4 Indigenous Australia in the 21st Century in:

Katja Lenz

Lexical Appropriation in Australian Aboriginal Literature, page 39 - 60

1. Edition 2017, ISBN print: 978-3-8288-3964-9, ISBN online: 978-3-8288-6743-7,

Tectum, Baden-Baden
Bibliographic information
39 4 Indigenous Australia in the 21st Century Almost two and a half centuries after the landing of the First Fleet, the traditional Aboriginal language ecology has experienced substantial changes and while it has been expanded to include a number of new, often English-based linguistic varieties, the traditional languages have suffered drastic losses. The greater part of the Australian languages has already died out and the number of those still in use is declining steadily. However, the arrival of the British – and later also other that of other newcomers – has not only left traces on Aboriginal languages but also on the existing social structures as well as on contemporary definitions of Aboriginality in Australia. Hence, before contemplating the current Aboriginal language ecology, we need to have a look at the today’s Australian Aboriginal population. 4.1 Australia’s Indigenous Population: Census Data A wealth of data from previous Australian Censuses can be obtained from the Australian Bureau of Statistics homepage at This data collection presents a welcome, but comparatively recent advancement: it was not until 1967 that a Federal referendum resulted in a change of the Constitution that allowed all Australians to be counted in the Australian Census. For the first time, Australians of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent were included in the Australian Census in 1971, i.e. the first Australian Census after the 1967 referendum (ABS 2005). Before that, it was almost impossible to provide reliable figures about the size of the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait population, and population numbers for the period prior to 1971 were usually mere estimates. Still, Australian Census data is not always entirely unproblematic as statisticians are currently facing the difficult question of who should actually be counted as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person. In the last years, an increasing number of Australian citizens of part-Aboriginal descent have begun to identify as Aboriginal persons. This tendency is also acknowledged by the Australian Bureau of Statistics: More recently, changing social attitudes, political developments, improved statistical coverage and a broader definition of Indigenous origin have all contributed to the increased likelihood of people identifying as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous) origin. This is reflected in the large increases in the number of people who are identified as being Indigenous in 40 each Census, increases in excess of those which can be attributed to natural increase in the Indigenous population. (ABS 2008a) The estimated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population in June 2006 was approximately 517,200 or 2.3% of the Australian population which was 20,701,500 in 2006 (ABS 2008b). In the 2011 Census, the number of those who identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person had risen to 548,370 (ABS 2012a). The reasons for this population growth are various and include increasing birth rates and decreasing death rates. Other factors are improved methods for census data collection and the aforementioned growing readiness to identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person. In the two last Census rounds, Aboriginal people comprised 90% of the total Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population; 6% of Australia’s Indigenous population identified as Torres Strait Islander person and another 4% as being of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent (ABS 2008a). In the 2011 Census round, 33% of those who identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person lived in capital city areas. The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander citizens living in capital cities was highest in South Australia (51%) and in Victoria (47%). The lowest proportions of capital city dwellers were found in Queensland and in the Northern Territory where 73% and 80%, respectively, lived outside these areas (ABS 2012a). Considering the total population of the states or territories, the Northern Territory has the largest proportion of Aboriginal residents. In the 2011 Census round, 56,779 persons, that is 26.8% of the total Northern Territory population, identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person. All other states and the Australian Capital Territory had an Aboriginal population of 4% or less in 2011: New South Wales 2.5%, Queensland 3.6%, South Australia 1.9%, Western Australia 3.1%, Tasmania 4.0%, Australian Capital Territory 1.5%. In Victoria, only 0.7% of the state’s population identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person (ABS 2008a). 