Searching for Aboriginal Languages: Memoirs of a Field Worker

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University of Chicago Press, Jul 15, 1989 - Foreign Language Study - 330 pages
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In 1963 R. M. W. (Bob) Dixon set off for Australia, where he was to record, chart, and preserve several of the complex and nearly extinct Aboriginal languages. Beginning with his introduction to these languages while a graduate student at the University of Edinburgh and his difficulties in getting to the Australian bush, Dixon's fourteen-year tale is one of frustration and enlightenment, of setbacks and discoveries.

As he made his way through northern Australia, Dixon was dependent on rumors of Aboriginal speakers, the unreliable advice of white Australians, and the faulty memories of many of the remaining speakers of the languages. Suggestions of informants led him on a circuitous trail through the bush, to speakers such as the singer Willie Kelly in Ravenshoe, who wanted his recordings sent to the south, "where white people would pay big money to hear a genuine Aborigine sing" and Chloe Grant in Murray Upper, who told tales in four dialects of digging wild yams, of the blue-tongue lizard Banggara, and of the arrival of Captain Cook. Dixon tells of obtaining the trust of possible informants, of learning the customs and terrain of the country, and of growing understanding of the culture and tradition of his subjects. And he explains his surprise at his most unexpected discovery: that the rich oral tradition of the "primitive" Aborigines could yield a history of a people, as told by that people, that dates to almost ten millenia before.
 

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This is a wonderful book about the personal experiences of the linguist, Bob Dixon, when he first started to study the aboriginal languages of Australia in the 1960s. Don't miss it!

Contents

Setting Off
1
Havent you got a machine?
19
You never talk it tome
42
Full of Unforgettable Characters
64
Time to get back to wife
94
Drinkthis
108
Of course well keep in touch
131
Doing all these Jalnguy
160
Happiness and fun
238
Its not
253
Those are good for you
281
Loss
307
I think I like that language best
315
Afterword
331
Pronunciation of Aboriginal Words
332
Tribal and Language Names
333

Lots of Linguistic Expertise
194
This way be bit more better
217

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