1267.0 - Australian Standard Classification of Languages (ASCL), 2011  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 16/08/2011   
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Analysis of 2006 Census data revealed that the language profile of Australia has changed since the second edition of the ASCL and that review of the classification would improve its usefulness and ensure it would be up to date for use in the 2011 Census.

A minor review of the ASCL was undertaken to:
  • separately identify a number of emerging languages, based on changes in immigration patterns in Australia
  • improve the coding index
  • rename a number of categories and groups to make the names more accurate
  • identify diminishing languages in Australia
  • ensure data is available for languages with few speakers, including Australian Indigenous languages
  • improve the profile and coverage of Indigenous languages based on 'Closing the Gap' initiatives backed by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and other government agencies
  • respond to stakeholder queries and feedback which have expressed the view that ASCL should categorise as many Indigenous languages as possible, raised specific matters about the classification of some languages, and indicated that more should be done to identify emerging language groups
  • improve the accuracy and precision with which Australian Indigenous languages are identified
  • restructure the narrow groups of Broad Goup 8, Australian Indigenous Languages.

The review is intended to be an update only, there has been no attempt to review the conceptual model underpinning the classification or to make major structural changes. Wherever categories in the classification have been moved or deleted the codes for these categories have not been re-used.


The following research activities were undertaken when reviewing the ASCL second edition:

Statistical analysis
    Analysis of the aggregated responses to the 2006 Census language question was undertaken. It was proposed that languages within 'not elsewhere classified' categories which recorded over 100 responses be identified separately in new categories. Some exceptions were made if a language was of specific interest, such as Australian Indigenous languages, where the criterion for separate identification is three or more speakers.

      External research was conducted to:
      • confirm the appropriate terminology to be used for categories in the classification, and assess the accuracy of the coding of languages at the broad, narrow and language group levels
      • assess the accuracy of code assignments and linkages
      • identify Australian Indigenous languages
      • identify new language groups based on immigration patterns between 2005 and 2010.

      As a part of the Federal Government's approach to Closing the Gap, Australian Indigenous languages are supported through the Maintenance of Indigenous Languages and Records (MILR) program. This program assists the revival of Indigenous languages by supporting community based language projects and resources, and language research. Indigenous languages were investigated through the MILR program, ASCL queries between 2005 and 2010 and the online Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages database. Language and speaker number data found in these sources was compared with information gathered through general research of Government, Australian Indigenous language, interpreter and academic sources.

      Non-Indigenous languages to be reviewed were identified from queries between 2005 and 2010. Language data, including alternate spellings were investigated on the 'Ethnologue' database and other external web sites. The National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) provided information about translator and interpreter use for languages emerging in Australia. The National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA) and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship supplied data on languages spoken by recent immigrants.
        Stakeholder Consultation

        The objective was to ensure that stakeholders, including language experts and peak bodies with knowledge of emerging and expanding language groups were consulted and that each major language was represented.

        One round of consultation was undertaken with a wide range of stakeholders, who provided information about:
        • speaker numbers
        • new languages spoken in Australia
        • appropriate and useful classification of language groups
        • growth and decline of languages, including Indigenous languages
        • index coverage
        • structure of the classification.

        Following consultation, comments were analysed and reviewed and where necessary appropriate changes to the classification were made. The recommendations of stakeholders were compared to information gathered through external research and Census 2006 line count data for 'not further defined' (nfd) and 'not elsewhere classified' (nec) responses.