Pitjantjatjara is one of a group of closely related Australian languages spoken in the north-western regions of SA (the Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands) and extending into neighbouring parts of WA and NT. Yankunytjatjara, Antikirinya, Kukatja, Ngaanyatjara and Pintupi are the names of some of the languages that are very similar to Pitjantjatjara, while the group as a whole is known as Western Desert Languages.
Australian languages have complex and elegant grammar, and culturally and environmentally spe-cialised vocabularies. Pitjantjatjara is spoken by sev-eral thousand people, on traditional homelands and in Port Augusta, Ceduna, Alice Springs and Adelaide. The total number of Western Desert speakers is somewhere around 5000.
Pitjantjatjara is one of the few remaining languages of the original 250 Australian languages that are used daily and are being learned by children as a normal part of growing up.
Pitjantjatjara is one of the better known of the Australian languages, having a good quality dictionary, published grammars, cultural Infor-mation, and a written tradition dating from the 1940s when it was first used in school bilingual programs. Its spelling system is regular and easy to master. The primary form of the language remains in its oral use, and Pitjantjatjara verbal art includes highly-developed forms of rhetoric, story-telling, songs and sung epics, and styles of kinship-based respect and deference.
Aboriginal people choosing to learn Pitjantjatjara, even if it is not their own language, extend and affirm their identity as Aboriginal Australians with a distinct set of Indigenous traditions and values. Non-Aboriginal learners will engage with a language that is quintessentially Australian, enabling them to enrich and authenticate their engagement with Aboriginal Australians and contribute to Reconciliation. In learning Pitjantjatjara at the School of Languages all students will not only start learning to communicate in grammatically and culturally appropriate ways but will also begin to understand something of the richness, variety, complexity and contemporary relevance of the Indigenous linguistic heritage of Australia.