Tag Archives: family

The origins of Pama-Nyungan, Australia’s largest family of Aboriginal languages



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The spread of Pama-Nyungan was likely influenced by climate.
Shutterstock.com

Claire Bowern, Yale University

The approximately 400 languages of Aboriginal Australia can be grouped into 27 different families. To put that diversity in context, Europe has just four language families, Indo-European, Basque, Finno-Ugric and Semitic, with Indo-European encompassing such languages as English, Spanish, Russian and Hindi.

Australia’s largest language family is Pama-Nyungan. Before 1788 it covered 90% of the country and comprised about 300 languages. The territories on which Canberra (Ngunnawal), Perth (Noongar), Sydney (Daruk, Iyora), Brisbane (Turubal) and Melbourne (Woiwurrung) are built were all once owned by speakers of Pama-Nyungan languages.

All the languages from the Torres Strait to Bunbury, from the Pilbara to the Grampians, are descended from a single ancestor language that spread across the continent to all but the Kimberley and the Top End.

Where this language came from, how old it is, and how it spread, has been something of a puzzle. Our research, published today in Nature Ecology and Evolution, suggests the family arose just under 6,000 years ago around what is now the Queensland town of Burketown. Our findings suggest this language family spread across Australia as people moved in response to changing climate.

Aboriginal Australia is often described as “the world’s oldest living culture”, and public discussion often falsely assumes that this means unchanging. Our research adds further evidence to Australia pre-1788 being a dynamic place, where people moved and adapted to a changing land.

Map of Pama-Nyungan languages, coloured by their main groupings. Compiled by Claire Bowern using data from National Science Foundation grant BCS-0844550.

Tracing Pama-Nyungan

We used data from changes in several hundred words in different languages from the Pama-Nyungan family to build up a tree of languages, using a computer model adapted from those used originally to trace virus outbreaks.

Different related words for ‘fire’ in certain Pama-Nyungan languages. Green dots show languages with a word for ‘fire’ related to *warlu; white has *puri; red has *wiyn; blue has *maka, and purple *karla.
Chirila files (http://chirila.yale.edu) and google earth for base image.

Because our models make estimates of the time that it takes for words to change, as well as how words in Pama-Nyungan languages are related to one another, we can use those changes to estimate the age of the family.

We found clear support for the origin of Pama-Nyungan just under 6,000 years ago in an area around what is now the Queensland town of Burketown. We found no support for the theories that Pama-Nyungan spread earlier.

The timing of this expansion is consistent with a theory that increasingly unstable conditions caused groups of people to fragment and spread. But correlation is not causation: just because two patterns appear related, it does not mean that one caused the other.

In this case, however, we have other evidence that access to ecological resources has shaped how people migrated. We found that, in our model, groups of people moved more slowly near the coast and major waterways, and faster across deserts. This implies that populations increase where food and water are plentiful, and then spread out and fissure when resources are harder to obtain.

You can see a simulated expansion here. The spread of Pama-Nyungan languages mirrored this spread of people.

What languages tell us

Languages today tell us a lot about our past. Because languages change regularly, we can use information in them to work out who groups were talking to in the past, where they lived, who they are related to, and where they’ve moved. We can do this even in the absence of a written record and of archaeological materials.

For places like Australia, the linguistic record, though incomplete, has more even coverage across the continent than the archaeological record does. At European settlement, there were about 300 Pama-Nyungan languages. Because there are at least some records of most of them we are able to work with these to uncover these complex patterns of change.

There are approximately 145 Aboriginal languages with speakers today, including languages from outside the Pama-Nyungan family. Many of these languages, such as Dieri, Ngalia and Mangala, are spoken by only a few people, many of whom are elderly.

Other languages, however, are actively used in their communities and are learned as first languages by young children. These include the Yolŋu languages of Arnhem Land and Arrernte in Central Australia. Yet others (such as Kaurna around Adelaide) are undergoing a renaissance, gaining speakers within their communities.

Nathan B. performing “Yolŋu Land” using English and Yolŋu Matha.

Finally, though not the focus of our study, there are also new languages, such as Kriol spoken across Northern Australia, Palawa Kani in Tasmania, and Gurindji Kriol. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders also know English, and most Indigenous Australians are multilingual.

The ConversationWithout records of all these languages, and without ongoing work to support speakers and communities, we aren’t able to do research like this, and Australia loses a vital link to its history. After all, European settlement of Australia is a tiny chunk of the time people have lived on this land.

Claire Bowern, Professor of Linguistics, Yale University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Humane and intimate, how the Red Cross helped families trace the fates of WW2 soldiers



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Australians shelter from Japanese snipers in Borneo, 1945.
Australian War Memorial collection/Flickr

Fiona Ross, University of Melbourne

Private Rawson’s mother first contacted the Red Cross in early April 1942, six weeks after her son was captured by the Japanese at the fall of Singapore. For her, and thousands of other Australian mothers, fathers, wives, sisters and brothers, this began three and half years of longing and fear, and above all, silence. The Conversation

For the duration of the war, Mrs Rawson’s only news of her son’s fate were the snippets received and sent on to her by the Red Cross Bureau for Wounded, Missing and Prisoners of War.

