Language is power. If we don't have that power base we are continually going tobecome Anglicised.
[L]anguage reclamation is a part of the Aboriginal decolonisation of Australia.
Having seen the ways in which the Kaurna language is being used in teaching programs within the Kaurna community, and in the public domain, let us now look at what drives this activity. Why do some people invest so much time and energy in the language movement?
Of course there are multiple and constantly changing reasons, but a number of common themes emerge. Participation in Kaurna programs and use of the Kaurna language is fundamentally an ‘act of identity’ for Kaurna people. Questions of personal and group identity underpin the need to make a public statement to the world about the survival of the Kaurna people. Identity issues underpin the struggle for empowerment and the need to understand Kaurna history and Kaurna culture. These are central concerns for most, if not all, who are actively involved.
For a number of Kaurna people, their engagement with the Kaurna language is intensely personal, with its own inbuilt rewards. As Lewis O'Brien says (Interview, 28 October 1997):
It's all those things you find out, see, it's those extensions you're building on, and that's what I see is so beautiful about this … You get rewarded. See, it's a personal reward … So that you feel better in yourself … You think ‘Gee! That's incredible!’ It's all that sort of mix of things. But that takes a long time and that doesn't matter. That's irrelevant.
For Lewis, study of the Kaurna language is primarily an intellectual pursuit; for him, the language reveals much about the way Kaurna people thought and viewed the world. These conceptual understandings often resonate with Lewis's childhood memories of stories he heard from the old people when he was growing up at Bukkiyana.
Lewis has been poring over the Kaurna sources for many years, even prior to the establishment of Kaurna programs, trying to match up the records compiled by the missionaries with his childhood memories.
Now I don't see it as something that has been written by goonyas, therefore weshouldn't embrace it. It is there. It's ours. It has been recorded for us and indeedin some of those recordings our people are talking to us. But we need to decodeit.
Language reclamation: preliminaries
I use the term language reclamation specifically to refer to language revival in situations where the language is no longer spoken and little is known orally within the community (Amery, 1994: 146; SSABSA, 1996a; Mercurio & Amery, 1996: 48). The term refers to attempts to relearn a language from material recorded in another era, when the language was spoken. The term reflects the politics of Indigenous rights. As the quotation above indicates, such a revival is associated with the reclaiming of identity and culture from which a people have been dissociated. The term ‘language reclamation’, used in this way, was coined by Mary-Anne Gale and myself in 1992. Prior to that I had been using the term language resurrection in relation to Kaurna, but rejected this term because of its inherent view of such languages as ‘dead’ or ‘extinct’, and its unwelcome religious overtones. Perhaps others have used the term independently of my usage, even before 1992. Dick & McCarty (1997) use both ‘reclaiming’ and ‘renewal’ in relation to Navajo in the title of their paper. Van Heerden (1991) talks of militant Black writers in South Africa ‘reclaiming’ Afrikaans ‘as their personal language’ and as ‘the language of Liberation’, in a conscious effort to break the stigma of apartheid. This use is quite different from my own.
Some writers (e.g. Paulston et al., 1994: 92) use the term language revival in a narrow, restrictive sense:
We intend the literal meaning of language revival; that is, the giving of new life to a dead language, or the act of reviving a language after discontinuance, and making it the normal means of communication in a speech community.
I use it, however, as most other writers do, as a cover term both for situations in which a language is undergoing a resurgence and for measures taken to extend the domains of usage of a language, increase the number of speakers or indeed to reintroduce a language after it has ceased to be spoken.
With all the problems involved in language maintenance, the most difficult isthat concerned with the control of the passing of a language from parents tochildren as a ‘mother’ tongue … If the chain is once broken, to repair it takes notjust a major effort but … a miracle.
To this point we have looked at language in isolation. However, language revival is fundamentally a social process. Our main task in reviving a language 'no longer spoken’ is to reunite the language with its community. An ecological approach lends itself to addressing this task.
Almost all writers view the attainment of ‘intergenerational transmission’ as the main, if not sole criterion for success of language revival efforts. I would argue that more modest goals, such as reintroducing formulaic expressions, public speeches, signage and so on, are important steps along the way. Even if intergenerational transmission is never achieved, programs might be judged highly successful and the progress made might be highly meaningful within the context of the language community. Whilst some like Fishman (1991: 397, 408) might devalue or condemn these lesser goals for diverting attention away from the ‘main game’, in the case of languages ‘no longer spoken’ they could be viewed as remarkable achievements in their own right.
