Excerpt from “New media to throw a lifeline to an ancient language” published February 11, 2014 on the University of Western Australia website.
A new project will create the world’s first Aboriginal online encyclopedia as a way of preserving the ancient and endangered Noongar language – one of Australia’s biggest Aboriginal language groups.
Professor Leonard Collard at The University of Western Australia’s School of Indigenous Studies leads the $610,000, three-year project with colleagues at Curtin University. They are funded by the Australian Research Council.
Professor Collard, a Noongar elder and one of Australia’s most respected Indigenous scholars, said there had not been a recent study to count the numbers of people who speak Noongar at different levels: from being able to converse without using any English words, to speaking English with some Noongar words and phrases. But previous investigations put the numbers at 240 first-language speakers and 8000 who speak a mixture, out of a total of more than 30,000 Noongar people in WA.
“All West Australians know a few Noongar words and many may not realise it,” he said. “Quokka, wandoo, karri, marri and jarrah are Noongar, and most place-names in WA’s south-west are Noongar.”
He said there was a renaissance of interest in the language not only among Noongar people but among non-Aboriginal Australians who wanted to learn more about one of the world’s oldest languages.
When more information about this project becomes available, we’ll be sure to share it in the Ethnos Project Resources Database.