Talk:Australian Aboriginal languages

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Adding more info[edit]

I will be adding more languages and creating new pages via links. Imperialguy

Gunwinyguan spelling[edit]

The spelling Gunwiñguan is highly unusual. Australian language names are not transcribed with ñ, ny or ng in its place. Imperialguy

Should be ny. kwami

New Poll[edit]

There's a poll here that would (hopefully) end all this "Indigenous" vs. "Aborigine" controversy. Feel free to vote. Zarbat 09:19, 13 November 2006 (UTC)

Yikes! Spelling System vs. Phonetic Notation[edit]

In the Phonetics and Phonology section, some spelling system is being used where IPA definitely should be used instead.

The quotes around "retroflex" etc. should be removed while you are at it.

Whatever this system is -- actual spelling used by speaker, an Australianist phonetic system -- is interesting, but needs to be treated separately in an article on spelling/notation/whatever for Australian.

If you feel you must use this spelling system here -- it certainly needs an explanation and a link to an article with IPA equivalents.


"A language which displays the full range of stops and laterals is Kalkutungu, which has labial p, m; "dental" th, nh, lh; "alveolar" t, n, l; "retroflex" rt, rn, rl; "palatal" ty, ny, ly; and velar k, ng. Yanyuwa has even more contrasts, with an additional true dorso-palatal series, plus prenasalized stops at all seven places of articulation, in addition to all four laterals"

These spellings are standardized and extremely common in the literature. The problem with the IPA is that, apart from retroflex ʈ ɳ ɭ, it's not so clear how they should be represented. To be precise, we'd need to subdiacritics on each letter, which is simply not legible. Even if we simplified it to t̪ t ʈ t̠, which is somewhat ambiguous, it would be hard to distinguish dental from "palatal" on most browsers. (I suppose we could copy the orthography and go t̪ tʲ, even though that's not very accurate.) The digraphs are just superior to the IPA in readability. kwami 07:32, 22 October 2007 (UTC)


Josephine Flood (2004 p. 234) states that most languages that are not Pama-Nyungan have a relationship with the proto-Australian family in in verb and sound system, of corse there is still major differences. The languages stated as not being related to Pama-Nyungan are the Tiwi language and Djingili language. Would this be a correct assessment? Enlil Ninlil 04:56, 22 October 2007 (UTC)

AFAIK the idea of a proto-Australian has pretty much been abandoned. The relationship seems to be one of a Sprachbund (geographic area of mutual influence), not genealogical. Tiwi, being on an island, was perhaps not part of the general Sprachbund, while Djingili might have diverged more recently (though perhaps it was a spot the influences passed by).
A simple thought experiment illustrates how an Australian family doesn't make much sense: At that time depth, Sahul (Oz, New Guinea, and Tasmania) was a single land mass. But there are no New Guinea languages in the Australian family, and no Australian languages in any of the New Guinea families. It's not likely that the rising sea levels would just happen to follow the boundary of a language family. That suggests either that linguists haven't done their homework, or that the connections are too remote to be found. If Oz-NG is too deep to trace, then Oz itself should be too deep, and the connections we see today must be something other than genealogical. kwami 06:24, 22 October 2007 (UTC)
Suggestions have been made but linguists tend to be very conservative about accepting groupings of languages above family level. When someone tried to create a proto-Australian language it was very like the languages of the Eastern Highlands of New Guinea and most of the variety in Australian languages is nearest New Guinea so it seems likely that the Australian languages (or most of them at least) will turn out to be a subgrouping of the Trans-New Guinea languages.
It is a mistake to think of the languages being the same ones that arrived in Sahul 60,000 years ago as there wasn't just one wave of migration in. Genetics proves that there were later migrations as Y-chromosome haplogroup K common in New Guinea and Australia (in New Guinea since split into M and S) originated in India maybe 40,000 years ago so couldn't have been in the earliest migration in (which is represented by haplogroup C. Presumably the older (Indo-Pacific?) Papuan languages (which have links to Great Andamanese and, if the findings aren't a coincidence, Kusunda came in with these genes maybe 20000-30000 years ago but some may well be from a different date. Trans-New Guinea languages came in later and have even been suggested to be related to the Borean languages, but this research is too early to tell, would make a lot of sense in my opinion though (talk) 17:09, 7 January 2010 (UTC)
Don't get me wrong, I have no idea about comparative Australian linguistics, but something like the "trihybrid theory" as related by Windschuttle (notwithstanding the odious political/ideological/racist implications unjustifiedly and illogically attached to it – compare the situation in the Pacific, the Americas or elsewhere, where different layers of immigrating or even conquering populations do not mean that the pre-European aborigines do not deserve special rights, let alone regular human rights; nobody or almost nobody is truly "indigenous" if you split hairs that finely, especially not most Europeans/whites!) makes a lot more sense in principle than the conventional idea of a single wave of immigration. In that case, there would be no reason to assume that all the immigrants came from the same region in Asia (in fact, the "trihybrid theory" explicitly says they did not), nor at the same time, so there is (even) less reason to expect that all Australian languages form a single, coherent (monophyletic) family ("phylum") and that a "Proto-Australian" language (or, more realistically, fragments thereof) can in principle be reconstructed (by the way, the "someone" who tried that and found apparent similarities to Trans-New-Guinea was Dixon himself).
Also, O'Grady, Geoff; Ken Hale. 2004. The Coherence and Distinctiveness of the Pama–Nyungan Language Family within the Australian Linguistic Phylum – does that mean that O'Grady and Hale still take the idea of a demonstrable Australian ("super/macro-")family ("phylum") seriously? --Florian Blaschke (talk) 08:54, 7 June 2015 (UTC)