In fact, the lesser goals are the ‘main game’ for a language like Kaurna, at least at this stage. The establishment of formal language programs in schools, using the language in cultural tourism etc. are achievable goals. The reestablishment of ‘intergenerational transmission’ is desired, but everyone realises that this is a more distant, less achievable goal. There are many hurdles to be overcome first, including the need to develop the language to a point whereby it can function in these contexts. Nor would people feel defeated if this ultimate goal were never realised.
The notion of language ecology, a useful and insightful metaphor, is a major theoretical construct underpinning the approach taken to reviving Kaurna. It not only aids in our understanding of the language as it was spoken in the nineteenth century, but also underpins the task of language reclamation in the 1990s. In order to attempt to maintain or revive a language, an understanding of the wider context in which the language exists is helpful.
Some people have described Kaurna language as a dead language. But Kaurnapeople don't believe this. We believe that our language is a living language andthat it has only been sleeping, and that the time to wake it up is now and this iswhat we're doing.
This book tells the story of the renaissance of the Kaurna language, the language of Adelaide and the Adelaide Plains in South Australia. It is based on a longitudinal study conducted between 1989 and 1997, which resulted in a PhD thesis submitted to the University of Adelaide in June 1998. It chronicles and analyses the efforts of the Nunga community, and interested others, to reclaim and relearn a linguistic heritage on the basis of mid-nineteenth-century materials. In particular the study focuses on a small Aboriginal school in the northern suburbs of Adelaide and the adjoining secondary school, and the work of several committed and hard-working Nunga language specialists. This longitudinal study documents in detail the very earliest stage of the attempted revival of a language long considered ‘dead’ or ‘extinct’. The Kaurna language has probably not been used as an everyday language of communication for well over a century. As far as is known, the ‘last speaker’, a woman known as Ivaritji or Amelia Taylor, died in 1929 (Gara, 1990: 100). There are no sound recordings of the language as it was spoken last century, though limited printbased materials do exist. Kaurna people are a small minority dispersed across a large metropolitan city and throughout surrounding country towns and Aboriginal communities. On the face of it, reclamation of the Kaurna language is undertaken against seemingly insurmountable odds, yet with positive results, at least according to some criteria.
I cannot in any sense claim this to be a neutral account of the reclamation of the Kaurna language, since, as a non-Aboriginal Australian, I am one of the main protagonists of the language revival efforts and have been involved with it on a practical level since 1989. However, the study does claim to be an informed one. I have attempted to take differing perspectives into account and to represent the full spectrum of views expressed to me and to other observers, but I admit I am partisan in the views I express.
This book, Warraparna Kaurna!, is a revised paperback edition and ebook of the hardcover book Warrabarna Kaurna! originally published in Lisse, The Netherlands, in 2000. It is the chronicle of the early stages of the revival of a language that ceased to be spoken many years ago. This revival is based on historical documents, most of which were recorded in the period 1836-1858. Taking an ecological perspective, I trace the history of the language and all known sources. Since 2000, a few more minor sources have come to light and there is always the possibility of discovering something more in the future.
My analysis of Kaurna language revival here focuses primarily on the period 1990-1997 when I undertook intensive research for my PhD project completed in 1998. Kaurna language revival began with the writing of six songs in 1990. Since then, the language has developed considerably; Kaurna programs have been established and expanded across several institutions catering for a range of learners; increasingly, the language is being used in public by members of the Kaurna community; the range of functions for which the language is being used continues to expand; and there are early signs that the language is beginning to take root within Nunga households.
The study is part of a long-term ongoing project, where the ground is continually shifting. The use of and interest in the Kaurna language is gathering momentum and much has happened since 1997. Kaurna language reclamation is an exciting collaboration between Kaurna people, educators, linguists and others. This collaboration was solidified with the formation of Kaurna Warra Pintyandi (now Kaurna Warra Pintyanthi) (KWP) in 2002 and an incorporated Aboriginal organisation, Kaurna Warra Pintyanthi (KWK) in September 2013. Partnerships with a number of organisations have been formalised and agreements reached. Considerably more Kaurna language resources are now available to the learner or teacher of Kaurna. Developments since 2000 are discussed in more detail in Chapter 11 (pages 281-295).
