Thanks to the dedication of linguists and researchers at the Goldfields Aboriginal Language Centre, in Kalgoorlie,the Mirniny alphabet has been released in a bid to preserve this ancient language.
8 September 2020

Mirniny was the language spoken by Indigenous Australians east of Norseman, across the Nullarbor and through South Australia.

The work to preserve the language has been supported through our Indigenous Languages and Arts (ILA) program, which funds the National Trust of Australia, WA, for operational costs involved in providing language services by the Goldfields Aboriginal Language Centre.

'We're doing the work now to revive what is available in the language, but it's severely endangered,' Goldfields Aboriginal Language Centre senior linguist Sue Hanson said.

'We've had to do this by collecting and doing detailed analysis on historical documents rather than working with speakers, as there are only partial speakers left.

'We also have four cassettes of people speaking parts of the language—one of our linguists Jackie Coffin spent hundreds of hours analysing the tape recordings to be able to put the alphabet out.'

Mrs Hanson said the cassettes were integral to developing the alphabet as it allowed the phonemes for the language to be identified.

'It is really critical to hear people speaking the language to identify the phonemes—the sounds of the language,' she said.

'When we figure out what the sounds are in a language, we then have to figure out which letters best represent those sounds.'

With the basis of the alphabet now complete, the Centre expects the development of a Mirniny dictionary to be finished within the next 12 months.

The ILA program supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to revive and maintain languages, and to develop and present art.

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