From Linguistic Research Findings to Useful Products for Australian Aboriginal Communities


  • Mary Laughren School of Languages and Comparative Cultural Studies, The University of Queensland



As a linguist investigating the Warlpiri language of central Australia since 1975 and the Waanyi language of the Gulf of Carpentaria region since 2000, my research has always had dual goals. One is to gain a better understanding of the nature of human language generally through detailed documentation and deep analysis of particular human languages, such as Warlpiri and Waanyi, and comparison with other languages; the other goal has been to produce materials of direct relevance and utility to the communities of these language speakers. This paper addresses the second goal. Firstly I briefly describe ways in which linguistic research findings have been 'converted' into pedagogic materials to support the
bilingual education programs in the Warlpiri community schools (Lajamanu, Nyirrpi, Willowra and Yuendumu) from the mid 1970s to the present, a period which has seen dramatic technical innovations that we have been able to exploit to create a wide range of products accessible to the public which have their genesis in serious linguistic research. Secondly I discuss some aspects of the interdisciplinary (linguistics and anthropology)
“Warlpiri Songlines” project (2005-9) for which over 100 hours of traditional Warlpiri songs were recorded and documented; older analogue recordings were digitised and ceremonial performances were video recorded. Thirdly, I touch upon the ongoing development of a Waanyi dictionary and language learning materials in collaboration with Waanyi people living at  Doomadgee in north west Queensland who want to extend knowledge of their ancestral language within their community, since this language is no longer used as a primary language of communication. Finally, I cite some of the many recent innovative examples of ways in which linguists and anthropologists are drawing on contemporary technology to transmit their research findings to both the general public and to the communities in which their research is carried out.




How to Cite

Laughren, M. (2016). From Linguistic Research Findings to Useful Products for Australian Aboriginal Communities. ETropic: Electronic Journal of Studies in the Tropics, 12(1).