Tony’s Notes From The Bony Novels (Part 12)

Posted on Fri 04/15/2011 by


Preface for the Posts on Language.

Where I mention the word ‘tribe’ here, this is in no way meant to reinforce one of those age old stereotypes. The word may be used also as expressing family, group, or community.

What also needs to be mentioned here is that what I have detailed in these Posts on language is in no way definitive. I would not class myself as even a beginner in the understanding of this complex subject, let alone an expert. However, having said that, everything I do detail here I have gleaned from the reading of Upfield’s novels, as prior to that, I knew virtually nothing of the aboriginal language. So, what I have here is just aspects of what I have learned from those novels.

The aboriginal language is not something as simple as the English language, and even that is saying something, because the English language is in no way simple, so it gives some insight into the vast complexities of the Aboriginal language.

Those Aborigines have been residents of Australia for many tens of thousands of years.

At the time of white settlement, it was estimated that there may have been as many as 300 spoken languages with anything up to 500 to 600 or even more different dialects, and this shows the complexities of that language. Of those original languages, barely 200 still remain.

Australia is a vast land, and those original aborigines were in every corner of the Continent. There was no travel in those days, other than on foot, and aborigines from one side of the Country never even saw those others thousands of miles away.

Even within smaller areas, there were many different tribes of aborigines. Each of those tribes lived within one area which might be loosely designated as their ‘homeland’. The borders of that homeland may have ‘seemed’ flexible, but in fact were quite rigid.

Even within that ‘homeland, there would have been many different groups of aborigines. They were hunter gatherers and smaller groups would have been easier to manage that large groups. There were no large settlements of tribes, as those groups moved around freely within their own territory, which, keeping in mind that these people had to travel everywhere by foot, the areas covered by those smaller tribes would have still been relatively large, even though seemingly small when looked at in the contextual thinking of today when looking at those ‘homeland’ areas on a map.

Within the ‘homeland’, the language would have been similar, but there would still have been different dialects of that one basic language.

This barely scratches the surface of the complexities of the aboriginal language as a whole, but what it does say is that even among fellow members of the one overall tribe in a homeland, there would still have been language problems.

So, even among fellow members of the same overall tribe, there would have been problems with language, so again, there would have been some difficulties .

In the wider area, tribes of aborigines may have come into contact with others from another tribe from a different ‘homeland, say, at the outskirts of the borders of those different homelands, so language problems would have been even more complex on occasions like this.

Even so, there would have been ways that different tribes would have been able to communicate, and some of these I will attempt to provide some detail on that in the following Posts.