LISTEN: 'Light Warlpiri,' The New Language In Australia : The Two-WayStories of dying languages are all too common. A University of Michigan linguistics professor has a completely different tale about the new language she discovered in an aboriginal community of Australia.
Tuesday on All Thing Considered, O'Shannessy told host Audie Cornish that the people of Lajamanu have been "code switching" between English and creole for many years. But on visits there, she noted that the younger people had gone further to create a new "Light Warlpiri" with a structure of its own.
She theorizes that the language grew in the 1970s and '80s when many of the adults "were speaking to young children [and] using a lot of English and creole verbs." The children, who spent a lot of time with each other, "conventionalized a system" that became their own language. And now, "those children have grown up and they're young adults" who are teaching Light Warlpiri to their offspring.