4.2 The Post-Contact Language Ecology A good 225 years after the onset of British colonisation in Australia, much of the rich linguistic diversity that characterised the pre-colonial Australian language ecology has been lost. The graveness of the situation is highlighted by the authors of the National Indigenous Language Survey (NILS) who state that “Australia has been singled out as the country that has witnessed the largest and most rapid loss of languages of anywhere in the world, over the last century” (AIATSIS/FATSIL 2005: 24). More recently, there have been attempts to revive some of the extinct or near extinct languages with the help of what has 41 been recorded of their grammar and lexicon. However, as many languages have died out before any kind of documentation took place, a lot is lost beyond retrieval. Several authors have been concerned with issues of language endangerment in the Australian context and even though different indicators may have been applied to measure language vitality and different terms are used to describe the various stages of endangerment, there is general consent that the situation of Australia’s languages provides reason for concern. Walsh (2007: 79) notices a direct link between early and constant contact to the British colonisers and the likelihood of languages to become threatened by extinction. Thus, it is not surprising that many of the languages which continue to be spoken are found in the geographically more remote parts of Australia, i.e. the Northern Territory and the northern parts of Queensland and Western Australia. Here, contact with the English language set in comparatively late and was often much less intensive, which allowed a greater degree of language maintenance. A large number of languages of the southeast, on the other hand, are now considered extinct. Due to a different classification of languages and dialects than the one presented above, Wurm (2010: 436) estimates that approximately 500 Aboriginal language varieties have existed prior to first contact. He observes that a considerable number of these were eradicated in the earliest years of the British invasion: A catastrophic smallpox epidemic which started in Sydney around 1789 and is believed to have swept through many parts of Australia killing a considerable proportion of the Aboriginal population, is likely to have caused the extinction of at least a hundred of the very small local languages. In the following two centuries, the remaining 400 or so languages were subject to enormous threats so that, at the beginning of the 21st century, [...] there are about twenty-five fully functional Aboriginal languages, about 120 threatened languages in various stages of endangerment, with at least fifty of them in the last stages of disappearance, with only a few elderly speakers left. In addition, about 170 other languages have become recently or relatively recently extinct, with their last few elderly speakers dying during the last two decades or so. This gives a total of about 320-30 languages to which quite a few long-extinct languages have to be added to arrive at a figure of about 400 languages a short time after the time of contact (Wurm 2010: 425). The reasons for the enormous loss of Australian languages and the processes leading to the decline of linguistic variation are quite diverse. Generally, we can distinguish between two main types of language loss in the Australian context: Loss by rupture and loss by attrition. The former, an extreme and abrupt form of loss causes the total disruption of all language transmission that also makes later re-learning of the extinct language almost impossible (LoBianco & Rhydwen 2001: 394). Attrition, on the other hand, describes the 42 slow decline of linguistic diversity, which, according to Grenoble (2011: 32), is a lot more common in most language situations where speakers are provided with different incentives to adopt the language of the politically, economically, and socially more powerful majority culture, a process which usually takes place over the course of a few generations. However, in the Australian context, loss by rupture was not infrequent in the earlier periods of contact, resulting from the extermination of entire language groups by diseases, natural disasters, war, or genocide (Wurm 2010: 438f). The smallpox epidemic and its consequences described in the above quotation is a prime example of loss by rupture, as is the killing of entire language groups on the Australian mainland and in Tasmania. Other groups experienced such a severe reduction of numbers that they were unable to continue as discrete cultural and linguistic units. Those that managed to do so nevertheless usually included English (or another (contact-) language used in the area) into their repertoire, while at first maintaining their traditional language (McConvell & Thieberger 2001: 9). Loss by attrition may be brought about by different forms of direct or indirect pressure on the speakers of a minority language. In instances of direct pressure, speakers may be actively forced to shift to a dominant language (Wurm 2010: 438f). This shift can be aided or even activated by language laws and