Top End Linguistic Circle

Top End Linguistic Circle

The Top End Linguistic Circle (TELC) is an informal association of linguists and other language workers in the ‘Top End’ of the Northern Territory of Australia. It has held a couple of meetings or workshops almost every year since it began in the 1970s. Meetings are organised by local TELC members, often scheduled to enable visiting linguists to give presentations. Visiting linguists doing fieldwork in the top end, or local linguists wanting to share, can contact topendlingcircle@gmail.com if they would like to present at TELC.

TELC is also on social media. You can find us at:

NEXT TELC SEMINAR: 30th March 2022
Professor Michael Walsh

Professor Michael Walsh speaks on “Austronesians in northern Australia: re-assessing the linguistic impact of ‘Macassans’”

Time: 2-3pm, Wednesday 30 March 2022

Location: Charles Darwin University, Casuarina campus, Northern Institute, Yellow 1, level 2, room 48 (the Savannah Room). Campus map

The speaker: Professor Walsh has been dedicated to working with Australian Aboriginal languages for about 45 years. He has worked and published extensively on documenting and revitalizing these languages, especially in the Northern Territory and New South Wales. His research interests include lexical semantics, cross-cultural pragmatics, language and identity, language and law, linguistic geography, language revitalization, song language and other expressive uses of language. He is currently affiliated with AIATSIS, the University of Sydney and the Australian National University among others.

Abstract: In 1979 James Urry and I suggested that the linguistic impact of so-called Macassans in northern Australia may have been more extensive than had previously been thought. Not long after, this was published (Urry and Walsh 1981) and was vindicated by Walker and Zorc (1981) who had the unusual but very useful combination of a strong background in Yolngu-Matha and Austronesian. Another linguist (e.g. Evans 1992) demonstrated significant influence in a wider range of languages. Meanwhile archaeological research has pointed to a much more extensive geographical spread and a greater time depth. This paper will build on an earlier re-assessment of Macassan influence (Walsh 2012) which suggests a geographical spread along the northern coast from western Cape York to the Kimberley, and possibly to the Pilbara. Time depth could be as early as the 14th century. This means that there are many northern coastal languages for which Macassan influence is yet to be explored. A method for streamlining this process is proposed.

In memory of Cathy Bow

TELC acknowledges the enormous contribution of Cathy Bow who died suddenly in October 2021.

Cathy arrived in the NT in 2012, initially to project manage the development of the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages. Her interest in languages and linguistics and their application in the NT, coupled with her networking and organisational capacity, found her influence and impact ever expanding. Cathy was a presenter at TELC meetings during 2017 and then part of the collective that took over managing the group later that year upon the retirement of Paul Black from the role. In 2018 Cathy led a relaunch of TELC, and she became the face of TELC, organising presenters, minutes, venues, and announcements in her ever gracious and practical way.

TELC will miss Cathy’s tireless gentle energy and her commitment to linguistics in the Top End. TELC will always remember and cherish the positive influence and friendship that Cathy shared with all those in her many global circles and communities.


Last modified 24th March 2022

The Top End Linguistic Circle website is supported by EL Publishing, open-access publishers of the journal Language Documentation and Description.