The Flint Papers comprise some 24 boxes of written documents compiled and collected by the late Elwyn Flint, most of them as part of a long-term research project he carried out mainly in the 1960s known as the Queensland Speech Survey funded by the Australian Research Council. Flint’s intense interest in language variation took him all over Queensland and beyond recording on audio-tape and in writing the many varieties of English spoken in Queensland including those spoken by Aboriginal people from all over the state and Torres Strait Islands. His extensive body of audio-taped recordings of English varieties is held in the Department of English. Flint also carried out extensive research into ‘migrant’ Englishes and into language varieties spoken on Norfolk Island documented in these papers.

In the course of carrying out the Queensland Speech Survey, Flint recorded the traditional Aboriginal languages spoken by people with whom he came into contact - using the Capell word list for elicitation as a guide - but also allowing and encouraging Aboriginal people to record at will - both speech and song. Included among the Flint papers are his handwritten and in some cases typed phonetic transcriptions of the Aboriginal language material he recorded. These written documents correspond in some cases with the recordings which are in the AIATSIS sound archives. This catalogue cross-references the written documentation in the Fryer collection with the sound recordings in the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) collection in Canberra.

In addition to Aboriginal language material he himself collected, the Flint papers contain documentation of other languages - particularly Yuulngu (North East Arhnemland) language materials. (Some 10 hours of Yuulngu (Gupapuyngu) speech recordings are held in the English Department.) Flint collected journal articles on languages and maintained a vigourous correspondence with both field-linguists and those working in academic institutions. These collected documents make up part of the Flint papers.

Flint was a polyglot with a keen interest in Asian languages as well as in English, European languages and Australian and Pacific languages, so there is a considerable body of material on Indonesian in the collection.

The documentation relating to varieties of English spoken by Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Australian and Regional (PNG, Pacific region) pidgins, creoles as well other ‘migrant’ varieties of English, along with ‘mother-tongue’ English spoken by people of different ages, regions, socio-economic groups in the 1960s makes up the bulk of the linguistic documention contained in the Flint Papers.

While this catalogue contains a brief description of all the documents in the Flint Papers, our intention was primarily to document the materials which relate directly to Australian Aboriginal languages in such a way that researchers and the descendants of the people recorded by Flint in the 1960s would learn about these documents and have access to them. They are extremely valuable because many of them document languages which are no longer spoken and about which very little information was ever collected.

The 1960s saw a number of linguists recording Queensland languages from the last generation of people who grew up speaking those languages as their primary languages of communication including Barry Blake, Gavan Breen, Arthur Capell, Bob Dixon, Ken Hale, Nils Holmer, Geoff O’Grady, Stephan Wurm. Flint’s documentation adds another valuable source of solid linguistic data to this collection.

Associated with Flint and the Queensland Research Survey were a number of honours and post-graduate students from the University of Queensland who also undertook field research and who recorded Aboriginal people throughout Queensland including the Torres Strait.

Some of the languages recorded by Flint and his students were spoken into the 70s and 80s and have been better documented, while others are still spoken. However, all traditional Queensland languages (and those spoken on the Queensland-Northern Territory border and Gulf country which Flint recorded), with the possible exception of the Torres Strait, have fewer and fewer people speaking them.


Capell, Arthur. 1945. Methods and Materials for Recording Australian Languages. Department of Anthropology, University of Sydney. [Reprinted from Oceania, Vol. XVI, 2: 144-176.
Breen, Gavan. 1981.The Mayi languages of the Queensland gulf country. Canberra: AIAS.
Breen, Gavan. 1990.Salvage Studies of Western Queensland Aboriginal Languages. Pacific Linguistics Series B - No. 105. Canberra: Department of Linguistics, Research School of Pacific Studies, ANU.
Holmer, Nils M. 1983.Linguistic Survey of South-Eastern Queensland. Pacific Linguistics Series D - No. 54. Canberra: Department of Linguistics, Research School of Pacific Studies, ANU.

Mary Laughren
Department of English
The University of Queensland
16th June 1997

Abbreviations | Bibliography | Biography | Document Index | Language Index | Preface | Table of Contents