23 Jan 2013

Lost Aboriginal language revived

7:10 pm on 23 January 2013

An Aboriginal language crushed by European colonisation in Australia has been revived, thanks to the dedication of researchers and the vision of 19th Century German missionaries.

The Kaurna language once thrived and was spoken by the original inhabitants of Adelaide.

To restore the ancient tongue, researchers trawled through historical archives produced by religious groups and colonial officials to bring it back from the dead.

Within 18 months of their arrival in South Australia in 1838, two German missionaries had produced a definitive vocabulary of about 2000 Kaurna words, around 200 translated sentences and key elements of grammar.

The Ten Commandments, half a dozen German hymns and a school prayer were also translated.

The pair also opened a school that used the Kaurna language as a medium of instruction for almost six years before it was closed down by the authorities, who would only tolerate English.

The language is now being taught at evening courses for both Aboriginal and non-indigenous students.