Back to listing

Melbourne Linguistics in the Pub, 29 Nov, 6pm

University of Melbourne

Date: 25 November 2016

Storytelling and Language Revitalisation

Treasure Language Storytelling is a new kind of performance event where we gather to celebrate the small languages spoken in our neighbourhoods, towns, and cities. Storytellers share stories in the original languages before interpreting them into English or another widely spoken language known to the audience. These are not professional storytellers but ordinary people at the living end of an unbroken chain of oral transmission. When they tell their stories, we experience our shared humanity and we connect in a deeper way. Could this be an effective strategy for promoting language vitality in urban settings?

Treasure Language Storytelling was developed by Steven Bird and Robyn Perry in the San Francisco Bay Area and more recently in Darwin. We drop the crisis framing (Krauss 1992 et seq) and instead seek new ways to recognise and celebrate the linguistic diversity in our midst. We replace terms like "endangered language" with "treasure language" (Grinevald and Pivot 2013). By putting on multilingual storytelling events at popular venues, we showcase bicultural citizens and confront the monolingual mindset. The work is founded in a creative approach to social change called the "Great Turning" (Macy and Brown 2014), and an appreciation of the pervasive impact of framing (Lakoff 2014), and has so far led to four events (videos at and a draft resource kit (Bird and Perry 2016).

I would like to facilitate a discussion of the following:

(1) the format and its potential impact on language vitality;

(2) how this impact could be systematically evaluated; and

(3) arrangements for an event in Melbourne to coincide with International Mother Language Day (21 February 2017)



Bird, Steven and Robyn Perry (2016) Treasure Language Storytelling Resource Kit (esp pp1-2),

Macy, Joanna and Molly Young Brown (2014) Coming Back to Life: The Updated Guide to the Work That Reconnects (chapter 1, esp p5), New Society Publishers.

Further Reading

Grinevald, Colette and Bénédicte Pivot (2013) The Revitalization of a ‘Treasure Language’: the Rama Language Project of Nicaragua (esp sec 4.3), In Jones and Ogilvie (eds) Keeping Languages Alive: Documentation, Pedagogy and Revitalization, Cambridge University Press. 

Lakoff, George (2014) Don't Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate, Chelsea Green Publishing

Krauss, Michael (1992) The world's languages in crisis, Language 68(1),


Date:        Tuesday 29th November, 2016

Time:         6:00 - 8:00 pm

Venue:       Function room (upstairs)

                 University hotel

Address:   272 Lygon St, Carlton VIC 3053

Phone:      (03) 9347 7299 
                 (menu available online)

LIP is an occasional gathering of language activists and linguists in Melbourne and is coordinated by the MLIP committee: Ruth Singer, Stefan Schnell (Melbourne Uni), Jonathan Schlossberg (University of Newcastle), Harriet Shepard, Alan Ray, Jonathon Lum (Monash Uni)

Contact Ruth Singer (University of Melbourne) with any questions:

You can receive these announcements by signing up to the RNLD mailing list:

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University