Indigenous language and culture: What role is played by communication technologies in the maintenance of indigenous language and culture?

Essay by TullyUniversity, Bachelor'sB, April 2002

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Communication technologies can have an important role to play in the maintenance of indigenous language and culture. Whether this is a positive or a negative role depends largely on the way in which the technology is introduced, used and controlled.

Indigenous languages all over the world are in danger of extinction. 'Some linguists predict that... as many as 90% of the world's languages - most of which are indigenous - will cease to be spoken in the course of the next century (Krauss, M. 1992, in Maffi, L. 1998). At the 16th annual session (1998) of the Centre for Human Rights' Working Group on Indigenous Peoples a large number of delegates stressed the importance of their language to them 'not only to their education, but indeed to their own identity and livelihood, to the continued development of their knowledge systems and cultural traditions, and to their relationship to land' (Maffi, L.

1998). Language not only communicates the knowledge of a culture, it also creates and upholds the knowledge, beliefs and wisdom's (Maffi, L. 1998).

This is true for indigenous Australians who see their language as the 'heart of their culture' (Michaels, E. 1986, p6). At the time of European settlement of Australia there were about 300,000 Aboriginal people who spoke between 500 and 600 different dialects. Just over 200 years later all Aboriginal languages are endangered and many of the languages are irretrievably lost (Aird, M. 1996 and House of Representatives Standing Committee. 1993. p1). 'Only about one tenth of the languages survive today in a relatively healthy state. About a third of the original languages continue to be spoken but are under considerable threat, often being spoken by only a handful of elderly speakers' (House of Representatives Standing Committee. 1993. p1). The initial loss in language occurred because of...