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Control over the use of language materials | Language, Materials, Communities, Control, Data, Community, Nature, Publications | FATSILC, Fed. Aboriginal Torres Strait Island Languages and Culture
Control over the use of language materials PDF Print E-mail

There are different levels of language work undertaken with speakers and levels of access vary from open language, which can be shared with and heard by anyone, through to restricted materials, only for specific people, eg men, women, secret/sacred knowledge. Communities want to determine how and where language materials are used and who uses them, depending on the nature of the materials.

Publishing and making materials widely available means that some control will be lost and different communities will have different views about this. For example, the policy of one language centre in WA is to not publish any of the language resources produced in the course of their work, in the interests of control and ownership and in recognition of the links between land, language and culture. This policy ensures that language is used in the right context, that is, on-country and in relation to people and culture.9 On the other hand, some communities want language materials to be disseminated as widely as possible for a variety of reasons, eg to maximise language revival, give access to language materials to community members who live off-country, share ideas for publications with other Indigenous communities, improve cross-cultural understanding.

Therefore, it is vital that consultants be sensitive towards and responsive to the needs and aspirations of the particular local community which they are working with.

Another issue in relation to community control over the use of language materials is related to academic research and exchange. This research and exchange is a vital part of the description and analysis, and the revitalisation of languages. However, language owners and speakers are often not aware of academic practices and how the language data they provide is used by a researcher. It is important that researchers share and explain in more detail the nature of their work, and what they do with the language data they collect, record and analyse. The processes of researchers using language data for teaching purposes, to publish or give papers at conferences should be made clear to language communities.10

Finally, it is good practice for language publications to clearly state the purpose of their content. The materials should only be able to be interpreted in the context that they were actually developed for. Communities and their consultants need to be careful to minimise or eliminate the possibility of the materials being used against the people who were involved in producing them.


9 See Newry and Palmer (2003).

10 This is covered in the model agreement.