Importance of keeping language strong


In July, Martu rangers and leadership participants attended a two and a half day ‘Documenting and Revitalising Indigenous Languages’ (DRIL) workshop with trainers from the Resource Network for Linguistic Diversity (RNLD) from Melbourne. The workshop was hosted by Rawa School’s language team in Punmu community. It was a huge success.


The first afternoon saw participants deeply engaged in a robust discussion about traditional old language and how to pass it on, while together deciding on priorities for language work going forward as well as on priorities for the workshop itself.

As the discussion had largely centred on culture, kinship, clans and learning on country alongside elders, the group thought it appropriate to take the trainers to some important sites close to Punmu – Jila-jila, Wirlarra, Yilyara and Turtu – to aid the trainers’ understanding of the importance to Martu people of on-country learning and inter generational transmission of ninti (knowledge).

The next morning the group practised recording oral histories with Martu elder Ngarinyjapayi Chapman at Yilyara near Punmu. After later using syllable cards to practise reading and writing traditional, poetic, old words from the dictionary (while discussing the words’ meanings as a group) they together transcribed Ngarinyjapyi’s stories, and practised listening for older words that are at risk of being forgotten.

On the final day, the group practised translation and morphology. Morphology involves breaking words up into meaningful parts (ie. mean/ing/ful part/s). It is important for deep linguistic analysis, as well as for a certain level of nuanced grammatical translation. The group did well and talked about the important broader level of expression and contextual meaning that morphological analysis alone doesn’t pick up on. They also highlighted words and expressions they thought that younger Martu would be unlikely to know.

The workshop finished with another trip onto nearby country with Martu elder Mulyatingki Marney to discuss plants that Ngarinyjapayi had mentioned in her stories the previous day. Mulyatingki showed the group how to make traditional jakapiri (sandals) while they recorded her speaking. This led into a final group discussion about future directions for Martu language work.

Huge congratulations to all the participants for their enthusiasm and deep level of engagement during the workshop!!