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In the early 1960s, R. M. W. (Bob) Dixon was one of the first linguists to study the Aboriginal languages of northeast Queensland, Australia. He found that some languages of the coastal rainforest were still in daily use, but others were only half-remembered by a single elder. This autobiographical account of fourteen years of research, first published in 1984, paints a fascinating picture of the frontier society that existed in the region nearly fifty years ago. It reveals the difficulties and the excitement of linguistic fieldwork, but most of all it focuses on the people who agreed to work with Dixon and patiently helped him to understand their dauntingly complex languages. They allowed him to record their legends and songs and spent many hours answering his questions; this book is a poignant reminder of the fragility of their ancient culture.
1. Setting off; 2. 'Haven't you got a machine?'; 3. 'You never talk it to me!'; 4. Full of unforgettable characters; 5. 'Time to get back to wife'; 6. 'Drink this!'; 7. 'Of course we'll keep in touch'; 8. 'Doing all these Jalnguy'; 9. Lots of linguistic expertise; 10. 'This way be bit more better'; 11. 'Happiness and fun'; 12. 'It's not'; 13. 'Those are good for you'; 14. Loss; 15. 'I think I like that language best'; Afterword; Pronunciation of Aboriginal words; Tribal and language names.