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Seminar: Something lost, something found: Kriol of Northern Australia, Greg Dickson & Grant Thompson, 30 May

Shape, University of Melbourne

Date: 27 April 2017

Seminar: Something lost, something found: Kriol of Northern Australia

Speakers: Greg Dickson and Grant Thompson

When: 6pm-7pm, 30 May 2017

Where: Copland Theatre, University of Melbourne



Northern Australia has been identified as a global hotspot of endangered languages. In many parts of the remote north, Aboriginal people have not shifted to speaking English but rather new varieties that draw heavily upon English but are systematic, rule-governed language systems in their own right. Known as contact languages, some of them, such as Kriol, are now over a century old and well-established. Kriol’s short history has seen it misunderstood and denigrated by insiders and outsiders and this continues today to some extent. Perceptions persist that the existence of Kriol has a negative effect on traditional languages and economic development. A converse perspective presented in this lecture demonstrates that Kriol can be a valuable resource and source of pride to its speakers and that it conveys rich cultural underpinnings found in traditional languages that are not present in English, which in turn can support the strengthening of endangered Indigenous languages.

Greg Dickson has worked with Kriol speakers in the Katherine Region since 2002 including work as a community linguist and interpreter. He completed a PhD at the Australian National University in 2015 looking at how lexical knowledge and concepts transfer from a traditional language (Marra) to Kriol. Greg is currently researching dialects of Kriol via a Postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Queensland with the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language.

Grant Thompson is a Ngandi man of the Wurlngarri clan. He grew up in Kriol speaking communities of Ngukurr, Urapunga and Numbulwar in Northern Australia. Since taking on a role at the Ngukurr Language Centre as a language worker three years ago, he has begun learning Ngandi which is a critically endangered language. He teaches Ngandi at the local school and works on other projects, including video projects, receiving an Excellence in Community TV Award in 2015 for a short documentary Bla Mela Langgus (Our Language).

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