Sunday, 3 April 2016

The Birth of a New Language

It’s not uncommon for linguists to discuss the importance of preserving endangered languages. Language is the vehicle in which a diverse and tremendous amount of human knowledge is transferred. Allowing languages to die without documenting them is like watching a massive library burn down right in front of our eyes while we're hand folded.

The beauty of language, however, is that it is dynamic. If one dies, others keep adapting and changing. People borrow and coin new words depending on their needs. But who would have thought that we’d witness the birth of a completely new language in the second half of the twentieth century? Well that’s exactly what happened in a tiny Australian village. Carmel O'Shannessy, a linguist from the University of Michigan has been studying this relatively newly born language since the early 2000s.

In this remote aboriginal Australian village, the younger generation has developed a language of its own! According to the news, this new language called Walpiri rampaku (or light Warlpiri) is only spoken by people under 35. O'Shannessy even suggests that in a few years this new language might threaten the survival of strong Warlpiri (which is the language spoken by the older generation in the village). 

A new language born in the 1970s? Who would have imagined! 

Check out Carmel O’Shannessy's profile for more details here.