policies; in the Australian context, the boarding school system that actively discouraged the children’s use of their ancestral languages is one example of such direct pressure (Grenoble 2011: 32). Indirect cultural pressure may cause the same kind of shift when speakers of minor languages are confronted with the economic and social advantages associated with the use of the majority language. In addition, speakers, especially of the younger generations, may be more attracted to the use of the mainstream society’s language even if pressure is lacking, perceiving it as a “symbol of youth and modernity” (O’Shannessy 2011: 92); the colonisers’ language further gains prestige and extends its role when used in public functions. So, while loss by rupture was characteristic of the earlier periods of colonial expansion which were frequently accompanied by violence and hostilities, loss by attrition was a more typical by-product of the ongoing contact, that “has involved a slow, seemingly inexorable attrition of all domains of life traditionally functioning in Australian languages and their colonisation by other forms of speech, especially various forms of English” (LoBianco & Rhydwen 2001: 394). In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, initial attempts at segregating the Aboriginal inhabitants from the colonists were followed by policies of assimilation. During this period, natural mortality, low fertility rates, and the expulsion of entire groups from their territory led to the disruption of Aborig- 43 inal communities (Leitner 2004b: 60)6, and multi-tribal and multilingual missions and camps provided an environment that favoured the emergence of lingue franche or pidgin varieties. This process was even more likely to occur in contexts in which the use of Aboriginal languages was actively discouraged (McConvell & Thieberger 2001:26). The separation of children from their parents, which was a common practice on missions, further hampered processes of intergenerational language transmission. Instead of having their parents’ mother tongue passed on to them through daily interaction, the children were placed in environments that favoured the development of contact varieties or triggered a shift to English (cf. 5.2.3 where we discuss the emergence of Kriol) (Wurm 2010: 449). Also outside missions and camps, Aboriginal languages came under increasing pressure exerted by the growing number of colonists and the colonisers’ language caused a general process of language shift which sooner or later affected all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities of Australia, including those in the more remote areas of the country (McConvell & Thieberger 2001: 9). This pressure continued in later periods and, along with the assimilation strategies employed in the 20th century, it constitutes one of the main reasons for the extinction of Australian languages in more recent periods (Wurm 2010: 449). The picture resulting from the developments described is one that mirrors the impact of the European invasion on Aboriginal society, its cultures, and languages, as well as the Aboriginal people’s attempts to adapt to these changes by expanding their linguistic repertoire according to the new linguistic influences. As Mühlhäusler (1996d) suggests, language contact must not be seen as impacting on single languages, but affects the linguistic ecology as a whole. Thus, the presence of the colonisers’ language has frayed the ‘tissue’ woven by co-existing and to some part interacting traditional languages beyond repair. New pieces of fabric were inserted in the periods from 1788 onward, but the resulting pattern is fundamentally different to the original one. Over the past two centuries, a new linguistic ecology has emerged in which the remaining Aboriginal languages co-exist with indigenised varieties of English, forms of Australian English and contact varieties that draw on resources of both Aboriginal languages and English. The earlier contact varieties include, amongst others, New South Wales Pidgin and its successors that will be dealt with in chapter 5.2, Western Australian Pidgin English, Bass Strait English, and a number of local pidgin forms spoken on missions and stations (Mühlhäusler 2004: 164). Only a few of these were maintained in the face of an increasing influence of English, others have given rise for the development of strong modern Aboriginal languages (Leitner 2004b: 4). In some of 6 The massacres that accompanied pastoral expansion and caused the loss of numerous languages by rupture, however, continued into the late 19th and early 20th century. 