Posted on 12 June, 2019

Revitalising traditional languages on Croker Island

Revitalising traditional languages on Croker Island

ARDS staff have been busy in Minjilang on Croker Island, working to record and revitalise Iwaidja and Marrku, two local languages in danger of being lost.

Iwaidja is one of the traditional languages of the Cobourg Peninsula and Croker Island while Marrku is the ancestral language of Croker Island, yet Iwaidja is now spoken only by elderly residents and no one speaks Marrku at all.

New ARDS team member Aung Si is working with local elder and fluent Iwaidja speaker Isobel Lami Lami to produce teaching resources in Iwaidja to make learning the language fun. They will also be documenting traditional knowledge in Iwaidja as well as the Iwaidja terms for the seasons, plants and other information central to Iwaidja culture. Local songmen will record Iwaidja songs, including “Djurtbirrk”; traditional love songs young men sang to whom they were courting.

The aim of the project is to increase the visibility of Iwaidja in the community and get people excited about learning and speaking the language.

With no speakers of Marrku left, the community’s task is even harder.

Isobel’s mother was the last speaker of Marrku so she has a special link to it.

“We’re documenting as many Marrku words and terms as possible by talking to the old people. Reviving Marrku will be very difficult but at least we will have a Marrku vocabulary recorded that people can use in future attempts to revive our language,” Isobel said. 

Caption: Local language consultants Ronnie Waraludj (left) and Isobel Lami Lami, and ARDS community linguist Aung Si in Minjilang. 

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