22 Apr 2012

Australian Indigenous languages at top of threatened list

8:09 am on 22 April 2012

Linguistic analysts predict that 90% of the world's languages will disappear by the end of this century. Topping the threatened list are Australian Indigenous languages.

Only 20 of an original 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages are still widely spoken.

Adelaide University linguistics Professor Ghil'ad Zuckermann says they should be better recognised as part of Australia's heritage.

He says it is critical that Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander languages are not lost in the same way as Hebrew, which died out as a spoken language almost 2000 years ago. However, it was revived in the 1880s.

I often wonder why so many people are so afraid of pandas disappearing, and they couldn't care less about language," Professor Zuckermann said.

"Without a language, you do not have cultural autonomy, you do not have intellectual sovereignty, you do not have culture, you do not have heritage."