44 the geographically more remote regions, shift to a pidgin variety or a form of English has been resisted and traditional languages are still actively used by speakers of different age groups and continue to be passed on to the youngest generation. Still, the character of even those strong Aboriginal languages has not remained unaffected by the changes that have shaken the pre-colonial language ecology. For example, in those areas where Aboriginal languages remain in daily use, regional languages and dialects are increasingly replaced by koinés and lingue franche (LoBianco & Rhydwen 2001: 399). Elsewhere, the impact of English has triggered the formation of ‘mixed’ forms of traditional languages that combine features of a traditional Aboriginal language with the more dominant languages Kriol or (forms of) English (O’Shannessy 2011: 85f). The most widely used modern Aboriginal languages, however, are English-based, and today, virtually all Aboriginal people in Australia use some form of English in their daily interactions with the mainstream community as well as with each other. Also, a number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons speak a creole as their first or second language. The two major Australian creoles are Northern Territory Kriol and Torres Strait Creole with speaker populations of around 20,000 (Harris 2007: 145; AIATSIS/FATSIL 2005) and 23,000 (AIATSIS/FATSIL 2005), respectively. Both have been recognised as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages in 1991 and have undergone standardisation; they are now also being used as languages of education and in the public domain (Mühlhäusler 1996a: 14). Table 2. Post-contact languages Spoken by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in Australia. Language variety Examples 1 English (St)AusE, Aboriginal Englishes 2 English-based contact languages (pidgins, creoles, bilingual mixed languages) Kriol, Torres Strait Creole 3 Other contact languages Broome Pearling Lugger Pidgin (no longer in full use) 4 Traditional Aboriginal languages (including koinés and lingue franche) Arrernte, Dhuwaya, Kala Kawaw Ya/Kala Lagaw Ya, Pitjantjatjara, Warlpiri, 5 ‘Mixed’ and 'new' forms of Aboriginal languages Gurindji-Kriol, Light Warlpriri, Modern Tiwi 45 The most widely used modern Aboriginal languages, however, are English-based and today, virtually all Aboriginal people in Australia use some form of English in their daily interactions with the mainstream community as well as with each other. Also, a number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons speak a creole as their first or second language. The two major Australian creoles are Northern Territory Kriol and Torres Strait Creole with speaker populations of around 20,000 (Harris 2007: 145; AIATSIS/FATSIL 2005) and 23,000 (AIATSIS/FATSIL 2005), respectively. Both have been recognised as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages in 1991 and have undergone standardisation; they are now also being used as languages of education and in the public domain (Mühlhäusler 1996a: 14). 4.2.1 Kriol The term Kriol describes an English-based creole language which emerged in the first half of the 20th century in the northern parts of Australia. Its cradle was the Anglican Mission at Roper River in the Northern Territory, which was established in 1908 (see also 5.2.3). Here, about 70 children of different linguistic and cultural background were forced into contact through the dormitory system. In need of a common language, the children created the creole as their primary means of communication, drawing on the resources of the Northern Territory Pidgin English used between the Aboriginal and European population of the region and the English they were exposed to at school (Harris 2004: 201). In the following decades, a number of regional Kriol varieties emerged in the Northern Territory and the Kimberley area of Western Australia, and today Kriol is spoken in more than 100 communities in the Australian ‘Top End’, the northernmost area of the Northern Territory, and in neighbouring areas of Western Australia and Queensland. While in the early periods of creolisation, the creole was developed as a lingua franca and quickly adopted as a first language, the spread of Kriol in more recent periods has resulted in the use of Kriol as both a first and second language. Also, it is not a creole for the entire Kriol-speaking community. In some areas and for some speakers, Kriol is still a pidgin, as its predecessor, the Northern Territory Pidgin English did not undergo creolisation, even though in some areas it underwent expansion7 (Harris 1986: 317ff). Harris (2007: 145) suggests that there are approximately 15,000 first language speakers and another 30,000 or more for whom Kriol is a second language or lingua franca. Concerning the social stratification of Kriol, we can observe a continuum of varieties which includes ‘light’ and ‘heavy’ forms of Kriol, i.e. varieties closer 7 Leitner (2004b: 99) suggests that in some cases, the absence of a creolisation process may be attributed to the relative strength of the local languages that provided the opportunity to shift to another Aboriginal variety. 