The ABC science department seldom thinks much about Aboriginal languages, and I guess we should be grateful that they did. However, there are four major factual errors in this article, aside from the fact that Clendon’s own proposal (“innovative new theory to challenge the establishment“) cannot possibly be true. Factual error corrections are below. I was really irritated that this article was presented as a challenge to current doctrines, mostly because there isn’t really an orthodoxy – there are several possibilities, and it’d be really great if instead of coming up with possible scenarios that fit the current distribution there was a bit more work on looking for evidence. Like, you know, actual research.
(The article on which this abc report is based on can be found here. Confession: I was one of responders to the original article.)
Here are the errors I sent to the ABC.
1) Mark Clendon’s article concerns only the current distribution ofAboriginal languages – he makes no claim about how long Aboriginal languages have been spoken in Australia.
2) The claim only relates to the 150 or so “Pama-Nyungan” languages. It does not apply to all Aboriginal languages, including the languages of the Kimberley region and the Northern Territory between Daly River and Southern Arnhem Land.
3) the term is Pama-Nyungan, not Pama Nyugen. It is a language family (like Indo-European), not a single language. Saying it’s a single languageis like saying French, German, Swedish, Russian, and Latin are all the same language.
4) There are over 100 languages in the Arafura region, not one, as is claimed.