Death, God and Linguistics: Conversations with Missionaries on the Australian Frontier, 1824-1845

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The first encounters between Aborigines and Europeans in south-eastern Australia were constrained by profound social and linguistic barriers, but they did provide opportunities for cultural exchange. This article argues that important evidence is contained in linguistic materials compiled by missionaries for the purposes of evangelisation and scripture translation. It interprets the linguistic work of Lancelot Threlkeld (1788-1859), who conducted a mission on behalf of London Missionary Society, and, later, the government of New South Wales, to the 'Awabakal' or Kuri people of the Hunter River and Lake Macquarie region from 1824-1841, and William Watson (1798-1866) and James Gunther (1806-1879) of the Church Missionary Society, whose mission was to the Wiradhurri people of Wellington Valley, NSW from 18.32 to 1843, as sources for life oil the colonial frontier It argues that linguistic sources provide a unique insight, expressed in languages now extinguished, into the conversations conducted by missionaries on issues such as language difficulties, the nature of the soul, spiritual beings, death, violence and the disintegration of traditional society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-177
Number of pages17
JournalAustralian Historical Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2009




Dive into the research topics of 'Death, God and Linguistics: Conversations with Missionaries on the Australian Frontier, 1824-1845'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this