Despite all these developments, we are still in the very early stages of Kaurna language revival. Will the Kaurna language take the ‘great leap forward’ and emerge as an everyday language within the Kaurna community? The signs that this might actually happen are certainly more positive than they were back in 2000.
This book is the chronicle of the early stages of the revival of a language that ceased to be spoken many years ago. This revival is based on historical documents, most of which were recorded in the period 1836-1858. Taking an ecological perspective, I trace the history of the language and all known sources.
However, as this book goes to press, an additional early German source has just come to light. Dr Hermann Koeler visited South Australia in 1837 and 1838 and published a list of approximately 150 words and eight Pidgin Kaurna sentences, together with observations on the customs of the Kaurna people and the state of the colony, which await translation. This source is a significant find, with the potential for adding several words to the known lexicon and helping to refine our knowledge of the meanings and pronunciation of some words. The Pidgin Kaurna sentences appear to correlate closely with sentences recorded by Williams and Wyatt (analysed by Simpson, 1996), providing further confirmation of the existence of a Pidgin Kaurna language. It is possible that further research in the German archives will unearth additional documents in the future.
My analysis of Kaurna language revival focuses primarily on the period 1990-1997. Kaurna language revival began with the writing of six songs in 1990. Since then, the language has developed considerably; Kaurna programs have been established and expanded across several institutions catering for a range of learners; increasingly, the language is being used in public by members of the Kaurna community; the range of functions for which the language is being used continues to expand; and there are early signs that the language is beginning to take root within Nunga households.
The study is part of a long-term ongoing project, where the ground is continually shifting. The use of and interest in the Kaurna language is gathering momentum and much has happened since 1997. Kaurna language reclamation is an exciting collaboration between Kaurna people, educators, linguists and others.
However, we are still in the very early stages of Kaurna language revival. Will the Kaurna language take the ‘great leap forward’ and emerge as an everyday language within the Kaurna community? Experience elsewhere tells us that the prospects for this to happen are slender. However, the programs have already been a success in the eyes of the Kaurna community and within the education sector.
Unless otherwise specified, Kaurna words are taken from Teichelmann & Schürmann (1840) or Teichelmann (1857) or formed according to wordbuilding patterns laid down in these sources. Language materials produced in association with school programs or community events all employ these spellings.
Unless otherwise specified, contemporary Kaurna neologisms, new expressions, translations and other Kaurna language products cited were developed by me, typically within a classroom or workshop situation where Kaurna people have been present and have been part of the process. Often the Kaurna texts are negotiated and always open to change and revision, subject to feedback from members of the Kaurna community.
Neologisms not in the historical sources are identified with an asterisk*. Inflected or derived forms, e.g. kangkutha ‘will look after’ or narna-ana ‘to the door’, many of which will not be found as such in the historical sources, have not been identified in any special way as their formation is predictable. Borrowings from other languages have been identified with ° before the word.
I use italics for words taken from Indigenous languages as they appear in their original sources. Phonetic and phonemic representations of Kaurna words are written without italicisation within square  and slash / / brackets respectively. Names are written without italicisation as in general usage.
Language names are spelt according to local community preferences. A range of spellings of these names are to be found in the literature. The preferred spelling of Narungga has changed recently from Narrunga, which appears in a number of quite recent publications and DETE Aboriginal Studies materials.
I privilege the use of Indigenous terms. I refer to Kaurna individuals by their Kaurna names, where these are known. For instance, I use Kadlitpinna rather than ‘Captain Jack’, even though he is almost always referred to by his English name in the literature. Similarly, I use Piltawodli, Bukkiyana and Raukkan in preference to ‘Native Location’, Point Pearce and Point McLeay respectively. This often results in a disparity between the names as they appear in my text and in quotations. Local Aboriginal people from Adelaide and surrounding areas are often referred to as Nungas, their term of self-ascription. The term Nunga covers Aboriginal people belonging to a range of southern South Australian language groups, including Kaurna, Narungga and Ngarrindjeri.
Taking the things we need to survive as a race of people with us for our childrenNOW, we may still have life TOMORROW. Without a Cultural Identity we willbe lost, with no sense of place; our spirit will die and we will enter into theDreaming of the White Man's Nightmare.
