We know youths these days seem to have a language of their own anyway, but an official new language has been discovered in Australia, spoken by around 350 people, the majority under the age of 35.
The community in which it has been discovered is Lajamanu, the Northern Territory’s most westerly community, 870km from Darwin. The remote desert community has no fully paved roads and can be cut off from the rest of the country during wet season.
The majority of the community – around 6,000 people – speak the original language of Warlpiri, others speak Kriol, which is widely spoken by indigenous Australians in the Northern Territory and Western Australia, while the younger members have developed a new language called Light Warlpiri, which is a mix of Warlpiri, Kriol and English words with a primarily English sentence structure.
Carmel O’Shannessy, a linguist from the University of Michigan, began studying the dialect of the young locals more than a decade ago. Documenting her findings in the journal Language, fellow linguists are suggesting the new language has arisen due to the fact that, during the 1970s and ’80s, Lajamanus would work on nearby cattle ranch with English-speaking jackaroos. They would then switch between Warlpiri and English, gradually evolving a new language altogether.
We just hope ‘text speak’ is never categorised as a ‘new language’.