The Languages and Customs of Several Tribes of Aborigines in the Western District of Victoria, Australia
By James Dawson
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print Publication Year: 2009
Online Publication Date:September 2010
Original Publication Year:1881
Chapter DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511706127.001
Subjects: Physical anthropology , Historical Linguistics
A number of years ago there appeared in the columns of the Australasian newspaper a short account of the language of one of the native tribes of the Western District of Victoria, written by my daughter, whose long residence in the Port Fairy district, and intimate acquaintance from infancy with the aboriginal inhabitants of that part of the colony, and with their dialects, induced her to publish that sketch. Some time afterwards our attention was directed to the formation of a vocabulary of dialects spoken by aboriginal natives of Australia, and a request was made that she ‘would assist in collecting and illustrating all connected with their history, habits, customs, and languages.’ In undertaking so interesting a work, our intention was to publish the additional information in the columns of the Australasian; but, finding it to be too voluminous for that journal, it was resolved to present it to the public in its present shape.
Great care has been taken in this work not to state anything on the word of a white person; and, in obtaining information from the aborigines, suggestive or leading questions have been avoided as much as possible. The natives, in their anxiety to please, are apt to coincide with the questioner, and thus assist him in arriving at wrong conclusions; hence it is of the utmost importance to be able to converse freely with them in their own language. This inspires them with confidence, and prompts them to state facts, and to discard ideas and beliefs obtained from the white people, which in many instances have led to misrepresentations.