The Kaurna's is a remarkable story of survival, re-emergence and transformation of an identity and culture that was largely shattered by European invasion of their lands more than 160 years ago. The population was decimated by disease and the people were forced off their lands, but the roots were not completely severed.
In recent times, the Kaurna have regrouped and are forging a distinctive Kaurna identity which is shaped by their past history. The Kaurna in the 1990s are characterised by both continuities and discontinuities with the past. This is reflected in the attention given to archaeology and prehistory by Kaurna people themselves. The Kaurna draw on a long-standing connection with the Adelaide Plains, which has only recently been disrupted by the European invasion.
Early observers of the Kaurna sometimes wrote glowing reports in the tradition of the ‘noble savage’. They were described as ‘superior’ to other Aboriginal groups. Colonial officials tried to present a picture of peace and harmony and of the Kaurna people welcoming the colonists to their lands. Later reports, however, pointed to the ‘degraded’ nature of the Indigenous peoples of the Adelaide Plains, after many apparently resorted to begging and prostitution following the theft of their lands. By the late 1840s, the Kaurna were portrayed as a weak remnant of a once proud people. As early as 1850, some writers were claiming that the Kaurna were virtually ‘extinct’.
From 1850 onwards, the scant references to the Kaurna typically refer to some surviving remnants of the former ‘Adelaide Tribe’. For instance, Cawthorne knew of the existence of just five Kaurna individuals belonging to one family in 1861 (Hemming, 1990: 132). Even Teichelmann, who had spent so much effort in documenting the language, referred in 1858 to the Kaurna as no longer existing.2 The few later nineteenth-century references invariably refer to the ‘Adelaide Tribe’ as ‘extinct’ (e.g. Woods, 1879: ix; Stephens, 1889), and this belief was general among Europeans at the turn of the twentieth century.
This project is really important for everybody because it is renewal. Andreclaiming our language is also reclaiming our heritage. I actually thought thatwe'd lost our language. I can't speak a word of Kaurna at all. But I heardCherie and Rob one day speaking it and I was over the moon about it. I was soproud to think that these people are bringing our language back to us and Ithink it will be a great thing in the future.
In the absence of much knowledge of the language within the community, formal language programs serve as the powerhouse for Kaurna language revival. This is recognised by KACHA and the Kaurna community. Most of the Kaurna language activity emanates from, or is closely associated with, formal language learning programs; these also provide a venue for use of the language and give it a role and a purpose. Most importantly, the language programs serve to develop the language skills of the teachers, which over the space of a few years have developed significantly.
In this chapter I trace the origins of Kaurna language programs, focusing on Kaurna language ecology within the education sector, and discuss issues critical to their delivery and success. My primary motivation in discussing Kaurna language programs is to investigate their place within, and relationship to, the revival of Kaurna.
Precursors of Kaurna programs in the education sector
Kaurna language programs followed interest in and teaching of other aspects of Kaurna culture within Aboriginal Studies programs, and the teaching of other Indigenous languages within Kaurna country. The introduction of the Languages Other Than English (LOTE) program also boosted interest in local languages.
A number of Kaurna people, including Lewis O'Brien, Alice Rigney, Georgina Williams and the late Gladys Elphick were intimately involved in the development of the innovative Aboriginal Studies curriculum now offered widely within South Australian schools, thus ensuring that Kaurna perspectives were included.
Ellis & Houston (1976) carried out much research into Kaurna culture and history with a view to producing resources for school programs. Their research fed into the development of later publications. In 1988, the Education Department of South Australia (EDSA) published eleven short booklets to resource Aboriginal Studies courses in primary schools.
As long as you see steps all the time, you see time doesn't matter … if we'restarting to greet each other, then we start running meetings with it, then we'veopenings at your conferences, that's starting. All those things are fitting in.Every year you find extensions, and they're starting to multiply.
