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Articles by Claire Bowern

Raiders of the Lost Archives

Last week, Indigenous languages got some media attention when it was revealed that documents discovered in the archives of the NSW State Library are shedding new light on some little-known languages. Claire Bowern has more on the story and describes how interesting, challenging and worthwhile archival materials can be for efforts to strengthen Aboriginal languages.


Our Land, Our Languages and Preserving Our Heritage

It’s pretty rare that Indigenous languages (IL) get a day in the sun in such a spectacular way. The bread and butter of IL reporting most months is along the lines of “here’s a new phone app that’s going to save a language.” Sorry to rain on anyone’s parade, but phone apps don’t save languages, people do. Specifically, speakers do: the only way to “save a language” is to make it easier for people to learn and speak it, and that requires actions which are integrated through a community.


Senior Aussie of the Year

Claire Bowern ga wukirri: Often when you open the newspaper the news is full of doom and gloom, but today there was a story that put a permanent smile on my face. Laurie Baymarrwaŋa has been given the Senior Australian of the Year award. Baymarrwaŋa* is the senior custodian of the Crocodile Islands, off Arnhem Land […]


Language and Fuzzy Animals

Claire Bowern writes: You may have heard in the news this week that linguists have discovered a new language. I am more flabbergasted at the press it’s got than at the “discovery” itself. After all, we don’t know how many languages there are in the world; there are no accurate global catalogues (though there are a […]


A bit off the money for budget ‘keywords’

Claire Bowern writes:… Some busy people at Macquarie have used a “specialised linguistic computer program” to analyse the last five budget speeches. They have discovered the “Top 20” words in each speech. Michelle Grattan has run with it, prompting one Fully (sic)er to comment that “there may be no ‘I’ in budget, but there’s certainly a big one in gullible…”


Beyond monomedia

Claire Bowern writes: We can now easily link sound recordings to a transcript, we can create sound and video clips so that online dictionaries have auditory pronunciation guides, and we can make dictionaries in lots of different formats (like the mobile phone dictionary for the Kaurna language of the Adelaide Plains).