Accepted Paper:

The changing role of film in documenting language life, danger and death  
Louise Ashmore (SOAS/ Pama Language Centre)

Paper short abstract:

Film has played a key role in the documentation of ancestral languages and their speakers as a cycle of life, endangerment, death and revival. This paper explores ways that film and AV technologies represent and constitute social dynamics of language for language communities of Cape York Peninsula.

Paper long abstract:

Film has played a key role in the documentation and representation of ancestral languages and their speakers within a cycle of life, endangerment, death and revival. This paper explores the movements of film and AV technologies in representing and constituting social dynamics of language and considers the shifting discourse surrounding the production and re-representation of audio-visual records in the context of language communities of Aurukun on the west coast of Cape York Peninsula.

From Wik peoples' use of ethnographic films produced in the 1970s (Sutton 2014), ongoing community-led documentation of house-openings and key events using video, ipads and phones, to the production of 'comprehensive' and 'preservable' records of language in context in recent language documentation projects, film as a medium to record language knowledge has been integral to language support endeavours in Aurukun and surrounding regions.

However, within the current discourse of language endangerment and death, the speakers, semi-speakers, hearers and identifiers of ancestral languages are increasingly required to produce a complex representation of both loss and revival to secure funding for language support activities and for reporting and promotion. Requirements for quantifiable indicators of language programmes (e.g. number of languages, increased speaker numbers, volume of archivable materials (see Dobrin et al. 2007)) construct languages as discrete and quantifiable objects often at odds with the shifting dynamics of social interaction. In multilingual communities this can include political tensions between the cultural currency that comes with maintaining a minority language and the social benefits of a move towards a communalect.

Panel P33
Language movements: endangerment, revitalisation, and social transformation