46 to English and others closer to the Aboriginal languages, as well as other varieties that have provided input. Leitner (2004b: 100), for example, distinguishes lait ‘light’, hebi ‘heavy’ and prapa ‘proper’ varieties of Kriol. Hence, we must be aware that we are not dealing with one homogenous Kriol-speaking community. The regional varieties that can be identified differ in their phonological, lexical, and grammatical structures as well as in the different ‘social attitudes’ connected with them (Munro 2001: 249), and speakers acknowledge these regional differences and identify strongly with ‘their’ form of Kriol. The identification with a particular local variety is such that Munro (2001: 266) reports that “[i]t is offensive to suggest to speakers of one variety of Kriol, say Roper Kriol for example, that they speak the same as someone from Daly River, for example. Distinctions are even more strongly felt between the states”. Map 2. Kriol Speaking Region (adapted from Munro 2001: 246). There is and has been some debate about whether the local forms should be defined as varieties of a single Kriol language or whether it is more appropriate to see them as separate Kriol languages (see for example Munro (2001), 47 Mühlhäusler (1996c), Rhydwen (1993)). It is further unclear whether there was one place of creole genesis, i.e. in the Roper River area, from which Kriol has subsequently diffused into other parts of the NT, or whether the regional variation must be ascribed to several instances of creole genesis, and the different varieties have begun to converge into one. More recently, Bible translation programs and the development of a written norm appear to have promoted a standardisation process. Yet, according to Mühlhäusler (1996c: 128), the development of a set of uniform Kriol varieties out of a number of highly variable systems is related to “acts of identity”, i.e. the speakers’ wish to identify with a particular group and an identifiable language. He further argues that the idea of one Kriol language that is maintained by some linguists “appears to be the result of external status planning”, as well as of Kriol’s reported rising status among Kriol speakers and a growing acceptation as a language of its own also by non-Aboriginal people. As O’Shannessy (2011: 92) points out, situations of bi- or multilingualism involving traditional languages, contact languages, and forms of English may favour “layers of pressure”. While StAusE is the language of education, administration, and government, it is often only of limited use for Aboriginal people in northern Australia, where a form of AborE and/or Kriol are more common and where there exists considerable pressure to use these varieties in communication with other Aboriginal people. “All three languages, SAE [Standard Australian English, K.L.], AborE and Kriol, exert pressure on the local languages, by narrowing or removing the communicative space in which the local languages have prestige” (O’Shannessy 2011: 92), and thus the use of AusE, AborE, and Kriol increases in public and private domains. In the more remote areas, Kriol and/or AborE may even exert greater pressure on traditional languages than English does, given that here, speakers interact more frequently with other speakers of these varieties than with speakers of AusE. For many Aboriginal people, the use of Kriol is more attractive than that of other varieties, since it is clearly distinct from the colonial language English and since the language is (almost) exclusively used among the Aboriginal community; it is a marker of Aboriginal identity. The diverse substrate influences make it a pan-Aboriginal language that nevertheless exhibits regional variation and distinctiveness. 4.2.2 Torres Strait Creole and Torres Strait English Torres Strait Creole is the second major Australian creole variety. The creole, known variously as (Torres Strait) Broken, Cape York Creole (Mühlhäusler 1996c: 79), Pizin, Big Thap, Blaikman, or Ailand Talk, is spoken by most of the inhabitants of the Torres Strait Islands, which lie between Cape York Peninsula and Papua New Guinea, as well as by many Torres Strait Islander people living in the Cape York communities on the adjacent northern Queensland 48 mainland (Shnukal 2004a: 180). Torres Strait Creole originates from Pacific pidgins and is thus related to Pacific creoles. At the same time, it is assumed to be unrelated to its geographical neighbour, Kriol of the Northern Territory and the Kimberleys. According to Shnukal (2004a: 180ff), Torres Strait Creole is a creolised variety of the Pacific Pidgin English, carried to the Torres Strait Islands by Pacific Islanders involved in the trepang trade and the pearling industries which developed in the late 1840s and brought Europeans, Pacific Islanders, Papua New Guineans, Australian Aboriginals, Filipinos, Indonesians, and Japanese to the Islands (Shnukal 2004b: 112). Albeit about 85% of the creole’s lexicon is English-derived, Torres Strait Creole mirrors the phonological, semantic, and pragmatic structures of the traditional Islander languages rather than those of English, and when spoken at normal speed, the creole is unintelligible for speakers of AusE. Due to the substrate influence from the original Islander languages, two varieties of the creole can be distinguished, viz. an eastern variety, which shows influence from the Papuan language Meriam Mir, and a western variety that shows substrate influence from