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Title: A Narrow Survey of the Language and Dialects of the Extinct Tasmanians
Written By: Attila Flink
Series Title: Languages of the World/11-1

Tasmania was discovered by the Dutch navigator, Abel Tasman. He sighted the land first in 1642 and named the country in the honour of Anthony Van Dieman, Governor General of Batavia. The next seafarer arrived more than a century later: the French navigator, Marion Du Fresne, in 1772. Captain Cook arrived in 1777 and the first settlement was established in 1804. In the 19th century the country became Tasmania named after its first discoverer. Scientists believe Tasmania was originally part of the Australian mainland but due to the rise of sea level approximately 10,000-12,000 years ago it became separated from the mainland. In reality there is no evidence that the Tasmanian natives were long distance seafarers therefore with these geophysical changes the then existing population also became isolated from the rest of the world. At the time of discovery a dark race was found to be living there in a pre-industrial civilisation and a century later in 1877 the last of the full-blood Tasmanians died. The Tasmanians' origin and language has become a much debated issue amongst academics ever since. During the long isolation the language was intact from outside influence. Part of their language was recorded by early French visitors. Then from the time of Captain Cook's landing further recordings were made from the natives' language, from all parts of Tasmania. Because there was no uniform writing system the Tasmanian natives' language was preserved in various phonetic transcriptions therefore each manuscript requires a separate study to find the right articulation of the intended sound. Fortunately a good deal of their language became recorded which makes its study possible by language comparison. In the attempt to identify the language origin the following major questions are to be answered: 1) was the Tasmanian native tongue a unique language on its own and with the death of the last Tasmanian speaker did it pass into oblivion leaving no connection with the outside world whatsoever? 2) how many languages were spoken there as inclusive dialects or were there just dialects deriving from the source of a single tongue. 3) the language was not known to the newcomer therefore can the suggested language boundaries be taken seriously? 4) what is the guarantee that the translations are correct? when asking meanings from the native was the reply always what was to be expected or was it only a comment relevant to the question being put?

Publication Year: 1999
Publisher: Lincom GmbH
Review: Not available for review. If you would like to review a book on The LINGUIST List, please login to view the AFR list.
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Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics
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Format: Hardback
ISBN: 3895869139
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 20pp.
Prices: EUR 8.69 / USD 9.50