You will hear a lecture. After listening to the lecture, in 10 seconds, please speak into the microphone and retell what you have just heard from the lecture in your own words. You will have 40 seconds to give your response.
I think with our linguistic training we also get all this invisible training to be authorities, to be the people who know. It is part of that process that you come out as a world authority on your chosen subject. But when we move into working with communities, we have to recognise that the communities have to be the authority in their language. Actually, a woman in the class I’m teaching at Sydney at the moment, a career woman, expressed this very nicely, although she was talking about something else, she was distinguishing expertise from authority. And certainly linguists, because of our training we do, have expertise in certain very narrow areas of language, but we don’t have the authority over what to do with that knowledge or what to do with other knowledge that the community produces. I guess for me the bottom line is languages are lost because of the dominance of one people over another. That’s not rocket science, it’s not hard to work that out. But then what that means is if in working with language revival we continue to hold the authority, we actually haven’t done anything towards undoing how languages are lost in the first place, so in a sense the languages are still lost if the authority is still lost.
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