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Three Indigenous language seminars at University of Melbourne Fri 5 August 2016

Date: 25 July 2016

Friday 5 August, 11.30am - Babel 407, Babel Building

The Development of Phonological Stratification: Evidence from Stop Voicing Perception in Gurindji Kriol and Roper Kriol 

Jesse Stewart, Felicity Meakins and Cassandra Algy

Abstract: This study explores the emergence of phonological stratification using two 2AFC identification task experiments to test listener perception of stop voicing with contrasting minimal pairs modified along a 10-step continuum. Here, we examine a unique language ecology consisting of three languages spoken in Northern Territory, Australia: Kriol (an English-lexifier creole language), Gurindji (Pama-Nyungan), and Gurindji Kriol (a mixed language derived from Gurindji and Kriol). In addition, this study focuses on three distinct age groups: children, adults, and elders. Results reveal that adult listeners in the Kriol and Gurindji Kriol contrast the labial series [p] and [b]. On the other hand, while alveolar [t] and velar [k] were consistently identifiable by the majority of participants (74%), their voiced counterparts ([d] and [g]) showed random response patterns by 61% the participants. Responses to the voiced stimuli from the adult Kriol group were, however, significantly more consistent than in the Gurindji Kriol group, suggesting Kriol listeners may be further along in acquiring the voicing contrast. Significant results regarding listener exposure to Standard English in both language groups also suggests constant exposure to English maybe a catalyst for setting this change in motion. The more varied responses from the Gurindji, Kriol, and Gurindji Kriol children and elder groups, who have little exposure to English, help support these findings. 


Friday 5 August, 2pm - Babel 407, Babel building

Multilingual manyardi/kun-borrk: manifestations of multilingualism in the manyardi/kun-borrk song traditions of western Arnhem Land

Isabel O'Keeffe (completion talk)

Abstract: Western Arnhem Land, in the Northern Territory of Australia, is well known for its linguistic diversity and multilingualism. Less well known is the diversity of songs traditions in this region and the way the multiple linguistic resources are deployed within them. Drawing on linguistic and musicological perspectives, this talk examines how the manyardi/kun-borrk public dance-song traditions of western Arnhem Land manifest the linguistic diversity, multilingualism and underpinning linguistic ideologies of the region. This analysis provides new insights into how multilingualism and sociocultural diversity is fostered and maintained.


Friday 5 August, 3.15pm - Babel 407, Babel building

The wrong t-shirt: configurations of language and identity at Warruwi Community

Dr Ruth Singer

Abstract: Warruwi Community, a remote Indigenous community in north-west Arnhem Land recently celebrated its hundredth anniversary. On June 22nd 1916, Reverend James Watson was brought to Warruwi (South Goulburn Island) in a dugout canoe by a group of Maningpurru people. James Watson started the Goulburn Island methodist mission which has now become Warruwi Community. To celebrate the centenary a re-enactment was staged at Angpungijpa ‘Watson’s Landing’. Participants in the re-enactment wore either a yellow or a blue t-shirt. On the back of the yellow t-shirts was written ‘Maningpurru people’ and on the back of the blue t-shirts was written ‘Majakurtu people’, a clan who own land at Warruwi. However a number of people I asked about the t-shirts explained that the blue t-shirts represented Mawng and the yellow t-shirts represented Kunwinjku.

Mawng and Kunwinjku are two of the four most widely-spoken languages at Warruwi Community. Most adults speak both languages fairly well yet each family chose to wear a particular colour t-shirt. In the context of the re-enactment, people represented their affiliations with either the Mawng language or the Kunwinjku language. In other contexts, many of the participants would identify more strongly with other languages such as Kunbarlang, Burarra, English, Yolngu-Matha or Arrernte. Yet it was obvious to most people at Warruwi who should wear what t-shirt. For example, TM1 laughed at seeing her brother dance in a yellow t-shirt at the celebrations. Their family wore blue t-shirts but because there were no small-sized ones left, he wore a yellow t-shirt to perform in the Ngili‘mosquito’ dance. To TM1 and others, this was obviously the wrong t-shirt.

The decisions Warruwi families made about whether to wear yellow or blue t-shirts. reflect changes in how connections are made between language and identity from the indirect connection described by Merlan (1981) to the much more direct connection discussed by Rumsey (1993). Merlan describes the traditional pre-contact configuration of language and identity as one in which primary identification was with the clan, and language-identity simply a predictable by-product of this. Rumsey (1993) traces shifts in configurations of language and identity among Jawoyn people living around Katherine. At the time which he worked on the Jawoyn land claim, language had become the primary basis for identity, although it was no longer spoken. The relevance of clan identity had declined to the point where some younger people were unsure what clan they belonged to.

Taken together Merlan (1981) and Rumsey’s (1993) work are easily understood as describing discrete points along a unidirectional pathway of social change. However at contemporary Warruwi Community both viewpoints remain valid simultaneously. The multiple, conflicting configurations of language and identity can be understood with reference to Lüpke’s (forthcoming) contrast between  indexical and essentialist language ideologiesIn this talk, I’ll show how the idea of an indexical language ideology which Lüpke developed through work in the Casamance region of Senegal can help us come to terms with these apparently conflicting configurations of language and identity at Warruwi.

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University