Language death and the preservation of Australian indigenous cultures

Before British colonialisation began there in 1788, around 250 aboriginal languages were spoken in Australia by an estimated one million people.

Only a few dozen languages remain and the communities number around 470,000 people in a nation of 22 million.

It is often said that language is culture. So 250 languages spoken means the existence of 250 cultures. And the loss of 200 languages means the loss of 200 cultures. The numbers therefore point to the loss of on average one culture per year on the Australian continent since its “colonialisation”. Staggering.

But how does one preserve a language if one does not have a culture to go along with it?

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