Languages of Australia
OfficialNone at Federal level
MainAustralian English
Indigenous120 to 170 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages and dialects
MinorityOver 300
SignedAuslan and several others

The languages of Australia are the major historic and current languages used in Australia and its offshore islands. Over 250 Australian Aboriginal languages are thought to have existed at the time of first European contact.[1] English is the majority language of Australia today. Although English has no official legal status, it is the de facto official and national language.[2][3] Australian English is a major variety of the language with a distinctive accent and lexicon,[4] and differs slightly from other varieties of English in grammar and spelling.[5]

Around 120 to 170 Indigenous languages and dialects are spoken today, but many of these are endangered. Creole languages such Kriol and Yumplatok (Torres Strait Creole) are the most widely-spoken Indigenous languages. Other distinctively Australian languages include the Australian sign language Auslan, Indigenous sign languages, and Norf'k-Pitcairn, spoken mostly on Norfolk Island.

Major waves of immigration following the Second World War and in the 21st century considerably increased the number of community languages spoken in Australia. In 2021, 5.8 million people used a language other than English at home. The most common of these languages were Mandarin, Arabic, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Punjabi, Greek, Italian and Hindi.

English

Main article: Australian English

Population who speaks only English at home in 2021

English was introduced into Australia on British settlement in 1788 and in the following decades gradually overtook Indigenous languages to become the majority language of Australia.[6] Although English is not the official language of Australia in law, it is the de facto official and national language.[2][3] It is the most widely spoken language in the country, and is used as the only language in the home by 72% of the population.[7] The increase in the migrant population over the past decade has seen a decline in the number of people speaking only English at home.[8]

Percentage of population speaking only English at home: 2011, 2016 and 2021
State/Territory 2011 2016 2021
New South Wales[9] 72.5 68.5 67.6
Victoria[10] 72.4 67.9 67.2
Queensland[11] 84.8 81.2 81.2
South Australia[12] 81.6 78.2 77.6
Western Australia[13] 79.3 75.2 75.3
Tasmania[14] 91.7 88.3 86.1
Northern Territory[15] 62.8 58.0 57.3
Australian Capital Territory[16] 77.8 72.7 71.3
Australia[8] 76.8 72.7 72.0

Australian English is a major variety of the language with a distinctive accent and lexicon,[17] and differs slightly from other varieties of English in grammar and spelling.[5] General Australian serves as the standard dialect.[18]

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island languages

Main article: Australian Aboriginal languages

Humans arrived in Australia 50,000 to 65,000 years ago[19][20] but it is possible that the ancestor language of existing Indigenous languages is as recent as 12,000 years old.[21] Over 250 Australian Aboriginal languages are thought to have existed at the time of first European contact.[1] The National Indigenous Languages Survey (NILS) for 2018-19 found that more than 120 Indigenous language varieties were in use or being revived, although 70 of those in use are endangered.[22] The 2021 census found that 167 Indigenous languages were spoken at home by 76,978 Indigenous Australians.[23] NILS and the Australian Bureau of Statistics use different classifications for Indigenous Australian languages.[24]

According to the 2021 census, the classifiable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island languages with the most speakers are Yumplatok (Torres Strait Creole) (7,596 speakers), Kriol (7,403), Djambarrpuyngu (3,839), Pitjantjatjara (3,399), Warlpiri (2,592), Murrinh Patha (2,063) and Tiwi (2,053). There were also over 10,000 people who spoke an Indigenous language which could not be further defined or classified.[25]

Torres Strait Island languages

Main article: Torres Strait Island languages

Three languages are spoken on the islands of the Torres Strait, within Australian territory, by the Melanesian inhabitants of the area: Yumplatok (Torres Strait Creole) (7,596 speakers used the language at home in 2021), Kalaw Lagaw Ya (875 speakers) and Meriam Mir (256 speakers).[25] Meriam Mir is a Papuan language, while Kalaw Lagaw Ya is an Australian language.

Creoles

A number of English-based creoles have arisen in Australia after European contact, of which Kriol and Yumplatok (Torres Strait Creole) are among the strongest and fastest-growing Indigenous languages. Kriol is spoken in the Northern Territory and Western Australia, and Torres Strait Creole in Queensland and south-west Papua. It is estimated that there are 20,000 to 30,000 speakers of Indigenous creole languages.[26]

Tasmanian languages

Main article: Tasmanian languages

Before British colonisation, there were perhaps five to sixteen languages on Tasmania,[27] possibly related to one another in four language families.[28] The last speaker of a traditional Tasmanian language died in 1905.[29] Palawa kani is an in-progress constructed language, built from a composite of surviving words from various Tasmanian Aboriginal languages.[30]

Indigenous sign languages

Main article: Australian Aboriginal sign languages

Traditional Indigenous languages often incorporated sign systems to aid communication with the hearing impaired, to complement verbal communication, and to replace verbal communication when the spoken language was forbidden for cultural reasons. Many of these sign systems are still in use.[31]

Other languages

Sign languages

The Australian sign language Auslan was used at home by 16,242 people at the time of the 2021 census.[32] Over 2,000 people used other sign languages at home in 2021. There is a small community of people who use Australian Irish Sign Language.[33][34]