Eradication of Tasmanian Aborigine[edit]

The intro says "The Tasmanian people were nearly eradicated early in Australia's colonial history". Why "nearly", when the article on Tasmanian Aborigine says that they "were the indigenous people of the island state of Tasmania"? Is that because there are today descendants of Tasmanian Aborigines, even though not full-blooded descendants? invenio tc 00:39, 23 March 2011 (UTC)

Yes, I think so. It would be hard to say they still are the indigenous people of Tasmania, though that may be s.t. that needs to be examined more carefully. — kwami (talk) 02:36, 23 March 2011 (UTC)

Map under classification header[edit]

Australian languages.png

This map gives the impression that the Aboriginal languages of Australia are only spoken in Northern Australia. If you look at a map such as this one, this one or this one, one can see that the languages are more spread over Australia rather than grouped in the north. Why are they only showed in the north on the map? --Lundgren8 (t · c) 21:29, 27 June 2011 (UTC)

They aren't. Yellow is a color too. — kwami (talk) 01:29, 28 June 2011 (UTC)
Thanks for your clarification. I had missed that. My confusion came from that the Pama-Nyungan languages aren’t mentioned in the legend on Commons. Interesting that no languages are from another group on the rest of the island. --Lundgren8 (t · c) 07:27, 28 June 2011 (UTC)
Yes, that's odd, and no-one has a convincing explanation for it. One possibility is that Pama-Nyungan is not a family but a Sprachbund: after 40,000–60,000 years they've all influenced each other to such an extent that they all seem related, and the northern families are recent arrivals from the Malay archipelago (since replaced there by the spread of Austronesian). But most Australianists accept PN as a valid family, as postulate that it spread across 7/8 of the continent replacing earlier families, though no-one can explain how that happened.
Fixed the legend at Commons. — kwami (talk) 03:11, 27 May 2012 (UTC)
Just a nitpick: Australia is not (considered) an island, but a continent. As for the dominance of Pama-Nyungan, admittedly, it really seems that obvious mechanisms like conquest, agriculture, pastoralism or technological advantages cannot explain it, and the mechanism for the PN expansion (if PN is a valid family at all) must have been more subtle (but probably hard to trace archaeologically or otherwise). But patterns like this are well-familiar around the world, even in regions like pre-colonial/contact-period North America, where geographically widespread families are spoken by foraging cultures. Africa is especially similar to Australia in this respect: There are a few huge groups at least as big and old as Pama-Nyungan, whose validity is open to doubt (Afro-Asiatic, Nilo-Saharan, Niger-Congo), only a few isolates (Hadza, Sandawe) and perhaps a couple more, and then there are the Khoisan families in the far south, which are roughly analogous to non-Pama-Nyungan. Why the cradle of mankind appears to show so little "phylic" diversity apart from the far south, completely unlike the Americas, is a big mystery. But then, it's possible that the Greenbergian families in Africa (as in the Americas or the Pacific) are not really valid (or at least not completely) and Africa is really more like Asia and the Americas after all, with of a considerable number of small(er) families and isolates. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 09:38, 7 June 2015 (UTC)

Duplicate section[edit]

Sections Internal and Subgrouping should be merged or at least made contiguous. -- (talk) 17:01, 24 September 2011 (UTC)

Names in Ruhlen 1987[edit]

Here is the listing from Ruhlen, to verify that alt spellings & names have redirects. A few are typos, but might be looked up that way. — kwami (talk) 04:28, 27 September 2012 (UTC)

Edit: full list here. Only red links kept here:

gunbudj (ngunbudj, ≈umbugarla)

guwa (Maric), yanda (Maric), giya (Maric?), yiningay (Maric?), wadjalang (Maric?), gayiri (Maric?), yiman (Maric?)

Not much to do with the Maric langs, but Gunbudj should be taken care of. Can't access AIATSIS right now. — kwami (talk) 06:04, 27 September 2012 (UTC)

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