In the Spring Street premises, lent to the Red Cross by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, volunteers received Mrs Rawson’s enquiry, made a file for her son and added a card to a rapidly growing system:

Surname: RAWSON

Rank: PTE. [Private]

Reg No. VX43216

Unit: 2/29th. Btn. H.Q. COY.

9/4/42 Enq. From Vic. – Unof. Msg. [unofficially missing] MALAYA

Over the next 18 months they retrieved and updated the card as numbered lists of missing and captured servicemen reached the Red Cross:

19-8-42: Cas.[casualty] List V.319 rep. [reported] Missing.

27-5-43: List AC 494 adv.[advice] Tokio cables interned Malai Camp.

21-6-43: Cas list V467 prev. rept. [previously reported] Missing now rpt.[reported] P.O.W.[prisoner of war]

10-9-43: List WC 13 adv. Card rec. Washington POW [prisoner of war] Jap.[Japanese] Hands.

28-10-43: List JB. 213 adv. Singapore Radio Allege POW.

Then the reports cease. Nothing more, for two years.

Private Rawson’s card is now the first one in box 45 of the archival records series “Missing, Wounded and Prisoner of War Enquiry Cards”. This series was transferred to the University of Melbourne Archives in 2016 as part of the Red Cross’s Gift to the Nation – the records of its first 100 years in Australia. Digitised copies of cards from the second world war are now available to researchers online.

Cards from the Red Cross’s enquiry bureau.
University of Melbourne Archives

In an era before vision statements and key performance indicators, the Red Cross Enquiry Bureau expressed its ethos as a “Golden Rule”:

No definite information that would be of solace to relatives should be allowed to remain in the office over-night.

The Red Cross saw this work as a “humane and intimate administration”. Speed and accuracy were the essence of the service, which during WWII helped over 58,000 Australian families to learn the fate of loved ones displaced by the war. The vast majority of these enquiries concerned personnel in the Australian Imperial Force.

Typically families first received missing, wounded, killed or captured notification from the armed services. They then turned to the Red Cross to learn more about their loved one’s fate. However the Red Cross also attempted to trace the whereabouts of civilians – both Australian and foreign citizens – living overseas who were caught up in the war in Europe or the Pacific.

The index cards were the administrative cornerstone of the bureau’s enquiry service. For such a harrowing and solemn business, the cards are a marvel of clerical efficiency and precision. Entries are heavily abbreviated and the volunteer typists rarely missed a capital letter or full stop.

There are no back-stories, no narrative, in most cases not even first names, just the barest facts about a missing person’s fate, ultimately summarised in one word at the top of each card; “repatriated”, “safe”, “recovered”, “liberated”, “located”, “missing”, “POW” (prisoner of war), “deceased”.

The Geneva Bureau in Switzerland which performed a similar service to the Red Cross in Australia.
University of Melbourne Archives

Yet the staccato shorthand belies both the complexity and compassion of this wartime service. Most of the bureau volunteers were themselves next-of-kin of POWs. They somehow managed to channel their anxiety into the myriad of clerical tasks that enabled information to flow between state, national and overseas Red Cross bureaus, searchers in military hospitals and the armed services. Cards, files, lists, letters and cables in the face of fearful waiting.

Bureaucracy and heartbreak often make for peculiar companions in the Red Cross archive. Within the Red Cross’s administrative file titled Bureau 1943 we find a few stray copies of letters to family members, laden with sympathy and sadness:

Dear Mrs Bould

We have, as you know, been making enquiries to try and obtain news of your son…and we have now had an unofficial report from a member of the Battalion who has returned to Australia.

His account of what happened when the Japanese attacked Kokoda toward the end of July is a sad one… According to our witness, [Private] Bould was busy on a job, ahead of the Unit’s defence position, when he was hit by a bullet which killed him instantly. The witness spoke as though he had known your son well… and added: “He was a particularly well-liked chap and a game soldier”. This is a tribute of which any soldier might be very proud, and we trust that it may bring you some slight comfort in your distress.

Please believe that our heartfelt sympathy goes out to you and that we will continue to do our utmost to find further witnesses who may be able to confirm or deny what we have so far learned.

Good relations with the Australian armed services were crucial to the bureau’s information gathering work, but the relationship was often strained. A few pages away from the bureau’s gentle letter to Mrs Bould we find the army threatening to withdraw cooperation because, in its opinion, the bureau was too hasty in providing information to next of kin. From the army:

It is not the policy of this Department to declare the death of a soldier as the result of hearsay information …

The sheer volume of these cards is hard to fathom; 59 archive boxes each containing around 1,000 cards, each card bearing witness to a family’s trauma and tragedy. They are uniform, ordered and monochrome. The lack of colour suits them. Emotions are suppressed beneath precision and procedure.