Norf'k-Pitcairn

Norf'k-Pitcairn, a creole of 18th century English and Tahitian, was introduced to Norfolk Island by Pitcairn settlers after 1856. In 2021, it was used at home by 907 people, mostly on Norfolk Island.[35]

Other spoken languages

The proportion of Australians speaking a language other than English increased after the Second World War due to the immigration of refugees and displaced persons from European countries. In the 21st century, there was another sharp increase in immigration, especially from Asia.[36] In 2021, 5.8 million people (22.8% of the population) reported using a language other than English at home. The ten most common of these were: Mandarin (2.7% of census respondents), Arabic (1.4%), Vietnamese (1.3%), Cantonese (1.2%), Punjabi (0.9%), Greek (0.9%), Italian (0.9%), Hindi (0.8%), Spanish (0.7%) and Nepali (0.5%).

Language education

English is the language of school education in Australia and is a key learning area in the Australian curriculum up to Year 10.[37] Languages are also a key learning area up to Year 10 and include Arabic, Auslan, Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Modern Greek, Spanish, Turkish and Vietnamese, as well as the Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages, and Framework for Classical Languages including Classical Greek and Latin.[38] Year 12 enrolments in Languages Other than English declined over the 10 years to 2021 and are the lowest of all subject areas.[39][40]

There are a number of Indigenous language programs inside and outside the school system. The Australian Government has committed $14.1 million over the four years to 2025-2026 to teach First Nations languages in primary schools across Australia.[41] There are also 20 Indigenous Language Centres across Australia which receive funding from the Australian Government and other sources.[42]

Australia is a significant destination for overseas students studying English. Over 79,000 overseas students enrolled in intensive English courses in Australia in 2022. This was below the pre-Covid peak of 156,478 enrolments in 2019.[43]

Languages in Parliament

Although English is the primary language used for addressing any legislature in Australia, due to Australia's multiculturalism, many politicians have used other languages in parliamentary speeches before.

Federal

In 2016, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull spoke Ngunnawal in a parliamentary speech, becoming the first ever Prime Minister to use an Indigenous language in Parliament.[44]

In 1988, Trish Crossin became the first Senator to give a maiden speech in an Indigenous language, speaking in Gumatj, a Yolŋu dialect.[44]

In 1999, Aden Ridgeway introduced himself to the Senate in Gumbaynggirr.[44]

In 2008, Rob Oakeshott became the first politician to use an Indigenous language in the House of Representatives, after he used three Dhanggati words in his speech. In June 2013, he became the first politician to give a speech to any Australian parliament entirely in an Indigenous language, after giving a speech in Dhanggati with help from a linguist.[44]

In August 2016, Linda Burney gave an Acknowledgement of Country in Wiradjuri.[44]

In 2016, Senator Pat Dodson spoke Yawuru in the Senate, with the Senate President even responding in Yawuru.[44]

In 2016, Senator Malarndirri McCarthy gave an Acknowledgement of Country in Yanyuwa.[44]

In 2022, two MPs spoke both English and French in their maiden speeches: Jerome Laxale and Zoe McKenzie, both of whom are of French background.[45] In the same year, Sam Lim used three languages in his maiden speech: Malay, Mandarin and English (in that order).[46]

New South Wales

The first politician to use an Indigenous language in the Parliament of New South Wales was Troy Grant in 2014, who used Wiradjuri in the closing sentence of the Acknowledgement of Country.[44]

In 2019, Sarah Mitchell gave an Acknowledgment of Country in English, which was translated into Dhanggati.[44]

Northern Territory

In 1981, Neil Bell became the first politician to use an Indigenous language in a maiden speech to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, speaking in Pitjantjatjara.[44]

In 2008, Alison Anderson spoke in the Western Desert language during her first speech as Minister for Natural Resources, Environment and Heritage.[44]

In 2012, Bess Price spoke Warlpiri in her maiden speech.[44] In the same sitting of parliament, Yingiya Mark Guyula spoke Yolŋu in his maiden speech.[44]

Queensland

In 2018, Cynthia Lui became the first politician to address an Australian parliament in a Torres Strait Islander language, addressing the Queensland Legislative Assembly in Kala Lagaw Ya.[44]

Western Australia

Josie Farrer was the first politician to use an Indigenous language in the Parliament of Western Australia, speaking in both Kija and Kriol.[44]

