Mark their word, two new languages

Mark their word, two new languages

As the world's languages disappear - and with half of the planet's about 6,000 spoken tongues facing extinction - there is one place which has stunned experts by resisting the trend.

In the remote parts of Australia, two new languages have sprung to life in recent decades.

The languages emerged in Aboriginal communities and are mainly spoken by young people. They are a mix of English and existing Aboriginal languages as well as creole dialects, but have been officially identified as new languages by linguists, who say each possesses its own unique grammatical structure.

The newest language to be identified is called Light Warlpiri and is spoken by about 300 people in a village in northern Australia. The oldest speaker is believed to be about 35 years old.

The other newly-identified language is known as Gurindji Kriol and is spoken by about 1,000 people, also in northern Australia. Linguists believe it began to emerge from the 1970s and is spoken by people aged about 50 and under.

A linguistics expert who has documented the emergence of Gurindji Kriol, Dr Felicity Meakins, said the creation of the new Aboriginal languages was a "radical" development and took place exclusively among young people in the community.

"These languages have totally gone under the radar," she told ABC News last week.

"(Gurindji Kriol) is not something spoken by older populations. It is not something spoken outside the community," she added. The creation of the languages comes amid growing concerns about the wipe-out of Australia's indigenous languages.

When British settlers first arrived in the late 1700s, there were believed to be about 250 distinct languages - and more than 500 dialects - spoken by the Aboriginal population. Today, there are just 18 languages which have survived and which are still being spoken by young children.

The trend mirrors a global development as communities around the world abandon their tongues in favour of English, Spanish and Mandarin. Experts estimate that 94 per cent of the world's population now speak just 6 per cent of the world's languages.

Though there are no official figures, the most commonly spoken languages are believed to be Mandarin, spoken by more than one billion people; Spanish, with about 470 million speakers; and English, with about 360 million speakers. Other top 10 spoken languages include Hindi, Arabic, Portugese, Bengali and Russian.

In Australia, some communities have sought to save their tongues, including through projects to record people speaking them or efforts to create computer programs and smartphone apps that document the language.

Earlier this month, the Kaurnas, a community near the city of Adelaide, held a celebration to commemorate their language, Kaurna, which had been effectively out of use for a century.

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