Terry Crowley: A brilliant linguist who shed light on the mystery of Anaiwan. This is the first in a series discussing the deciphering of the mysteries of New England's Anaiwan or Nganjaywana Aboriginal language
Next part in this series; Terry Crowley's hunt for traditional languages
It took the brilliant linguist Terry Crowley to crack the mystery attached to the Anaiwan or Nganjaywana language of the southern
New England Tablelands. He did
so as a third year student at the . Australian
Terrence Michael Crowley was born on 1 April 1953 in Billericay just east of
The family emigrated to London Australia
was about seven years old, taking up a dairy farm outside Shepparton. Crowley
At this point, Terry Crowley’s interest moved to the languages of the Pacific and especially
. His sudden and unexpected
death from heart attack on 15 January 2005 came as a shock to friends and
colleagues alike. Vanuatu
In 1976 came his pioneering study of the Nganjaywana language. This was followed in 1978 by two publications on Bundjalung, the language spoke north of the Clarence. Then in 1979 came a piece on Yaygir, the language spoken at the mouth of the Clarence.
’s work, the Nganjaywana or Anaiwan
language was a mystery. It seemed so different from other Aboriginal languages,
a language on its own. Was it in fact a remnant of an earlier language, the
sign of remnant group from an migration? Crowley
There has been dispute about the pattern of early human settlement of the Australian continent, disputes that have formed part of the so-called history wars. Are modern Aborigines direct descendants of a first founder group or have there been several waves of migration, with later arrivals mixing with and ultimately supplanting earlier arrivals?
The model extended and popularised by American anthropologist Joseph Birdsell suggested that settlement had come in three distinct waves involving different peoples. This model was supported by theoretical arguments, as well as skeletal, cultural, ethnographic and linguistic studies.
One thread in the discussion was that the Tasmanians, the pigmies of North East Queensland and perhaps the Anaiwan were remnants of an earlier migration pattern later supplanted by modern Aboriginal groups.
We now know, I think, that modern Australian Aboriginals are direct descendants of first settler groups. This does not rule out settlement by earlier hominids, we have no evidence here at all, nor does it rule out later admixtures. However, the basic pattern seems clear.
While modern DNA analysis is central to our new understanding, it was the work of linguists such as
who filled in part of the pattern. In
showed that Anaiwan was related to surrounding languages. Crowley
I will continue this story next week.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 31 May 2017. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here 2017.