There is no nuance or commentary, just the cold, hard, abbreviated facts of war. Seventy years on, the sombre silence of these cards is a testament to the lives of those who went to war, and those who waited at home, longing for their return.

For Mrs Rawson, the silence about her son ended in October 1945 after the Red Cross volunteers updated her son’s card one more time:

Army Cas. 5231 adv. a/n [above named] died of disease whilst POW Siam Dysentry 31-10-43.


University of Melbourne Archives Series 2016.0049: Missing, Wounded and Prisoner of War Enquiry Cards will be available online to researchers from May 2017. Further information, and a name-based search option is available from the University of Melbourne Archives digitised items catalogue. Private Rawson’s card is item 2016.0049.44698. Read more about the Enquiry Cards.

Fiona Ross, Senior Archivist at the University of Melbourne Archives, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Brief History of the British Royal Family



What’s in a name? For Kate Middleton’s baby boy: A lot of tradition, history and gravitas



Article: Russian Family Isolated in Siberia


The link below is to an article that looks at an isolated family that lived in Russia’s Siberian region, having fled persecution many years ago. This is a fascinating story.

For more visit:
http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/history/2013/01/for-40-years-this-russian-family-was-cut-off-from-all-human-contact-unaware-of-world-war-ii/


Article: Australia – Ned Kelly Remains Returned to Family


The link below is to an article on Australian bushranger Ned Kelly. The remains of Ned Kelly have been returned to his family for burial, 132 years after his death.

For more visit:
http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/08/06/outlaw-ned-kellys-remains-given-to-family-132-years-after-his-death/


Website News: History


All the News from Our Website on ‘Tracing our History’

This Blog belongs to a family of websites centered on the ‘Tracing our History’ website. Tracing our History is my geneaology website, where the fruit of my family history research is shared with family, friends and other interested visitors. Because I enjoy the study of history (as can probably be seen by the existence of this Blog) I decided to also have a ‘History’ site, which is really just another part of the Tracing our History website as it is joined to the same domain tracingourhistory.com.

Over the last 12 months I have concentrated on establishing the Blog, which to be honest does take up a fair amount of my time with research, writing, etc, Now it is time to try and tie the Blog more closely with the actual website. I also wish to continue building the website, with news of site progress being posted to this Blog also. There is plenty to do and I would like the site to prove useful for those interested in the further study of history, be it a general interest or for school study. If it becomes a conduit to resources available on the wider web, that will be a very useful thing as well.

I have begun my work on the site with some minor updates today – more significant improvements are to follow.

For more, visit:
http://tracingourhistory.com/history.html


Today in History – 26 April 1865


United States: John Wilkes Booth is Killed

On the 14th April 1865, John Wilkes Booth assassinated the President of the United States of America at Ford’s Theatre, in Washington D.C. Booth, a Confederate sympathizer, managed to escape the scene of his crime and fled on horseback to a farm in northern Virginia. It was here, 12 days after his attack on the president that Booth was shot and killed.

John Wilkes Booth was born on the 10th May 1838, into the well known Booth family and became a well known actor in his own right. But it would be his assassination of Abraham Lincoln that he would always be remembered for.

Eight other co-conspirators were tried and convicted for their parts in the assassination and other roles in the plot that resulted in the death of the president. Four of these were hung a short time later.

 


Today in History – 24 April 1731


England: Daniel Defoe Died

On this day in 1731, English author Daniel Defoe died. He is best known for his novel ‘Robinson Crusoe.’ Defoe is recognized as one of the earliest authors of English novels and wrote over 500 books, pamphlets and journals. He was also recognized as something of a financial journalist.

Daniel Defoe was born some time between 1659 and 1661 – the exact date of his birth being unknown. He was born Daniel Foe (the ‘De’ being added later).

In his youth his family survived the Great Fire of London (1666), which left only his family’s home, and two others standing, in their part of London. A year later he survived a Dutch fleet that sailed up the Thames and attacked Chatham.

Defoe was a Christian and a Dissenter. At one time he was jailed for his views and in an earlier time was also a bankrupt. It is thought that he may have died while in hiding from those seeking him out because of unpaid debts. Defoe died  on the 24th April 1731 and is buried in Bunhill Fields, London.

Among Defoe’s many works are ‘Robinson Crusoe’ and ‘Moll Flanders.’

A biography of Daniel Defoe by William Minto can be found at the Internet Archive:
http://www.archive.org/details/daniel00defoemintrich

The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe:
http://www.archive.org/details/lifeadventuresof00defouoft

Moll Flanders, by Daniel Defoe:
http://www.archive.org/details/fortunesandmisfo00defouoft

 


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