Linguist Is Studying a Language Being Born…..

Maybe, anyhow.  I learned about it from an article in the NYT.

In the west-central part of Northern Territory, Australia there lives a group of aborigines who were forcibly relocated to that spot after WWII, as a result of a drought affecting their original village, over 300 miles to the south.

About 350 people speak the new language, all of them thirty-something or younger.  They (and it) have been studied for about 10 years, by a linguist from the University of Michigan, who has published a number of articles about her research, including the most recent just last month.

Reading this article made me think of Boontling, which was also started by children, and is spoken solely in a town near where I grew up in Ukiah….over the hill in Boonville, California.  Wikipedia makes it sound like Boontling may be on its way out of existence.

I have to confess that, perhaps because I’m not a linguist, I have a tough time applying “language” to these two examples of human ingenuity.  “Language” means English, or Spanish….you know.   Reading about the people who study these “languages”, I’m forced to wonder if the pressure for publication offers at least part of the explanation for the decision to describe these communication systems as a “language”….or is this just TOO cynical?