One of the reasons I’m an inveterate digger for random stuff is that despite the huge amounts of not terribly useful information, occasionally something comes up that’s extremely interesting.
One thing that’s been intriguing about Bardi language work is that right from the start, pretty much only one family has been involved in the language documentation. Bardi has quite a long history of documentation, from the early 1900s, and from the named sources all the language workers have belonged to a few close families, and those working with anthropologists have largely belonged to a different group.
In Mary Durack’s The Rock and the Sand there is a reference to the first ‘mission’ started at the far north of the Dampier Peninsula by Fr Duncan McNab. Durack mentioned that he worked on translation with a boy with the nickname “Knife”. I hadn’t been able to find anyone who remembered this nickname, but yesterday while looking through some song transcriptions there’s a note that na:p was X’s father (X is named in the transcript but it’s probably better that I don’t mention it here). And here’s the kick – he’s in the same group. That puts back the attestations of members of this family working with linguists back to 1883.
Does anyone know of other areas where a single group in a community has been in charge of the linguists, another of the anthros, etc?