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.

nyungar-knowledgeProfessor 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.

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When more information about this project becomes available, we’ll be sure to share it in the Ethnos Project Resources Database.