia to work on preserving an endangered language called Tjupan," Andy said.

"So after working throughout the year on a Sketch Grammar, which is a very general overview of a language, I decided to come here to work on some questions that have arisen from the Sketch Grammar.

"In the next month I’ll be working with speakers every day with elicitation sessions in the morning, which are session where I, through a variety of different methods, will try and elicit a natural language from the speakers.

"And then in the afternoons and the evenings I will be analysing that material and then preparing for the next day’s session."

Preserving Tjupan

There are many reasons saving the endangered language of Tjupan is so important.

"At the moment we think there’s about six people who speak fairly fluently, there’s quite a lot of people who understand Tjupan or are re-callers of Tjupan and then a lot more people who identify as Tjupan.

"We’re doing this project as quickly as we can as we’ve got so few fluent speakers, to try and make sure that the material is available to relearn it or remember it and to get school programs and resources going.

"But as much as anything, to make sure those people who are fluent with the language have an opportunity to record as much as they can, so that the language is not lost."

Susan said the number of Australian languages around a few hundred years ago has dwindled to around 20 spoken fluently.

"(That) is a terrible situation because every language carries with it culture, knowledge, understanding, a world view.

"People express their cognition through their language so if we lose a language we lose so much material and our world is a lot poorer."

Community leader and anthropologist Kado Muir has an interest in preserving Tjupan from a community and academic perspective.

"These are the Australian languages, English is not an Australian language, it’s an imported language.

"Tjupan is one of seven languages we’re working on across the region which is at various levels of use every day, there are some Aboriginal languages in this region that are the primary language of thousands of speakers.

"The importance of this project is that it reinforces self confidence, self esteem, all those things that often missing in a post-colonial environment."

The linguistics of Tjupan

Andy, who speaks English, French and Mandarin, said there are very distinctive features of Australian languages.

"A really interesting feature about Australian languages is that they have really complex verb morphology, so a lot of different parts of sentences can be attached to a verb, so the verbs carry a lot of meaning.

"Whereas in Mandarin, verbs don’t take number or tense or anything, they are kind of just there by themselves, so all that meaning has to be expressed through other linguistic ways.

"One of the challenges has been getting used to the phonology or the sounds of the language, in language acquisition when you’re a baby you will learn the sounds of your own language but you actually learn to block out the sounds of other languages.

"So when you’re learning a new language that’s a big challenge, is to try and hear these sounds that technically you can’t hear anymore."

Andy doesn’t speak Tjupan himself, but that isn’t a barrier to his work.

"When you learn a language in linguistics you learn more about the underlying structure of a language, so although I might be able to tell you a lot about how Tjupan works, I wouldn’t be able to carry out a conversation in it."

The future of Tjupan

While Andy will take the data he has collected back to Yale to write a paper, how Tjupan is preserved in Australia will be up to the speakers, Susan said.

"When we work with speakers they might say to us, ‘what we see is the language being used in school’ or they might say ‘we want a newspaper or a radio show’.

"We follow the speakers’ lead… most people choose for educational resources to be made."

Preserving a language takes up to 10 years of research before resources and educational materials can be made.

"That’s where people such as Andy and the Yale students are really important because they can help us fast track that work."

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Goldfields Aboriginal Arts Trail by Sue Hanson