This chapter focuses on the social aspects of Kaurna language reclamation, specifically the situations in which Kaurna is being used and the underlying purposes for its use. All aspects of Kaurna society and language revival are embedded within a dominant English-speaking culture. Kaurna people are currently establishing niches within this monolithic society. There has been a growing recognition of the value of multiculturalism in Australia, though multicultural Australia has been dominated by migrant groups; on this level, too, it has been necessary to seek out niches and fight for recognition. When people think about using Aboriginal languages, there is still strong pressure to turn to Pitjantjatjara, which is comparatively well known. The Kaurna are heavily outnumbered by the Ngarrindjeri and other groups in their own country, so the Kaurna have to fight for recognition on many fronts and many levels.
Within this context, the Kaurna people and Kaurna language enthusiasts have made significant gains. In Chapter 7 we saw that the Kaurna language is now taught in accredited programs at all levels of the education system, from early childhood to university studies. In this chapter, we shall see that it is gaining a higher profile in public domains, though it still plays only a small role. Most Adelaideans would probably confess to never having heard of the Kaurna people or language, let alone having heard the Kaurna language spoken.
Names and naming
Although names may seem an insignificant aspect of language use, Kaurna names remain one of the few areas of continuity. Many of the names on a map of the Adelaide plains are Kaurna; others that appeared on early maps of the area, even before colonisation, have been lost, though there are now proposals to reinstate them.
There has been a long-standing practice within the non-Aboriginal community of adopting ‘Aboriginal words’ to name suburbs, streets, railway sidings, properties, houses, boats, businesses, clubs and occasionally even persons.
[P]eople like Jack, Kaiya, Jamie… they can sit there together and have a greatyarn together [in Kaurna], which gives me great pride. They're all young fathersnow, young parents teaching their own language, Kaurna…. They're going tohave something special that we didn't have growing up around Point Pearce orRaukkan [and that] is that background in language. They'll grow up with thatand it'll be second nature to them
The previous chapters have documented, analysed and discussed the reclamation and the earliest stages of Kaurna language revival. In this chapter I provide a brief snapshot of some of the main developments in the reclaimed Kaurna language and within the Kaurna language movement since 2000. On the one hand, a number of Kaurna people, some of whom played a significant role in the re-introduction of Kaurna, have passed on and others have retired. On the other hand, several young people have become involved and some others have become much more active. Jack Kanya Buckskin began learning Kaurna in mid- 2006 and is now easily the most proficient and fluent Kaurna speaker and the main teacher of the Kaurna language (see Amery & Buckskin, 2012). Non- Aboriginal supporters, too, have come and gone, though there have been some long-term stayers, such as Chester Schultz, who was instrumental in the very first songwriter's workshop in 1990. Chester has been researching Kaurna placenames for KWP since 2007 and completed his own projects Dancing Ngutinai in 2002 and Songs with the Nungas in 2006.
Significantly, I have had the opportunity to travel to Germany several times since 2010 and was able to see the home towns of Teichelmann and Schürmann, the institutions where they undertook their training and the churches in which they, and missionaries Klose and Meyer, were ordained. I have sighted firsthand the correspondence they sent to Germany and the handwritten letters and copybook pages from the Kaurna children Ityamaii, Pitpauwi and Wailtyi. Kaurna representatives, Ngarrpadla Alitya Rigney and Karl Winda Telfer, and Ngarrindjeri woman, Verna Koolmatrie, also had the opportunity to visit the archives of the Dresden Mission Society, now located in the Francke Stiftungs (Francke Foundations) in Halle, near Leipzig.
… our dream would be to see it a bit of a bilingual language, I mean a duallanguage, where a lot of Kaurna people actually speak English and Kaurnaas well. Now that's the ideal, where I'd like to see Kaurna is actually used asan everyday language not just for tourism or for heritage matters, but for dayto day life.
A revival of Kaurna as a spoken language?
There is a hope and a desire on the part of many Kaurna people to see Kaurna reinstated as a spoken language in the home and the community alongside English. This desire is clearly articulated by a number of Kaurna people at the centre of the revival movement. Jenny Burford questioned Auntie Alice Rigney on this point at length:
JB: So do you think that Kaurna language will be spoken as a first language by future generations of Kaurna people?
AR: Well, that would be the ideal, eh. That's what I would dearly love to see.
JB: So you see it as an ideal. Do you see it as a realistic ideal?
AR: I would like to say yes to that, because there's enough information around … and there's enough good resources, human resources, when you look at the linguist we teach, work with and I think it could be a reality.
