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Stop, Revive, Survive! --- Towards a New Discipline: Revival Linguistics

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Stop, Revive, Survive!—- Towards a New Discipline: Revival Linguistics

Tuesday, 4 October 2011 17:00 – 19:00 Location: AMES , Room 8-9

Professor Ghil’ad Zuckermann (Adelaide, Shanghai)


The situation for Australia’s Aboriginal languages is grave. Out of an original number of over 250 known tongues, only 6% (i.e. 15) are in a healthy condition. This paper proposes to address the problem through Revival Linguistics (henceforth, RL), a new linguistic discipline that explores the universal constraints and mechanisms involved in language reclamation, renewal and revitalization, and thus complements Documentary Linguistics. RL works comparatively, acting as an epistemological bridge between parallel revival attempts worldwide (see Zuckermann and Walsh 2011).

This paper will inter alia analyse the Hebrew revival and apply its lessons to other revivals such as Kaurna, Ngarrinjeri (South Australia) and Hawaiian. While the results of RL have considerable research value, inter alia corresponding with contact and historical linguistics, one ought also to consider them in terms of cost benefit (Mühlhäusler & Damania 2004, Walsh 2008). Besides the deontological justification that indigeneous tongues deserve to be revived in the interests of historical, humanistic and social justice, there are numerous utilitarian reasons: the revival of sleeping Aboriginal languages can result in personal, educational and economic empowerment amongst peoples who have lost their cultural heritage and intelectual sovereignty, sometimes resulting in social dysfunction (cf. Sutton 2009, Johnston et al. 2009). RL therefore contributes to social reconciliation and improved community health.


Professor Ghil’ad Zuckermann, D.Phil. (Oxon.), is Chair of Linguistics and Endangered Languages, and Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Fellow, at the University of Adelaide. He is also ‘Project 211’ Visiting Professor, and ‘Shanghai Oriental Scholar’ Professorial Fellow, at Shanghai International Studies University. Professor Zuckermann is the author of Israelit Safa Yafa (Israeli – A Beautiful Language) (Am Oved, 2008), Language Contact and Lexical Enrichment in Israeli Hebrew (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), Revival Linguistics (Oxford University Press, forthcoming), and three chapters of the Israeli Tingo (Keren, 2011). He has been Gulbenkian Research Fellow at Churchill College, Cambridge in 2000-2004; has taught inter alia at The University of Queensland, University of Cambridge and National University of Singapore; and has been Research Fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Study and Conference Center (Villa Serbelloni, Bellagio, Italy), Research Centre for Linguistic Typology (RCLT) (Institute for Advanced Study, La Trobe University), Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (University of Texas at Austin) and Kokuritu Kokugo Kenkyuuzyo (National Language Research Institute, Tokyo). Further particulars about Professor Zuckermann are available at the following websites:


Identity, Revival and Phoenix-Cuckoo (Phoenicuckoo) Hybridity: (If unavailable, please look for the last quarter of the second episode (Identity) of Fry’s Planet Word)

The Politics of Language:


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