Language Creation in the 21st Century

We hear a lot about languages that are disappearing. For example, some Native American languages are down to a handful of speakers. So it may surprise you to learn that languages are still being created.

Where? Australia. At one time, as many as 300 languages were spoken on the continent. Then Europeans arrived and the familiar cultural upheaval began. Today, only approximately 40 to 60 of these languages remain, with more than half of them no longer being taught to children.

And yet, young people are combining indigenous languages with modern English to create new ways of speaking.

For example, one of the most popular is called Kriol. It first came to the attention of linguists as a separate language in the 1970s and today is spoken by around 20,000 people, mostly in the northern and central parts of the continent. It is so popular that the national broadcaster began giving news in Kriol in 2014.

Other languages have evolved from combinations of Kriol and traditional speaking. Two of the most popular are Gurindji Kriol and Light Warlpiri, with around 500 speakers each.

Is this a good thing? Anything involving English is still a sign of colonialism, and the original native languages are still disappearing. But at least these new languages are preserving something unique to Australia.

To watch a newscast in Kriol, visit “How New Indigenous Languages Are Changing Australia” by Will Higginbotham ( You should be able to hear a lot of English words.

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