Claire Bowern Discusses Australian Language Reclamation

Claire Bowern Discusses Australian Language Reclamation
December 2, 2021

On October 15, Yale Professor of Linguistics Professor Claire Bowern led a YGSNA discussion on her language reclamation work with Indigenous communities in Australia. Professor Bowern’s research centers around language change and language documentation and aims to provide meaningful access to language through community led and community-controlled archival work and language repatriation.

Recently, Professor Bowern joined Toby Adams in working on Kullilli Ngulkana, a language revitalization project that aims to broaden Kullilli’s everyday usage and to reconnect Kullilli people to their traditional language. The project was begun by Toby who the project as a way also to connect Kullilli people with their traditional country, located in south-west Queensland.

The project includes initiatives innovative technologies, including a Kullilli dictionary app, language lessons, and a Kullilli word of the week posted on social media platforms. Through projects such as Kullilli Ngulkana, she seeks to create opportunities to use language, create materials to learn language, and remove barriers to access language. If you are interested in learning more about Kullilli language, you can search for the Kullilli dictionary app on Google Play and the App Store, or visit the online language course here: More general information is at

During her presentation, Bowern also talked at length about many other research intiatives, some of which date back to the early 1990s. She oversees, for example, the CHIRILA (Contemporary and Historical Reconstruction in the Indigenous Languages of Australia) database, which provides information about various language resources which could be used for reclamation efforts, as well as recognizes the many individuals who have helped to work in these areas. Such collaborative scholarly and community projects, she relayed, are also at the heart of her forthcoming, edited work, The Oxford Guide to Australian Languages, which will provide a general overview of Australian languages.

During her presentation, Bowern and YGSNA members discussed connections between language revitalization efforts occurring across the globe and discussed efforts to increase Native American language instruction at Yale. While the Native American Language Project (NALP) offers annual courses for groups of interested students and community members, these courses are not offered for University credit and must be taken as extracurricular commitments.

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