Blogging from A to Z
Theme: Languages of the World
Warlpiri belongs to the South-West Ngarga branch of the Pama-Nyungan language family, the largest of the Indigenous Australian language families. It is spoken by about 2,500 Warlpiri people in Australia’s Northern Territory. It is one of the largest Northern Territory languages in Australia in terms of number of speakers.
Warlpiri has no official status in Australia. The language is endangered in spite of efforts to teach it to children in Warlpiri settlements. In some Warlpiri communities, children and young adults use “Light Warlpiri”, a variety of speech that combines elements of Warlpiri, Australian Aboriginal Kriol (an English-based creole) and Australian English.
Fascinating facts about Warlpiri
Warlpiri country is located in the Tanami Desert, east of the NT-WA border, west of the Stuart Highway and Tennant Creek, and northwest of Alice Springs.
The main communities in Warlpiri country are: Yuendumu, Lajamanu, Nyirrpi, and Willowra. Many Warlpiri live in Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, and the smaller towns of Central Australia.
Warlpiri traditional territory was resource-poor to white eyes, and lay a considerable distance away from the main telegraph routes and highway infrastructure built by Europeans, a fact which meant they conserved unlike many tribes affected by these intrusive developments, relatively intact and flourishing.
Warlpiri are famous for their tribal dances.
Warlpiris divide their relatives, and by extension the entire population, into eight named groups or subsections. These subsections are related to kinship, and determine one’s family rights and obligations. It follows from these rules that one must choose one’s spouse from a particular subsection, and traditional Warlpiri disapprove of marriages that break this constraint. The correct subsection to marry from is that of one’s maternal grandfather (though of course one seeks a spouse closer to one’s own age).
Warlpiris often address each other by subsection name rather than by personal name, and incorporate their subsection name into their English one, usually as a middle name.
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