Impact of reclaiming Aboriginal languages to be studied

12 Dec 2016
Impact of reclaiming Aboriginal languages to be studied

Researchers at the University of Adelaide and the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) will embark on the first study of its kind in the world, exploring the impact of reclaiming Indigenous languages on people's social and emotional wellbeing.

It's hoped the findings could benefit Indigenous communities the world over.

Professor Alex Brown (Aboriginal Health Theme Leader, SAHMRI) and Professor Ghil'ad Zuckermann (Professor of Linguistics and Endangered Languages, University of Adelaide) have recently been awarded more than $1.1 million from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) for their project, which will focus on the social and emotional wellbeing of the Barngarla people of South Australia.

The funding announcement comes as a new Barngarla Dictionary app – the first of its kind in the state – is launched today for iPhone, iPad and Android phones and tablets.

The new app, to be officially launched in the regional city of Port Augusta, contains 3,000 documented Barngarla words and phrases. Recordings of correct pronunciations will help users of the app to learn how to speak the language.

"Both the new Barngarla Dictionary app and our trans-disciplinary research project come at a good time," says Professor Zuckermann, who has been working closely with the Barngarla communities of South Australia's Eyre Peninsula for the past five years on the reclamation of their language.

"Under the guidance of the Barngarla Language Advisory Committee (BLAC), this new app is ideally suited to helping members of the Indigenous community to reclaim their language," he says.

"Barngarla is one of many 'dreaming, sleeping beauty' Indigenous languages that had been subject to linguicide, language killing – but with the strong enthusiasm of the community, that language is now being awakened," he says.

Professor Brown says: "Language reclamation is still in its infancy, and as a result, there has been no systematic quantitative study of the impact of language revival on people's wellbeing and mental health.

"Our new research project will be groundbreaking in many ways, and we hope it will have implications for language reclamation – and health and wellbeing – in Indigenous communities right across the world," he says.

The new Barngarla Dictionary app can be found now on Apple iTunes and on Google Play.