Lewis O'Brien answers the question even more confidently:
LO'B: Well I want everyone to be able to talk and greet each other in the language and hold conversations and developing it right to its fullest extent. That may take time, but it's worth a go at … And I think people are seeing that it's worth it, to have a go at, for lots of reasons.
JB: So do you see it as your hope that it will eventually be spoken as a first language?
LO'B: Yep, I do. And I think it's important to do that. Because otherwise if you don't, well you may as well go with the flow, and then just be an Australian in the general term.
Both Auntie Alice and Uncle Lewis have worked with the Kaurna language intensively over a number of years and participated in formal Kaurna language programs.
… [I]it is hoped that the reader will not expect a complete specimen of thelanguage. Eighteen months is but a short period for the study of an unwrittenlanguage, where no means of instruction exist, and where all information mustbe gleaned from casual and trivial conversation. To this must be added, theuncommon rapidity, abbreviation, and carelessness with which the Aboriginesspeak; their extreme reluctance for a long time, to inform the inquirer; theirnatural inability to answer grammatical questions; together with theirunfavourable situation for the study of the language. (T&S, 1840: v)
Now I don't see it as something that has been written by goonyas, therefore weshouldn't embrace it. It is there. It's ours. It has been recorded for us and indeedin some of those recordings our people are talking to us. But we need to decodeit.
The vast bulk of documentation of the Kaurna language was recorded in the early years of the colonisation of South Australia, from 1836 to 1845, by a number of different observers, themselves of differing linguistic background including German, English and French. A short wordlist was even recorded a decade earlier in Western Australia.
Almost no new Kaurna material was recorded in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Some material was published or compiled in that period, notably Teichelmann (1857, 1858) and Wyatt (1879), but most, if not all, of this material was probably collected before 1845. No further original work seems to have been undertaken, post Teichelmann, until the twentieth century, when Daisy Bates (1919), John McConnell Black (1920) and Norman Tindale worked with Ivaritji, who was said to be the last remaining speaker of the Kaurna language (see Gara, 1990: 82). Tindale also recorded a few words from Alf Spender. This more recent material is indeed valuable, but it is not nearly as extensive as the work carried out last century. In addition, both Tindale and the Berndts recorded information about the Adelaide Plains and Kaurna traditions from Ngarrindjeri and Ngadjuri informants.
Tapes made more recently by the late Gladys Elphick and late Auntie Kumai (Rebecca Harris) could possibly reveal additional information. Gladys Elphick's life story is currently being written on the basis of these interviews, but the tapes and transcripts are not available to me at present.
This is the seed from which this language grows. Let's make it grow.Language is evolving too … So I've got no problems about that [developingneologisms/language engineering]. But I still want to know that the guts ofthose originated from here [Adelaide]… for the future survival of ourlanguage then these are the things we need to do if we're going to revive thelanguage. But I've got to know where it comes from.
The seeds of the language that Katrina refers to are the Kaurna sources described in the last chapter. From these materials our task is to develop a language that meets the needs and aspirations of the contemporary Kaurna community and can be taught in formal language programs. The reclamation of Kaurna involves efforts both to ‘restore’ the language to its former state and to ‘transform’ it to meet the needs of the 1990s.
It is too early to describe the ‘Modern Kaurna’ language comprehensively. Norms of usage are only just beginning to emerge. In this chapter I shall apply the language reclamation method to Kaurna, through an exploration of certain areas of the language and an analysis of current efforts to restore and transform it. To date, most effort has been applied to phonology and lexicon; higher levels such as discourse phenomena remain largely unexplored territory.
The Kaurna language will evolve slowly. It must develop at a pace acceptable to the Kaurna community and in a way that involves Kaurna people centrally. To rush language development would risk alienating the language from the community.
Fortunately, as we saw in Chapter 5, there is one main set of Kaurna resources compiled by the German missionaries and others who followed their methods. These, especially T&S and TMs, constitute the backbone of the Kaurna language. Other sources are appealed to only when these main sources are found wanting. The primary Kaurna sources themselves are interpreted in the light of what we know of closely related languages, and of Australian languages in general. Related languages are utilised in varying ways, seldom directly, to fill gaps and as models for modernisation of the language. Indeed, quite unrelated languages, such as Maori, Hebrew, Cornish, Latin or Esperanto also provide inspiration, as their promoters have been grappling with the issues for much longer.
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