Linguist discovered a new language during the nascent stage

Many languages ​​and japanese translator in the world are currently at the stage of extinction. But at least one language was born quite recently – it was created by children living in a remote rural settlement in northern Australia.

Carmel O’Shannessy, a linguist at the University of Michigan who has studied the speech of these children for more than a decade, came to the conclusion that they speak neither a dialect nor a mixture of languages, the so-called creolized language, but a new language with their own unique rules of grammar.

This language, Warlpiri Rampaku (or Lightweight Warlpiri), is spoken only by the inhabitants of Lajamanu, an isolated village of about 700 in Australia’s Northern Territory, and only by those under 35. In total, this language is spoken as a native language by about 350 people. Dr. O’Shannessy has already published several articles on the subject of lightweight warlpirie, the most recent in the June issue of Language magazine.

“Many of the earliest speakers of the language are still alive,” says Mary Lafrin, a fellow linguist at the University of Queensland in Australia who was not directly involved in the study. One of the reasons Dr. O’Shannessy’s work is so important, she said, is “because she was lucky enough to record and document this ‘new’ language at a very early stage in its existence.”

All residents of Lajamanu also speak the “strong” Warlpiri, an Aboriginal language not related to English and spoken in several rural settlements in Australia with a total of about 4,000 speakers. Many also know Kriol, an English-based Creole dialect created in the late 19th century and widely used in northern Australia by Aboriginal people who also have their own distinct mother tongues.

The villagers of Lajamanu are happy that their children are learning English at school, which will allow them to communicate with the rest of the world, but they also strive to preserve warlpiri as the language of their native culture.

Lajamanu has its own elementary school, but most of the children receive their secondary education at a boarding school in Darwin. Education there is in English. But the children continue to communicate with each other in a lightweight warlpiri.

Perhaps the emergence of a new kind of language is somehow related to the isolated situation of Lajamanu. The village is about 550 miles south of Darwin, and the nearest shopping center is at Catherine, 340 miles north. The roads leading to Lajaman, like the roads in the village itself, are not paved, so during the rainy season, from December to May, it is difficult or impossible to reach even the small villages of Yuendumu and Willowra, 400 miles south, whose inhabitants also speak warlpiri.

The plane, one of seven owned by local airline LajamanuAir, lands on a dirt airstrip twice a week with mail from Katherine, and once a week a truck delivers groceries and other goods to the village’s only store. Electricity in the village is provided by a diesel generator and a solar power plant.

The village was founded by the Australian government in 1948 without the consent of the people who were supposed to live there. The Federal Government’s Indigenous Affairs Unit, worried about overpopulation and drought in Yuendumu, forcibly relocated 550 people to what was to become Lajamanu Village. At least twice, this entire group of people on foot returned to Yuenduma, but immediately upon arrival they were transported back.

Contact with the English language is relatively recent. “These people were hunters and gatherers who roamed these territories,” says Dr. O’Shannessy. “But then white people appeared here, pastures, mines, and so on. The local population was forced to stop hunting and gathering. ”

By the 1970s, the villagers had come to terms with their new home and the Lajamanu Village Council was founded as a self-governing communal government, the first in the Northern Territory.

The community lives mainly on government funding. People work for various government agencies – local governing councils, schools, health centers – but there is a high percentage of unemployed and part-time workers. According to the 2006 Census, almost half of the population is under 20 years old, and the Australian Government estimates that the Aboriginal population between the ages of 15 and 64 will increase to 650 by 2026 from about 440 today.

Dr. O’Shannessy, who started learning the language in 2002, spends three to eight weeks a year in Lajamanu Village. Although not completely fluent, she speaks and understands Warlpiri and Lightweight Warlpiri.

The inhabitants of Lajamanu are characterized by what linguists call switching language codes – they often mix languages, or switch from one to another in the course of a conversation. Therefore, many languages ​​in Warlpiri Lite come from English or Kriola.

However, lightweight warlpiri is not just a combination of words from different languages. Peter Bakker, assistant professor of linguistics at the University of Aarhus in Denmark and author of many articles on the development of languages, argues that a lightweight warlpiri cannot be a pidgin (hybrid language), since the pidgin has no native speakers. It also cannot be called a creolized language, because creole is a new language that combines the features of two separate languages.

“These young people have created something completely new,” he says. “The lightweight Warlpiri is obviously their native language.”

Dr. O’Shannessy gives the following example from a 4-year-old speech: Nganimpa-nggenwi-msi-mwormmaiaus-ria. (English: Wealsosawwormsatmyhouse – We also saw worms at my house).

In this sentence, you can easily find nouns originating from the English language. But the ending “-ria” in “aus” (house / house) means “in” or “near”, and belongs to the warlpiri. The inflection “-m” in the verb “si” (see / see) indicates that the event either occurs at the present moment, or has already ended, the tense “present or past, but not the future” does not exist in either English or warlpiri. This type of speech is so different from warlpiri and kriol that it forms a new language.

This language, according to Dr. O’Shannessy, developed in two stages. It all started with the fact that parents communicated with their children in a mixture of three languages. But then the children took it as their own language, radically changing the syntax, especially in terms of the use of verb structures, which is not found in any of the source languages.

Why the new language emerged at this particular time and in this place is not yet entirely clear. The situation was not one of those when people speak different languages, but they need to communicate somehow – in such a situation, pidgin or creole are usually created.

Sometimes mixed languages ​​arise among children whose parents speak two different languages, but this is not the case of a lightweight warlpiri in Lajamana, where there is no factor of mixed marriages.

Dr. Becker reports that from time to time scientists discover new languages, but until now none of them have witnessed the birth of language directly from children’s speech – the way it happened with the lightweight warlpiri.

Dr. O’Shannessy suggests that more subtle, subtle forces come into play here. “I think self-awareness has a role to play,” she says. “After the children created the new system, it became a kind of distinguishing feature that made the young Warlpiri speaker stand out from other residents of the Lajamanu community.”

The language has taken root so well among young people that the survival of the “strong” Warlpiri is already beginning to raise doubts. “I don’t know how long children will survive on this kind of multilingualism,” admits Dr. O’Shannessy. “The adults would like to keep the warlpiri, but I’m not sure this will happen. The lightweight warlpiri seems to hold its ground pretty tightly. ”