See also

References

Citations

  1. ^ a b Australian Government, Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications (2020). National Indigenous Languages Report. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. p. 13.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ a b "Pluralist Nations: Pluralist Language Policies?". 1995 Global Cultural Diversity Conference Proceedings, Sydney. Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Archived from the original on 20 December 2008. Retrieved 11 January 2009. "English has no de jure status but it is so entrenched as the common language that it is de facto the official language as well as the national language."
  3. ^ a b Ward, Rowena (2019). "'National' and 'Official' Languages Across the Independent Asia-Pacific". Journal of Multidisciplinary International Studies. 16 (1/2): 83–4. doi:10.5130/portalv16i1/2.6510 (inactive 15 February 2024). The use of English in Australia is one example of both a de facto national and official language: it is widely used and is the language of government and the courts, but has never been legally designated as the country's official language.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: DOI inactive as of February 2024 (link)
  4. ^ Moore, Bruce. "The Vocabulary Of Australian English" (PDF). National Museum of Australia. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 March 2011. Retrieved 5 April 2010.
  5. ^ a b "The Macquarie Dictionary", Fourth Edition. The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd, 2005.
  6. ^ Leitner, Gerhard (2004). Australia's Many Voices, Australian English the national language. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter. pp. 5–6. ISBN 3-11-018194-0.
  7. ^ "Language spoken at home | Australia | Community profile".
  8. ^ a b "Australia 2021 census community profiles, time series profile". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2021. Retrieved 8 May 2023.
  9. ^ "New South Wales 2021 Census Community Profiles, Time Series Profile". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2021. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  10. ^ "Victoria 2021 Census Community Profiles, time series profile". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2021. Retrieved 8 May 2023.
  11. ^ "Queensland 2021 Census community profiles, time series profile". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2021. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  12. ^ "South Australia 2021 census community profiles, time series profile". Australian Bureau of statistice. 2021. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  13. ^ "Western Australia 2021 census community profile, time series profile". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2021. Retrieved 8 May 2023.
  14. ^ "Tasmania 2021 census community profile, time series profile". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2021. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  15. ^ "Northern Territory 2021 census community profiles, time series profile". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2021. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  16. ^ "Australian Capital Territory 2021 census community profile, time series profile". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2021. Retrieved 8 May 2023.
  17. ^ Moore, Bruce. "The Vocabulary Of Australian English" (PDF). National Museum of Australia. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 March 2011. Retrieved 5 April 2010.
  18. ^ Lalande, Line (4 May 2020). "Australian English in a nutshell". Government of Canada.
  19. ^ Flood, Josephine (2019). The Original Australians. Sydney: Allen and Unwin. p. 217. ISBN 9781760527075.
  20. ^ Veth, Peter; O'Connor, Sue (2013). "The past 50,000 years: an archaeological view". In Bashford, Alison; MacIntyre, Stuart (eds.). The Cambridge History of Australia, Volume 1, Indigenous and Colonial Australia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 19. ISBN 9781107011533.
  21. ^ Marchese, David (28 March 2018). "Indigenous languages come from just one common ancestor, researchers say". ABC news. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  22. ^ National Indigenous Language Report (2020). pp. 42, 65
  23. ^ "Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: Census". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 28 June 2022. Retrieved 7 May 2023.
  24. ^ National Indigenous Languages Report (2020). p. 46
  25. ^ a b "Language Statistics for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 25 October 2022.
  26. ^ National Indigenous Languages Report (2020). pp. 42, 54-55
  27. ^ Crowley, Field Linguistics, 2007:3
  28. ^ Claire Bowern, September 2012, "The riddle of Tasmanian languages", Proc. R. Soc. B, 279, 4590–4595, doi: 10.1098/rspb.2012.1842
  29. ^ NJB Plomley, 1976b. Friendly mission: the Tasmanian journals of George Augustus Robinson 1829–34. Kingsgrove. pp. xiv–xv.
  30. ^ "T16: Palawa kani". 26 July 2019.
  31. ^ Murphy, Fiona (19 June 2021). "Aboriginal sign languages have been used for thousands of years". ABC News online. Retrieved 8 May 2023.
  32. ^ "Census of Population and Housing: Cultural diversity data summary, 2021, TABLE 5. LANGUAGE USED AT HOME BY STATE AND TERRITORY". Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 7 May 2023.
  33. ^ "austririshsign-adam-0376". Endangered Languages Archive. Retrieved 24 December 2022.
  34. ^ "Australian Irish Sign Language: a minority sign language within a larger sign language community". Culture in Crisis. Retrieved 24 December 2022.
  35. ^ "Understanding ancestry, language and birthplace of the Norfolk Island population". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 1 December 2022. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  36. ^ "Cultural diversity of Australia". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 20 September 2022. Retrieved 8 May 2023.
  37. ^ "Australian Curriculum". Australian Government, Department of Education. 17 August 2022. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  38. ^ "Australian curriculum, Learning areas". Australian Curriculum. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  39. ^ Hennebry-Leunig, Mairin (6 May 2021). "Is your kid studying a second language at school? How much they learn will depend on where you live". ABC News. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  40. ^ "Year 12 subject enrolments". Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  41. ^ "First Nations languages in Australian primary schools". Australian Government, Department of Education. 26 October 2022. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  42. ^ National Indigenous Languages Report (2020). p. 21
  43. ^ "International Student Data – full year data (based on data finalised in December 2022)". Australian Government, Department of Education. 21 April 2023. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  44. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o https://aiatsis.gov.au/blog/indigenous-languages-australian-parliaments
  45. ^ https://thewest.com.au/politics/french-flavour-to-mps-first-speeches-c-8362141.amp
  46. ^ https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/terima-kasih-malaysian-born-australian-mp-sam-lim-praised-for-multilingual-inaugural-speech

Sources