Buttering parsnips in the Year of the Dragon

Three things to think about/do..

1. Creeping towards constitutional recognition
Section 127A Recognition of languages
The national language of the Commonwealth of Australia is English.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages are the original Australian languages, a part of our national heritage

This is what was proposed in a report on recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution (You Me Unity. The report authors seem to think that many people will vote for this because they are worried about the loss of Indigenus languages. The national language bit is supposed to soften the doubters into accepting Indigenous languages.

And as well, the report authors want to add:

Respecting the continuing cultures, languages and heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;

Q. What is respect? A. Respect = Fine Words

Evidence from the report: “However, a separate languages provision would provide an important declaratory statement in relation to the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. The Panel understands that a declaratory provision would be ‘technically and legally sound’, and would not give rise to implied rights or obligations that could lead to unintended consequences.”

Q. What are unintended consequences? A. = making Governments pay for decent education, translators, interpreters etc

Evidence from the report: “In relation to the second sentence of the first paragraph of the proposed ‘section 127B’, consultations with lawyers and State government officials indicated that an ‘opportunity’ to learn, speak and write English could give rise to legal proceedings challenging the adequacy of literacy learning. Similarly, the last paragraph in the proposal about recognising a ‘freedom’ to speak, maintain and transmit languages of choice could lead to argument about the right to deal with government in languages other than English. Such expressions would raise potentially contentious issues for all levels of government. The Panel has concluded that the potential unpredictable legal risks associated with these two sentences are such that they would not be appropriate for inclusion as part of a proposed constitutional amendment.”

Intended consequence: the language parsnips are not going to get buttered.

As a side-point, information distributed by the YouMeUnity mob [thanks Bruce!], include YouTube audios of a whole lot of translations into Indigenous languages and creoles of information attributed to Alison Page, a Panel Member, but read by language speakers:

“15 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages, namely Guringdji , Murrinh-Patha, Anindiyakwa , Arrernte, Kimberley Kriol, Pitjantjatjara, Wik Mungan , TSI Kriol, Warramangu , Walpirri , Yolngu, Kriol, Tiwi, Alywarra and Kunwinjku”.

The awful spellings of names of Indigenous languages in the report shows how little butter the parsnips are getting.

2. New resources
- From Claire Bowern
Claire has posted a call for material for the Australian part of ‘ElCat’, a new catalogue of endangered languages that will be launched (late February). She’s calling for links to sites about language programs [photos, videos, links to you-tube channels too!], “or if you’d like to include something about your language and what it means to you”. Hop over to Anggarrgoon to read the call and add your bit.

2. What I wish I could hop over to

- From Candide Simard
7th European Australianists workshop 2012
3-4 April 2012
School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London

The European Australianists are happy to announce their seventh workshop to be held at SOAS, University of London, on 3-4 April 2012. The purpose of the workshop is to provide a venue for the presentation and discussion on current research on Australian languages. As in previous workshops a theme is suggested: “Contact phenomena in Australian languages”. However, participants are free to present papers not related to this theme, we welcome contributions relating to any aspect of Australian languages, from any perspective.

3 Comments

  1. Edward Garrett says:

    By the way, one major player in ‘ElCat’, as far as I know anyway (which is not far), is Google. I don’t know if Google will be hosting the new ElCat website or not, but they have an Endangered Languages project underway and are keen to make a major impact. This is reason for optimism, and many of us are excited about what may result!

  2. Jane Simpson says:

    A thought on the “national language is English” provision. This is actually quite dangerous, as it could be used to justify NOT providing services and education in languages other than English. As such, I can imagine that voters from immigrant communities may oppose it as well, and, depending on whether the changes are bundled together, that could help defeat the amendment.

  3. Wamut says:

    Yes, I had the concern as you Jane. At present, I believe English has no status of being an official or national language. People just assume it is but it’s not actually enshrined anywhere (to my knowledge). It’s our national language by default.

    Making this explicit could indeed be dangerous for other languages.

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