the Australian Pama-Nyungan language Kala Lagaw Ya (Shnukal 2004a: 182f). External influences were provided by Melanesian workers previously employed on Queensland sugar cane plantations who came to the islands in search of employment (Mühlhäusler 1996c: 79). Despite lexical and phonological differences, the two dialects are mutually intelligible (Shnukal 1988a: 3ff). According to Shnukal (2004a: 182), Torres Strait Creole, which quickly became an important means of inter-Islander communication, bridging the communicative gap between the speakers of two mutually unintelligible traditional languages, has now largely replaced the islands’ original languages8. She (2004a:180) assumes that at the beginning of the 21st century, Torres Strait Creole was a first language for about 3,000 of the 4,000 inhabitants of the islands and a second language for up to 12,000 people, including those living in the mainland communities of Cape York9. Yet again we are not dealing with one uniform variety. Rather, Shnukal (2004a: 182ff) observes that Torres Strait Creole shows traces of a post-creole continuum with the variety spoken by the younger generation being more strongly influenced by the dominating English substrate and resembling the phonological, semantic, and syntactic patterns of AusE more closely. According to her, it is not feasible to predict whether 8 The Second National Indigenous Languages Survey, however, provides contradicting information, saying that “the data from the Language Attitude Survey shows that many if not all speak Yumplatok in addition to local traditional languages, such as Kala Kawaw Ya (and its close relatives) and/or Meriam Mir’ (AIATSIS/FATSIL 2014:18). 9 See 4.5.2 for a discussion of speaker numbers in Census counts. 49 Torres Strait Creole will continue to exist as a creole or develop into an ethnic dialect of AusE within a few generations. In fact, the development of a Torres Strait Islander dialect of English can already be observed in some of the mainland communities. According to the 1996 Census, 85% of those who self-identify as Torres Strait Islander person now live in the coastal regions of the Western Australian Cape York mainland. In these communities, many Torres Strait Islander people have intermarried with the local Aboriginal population, and in the northern communities of the Cape York Peninsula, many young people are of a mixed Islander/Aboriginal/Asian and Pacific Islander descent. Like their peers on the islands, these young Australians perceive the creole as a marker of a new and distinct (multi-)ethnic identity, and a way to overcome the cultural and linguistic barriers previously existing between the different peoples. A similar phenomenon can also be observed in communities further south where young speakers, many of whom are also of mixed descent, refuse a categorisation as Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, or Pacific Islander person. Instead, they prefer to self-identify as ‘urban blacks’, an identification that is based on the wish to separate themselves from the European mainstream society rather than to express their affiliation with a particular group. Their speech, however, is not identical with the creole used in the northern communities, but is better described as a dialect of English which includes features from both Aboriginal and Islander languages, mixed with lexical features from African American Vernacular English (Shnukal 2004b: 116ff). Like the forms of English commonly referred to as ‘Aboriginal English’, the English spoken by bi- or multilingual Torres Strait Islander people must be seen as distinct from the AusE used by the mainstream society and should be regarded as yet another variety of indigenised English which Shnukal (2001) has termed “Torres Strait English”. She (2001: 182f) explains that while Torres Strait English is also clearly distinct from Torres Strait Creole, the two varieties continue to influence each other, and there is some degree of convergence between the two that makes it hard even for speakers of the two varieties to draw a clear-cut boundary between them. No one single form of Torres Strait English exists, rather, the name should be seen as describing a range of English varieties that are “characterised by a number of variable, phonological, grammatical and lexical features, some of which also occur in other nonstandard AusE varieties, including Aboriginal Englishes, others which are unique to it” (Shnukal 2001: 184). The features most striking for outsiders belong to the field of the lexicon. Many younger speakers include lexical material from Aboriginal English varieties and African American Vernacular English. But Torres Strait English has also borrowed, and continues to do so, from the traditional languages of the Torres Strait Islands and the creole. The borrowed terms are typically used to express culturally significant concepts for 50 which no equivalents in English exist, when English terms are inadequate for lack of cultural value, or for rhetorical reasons. In some cases, Torres Strait Islander language words are used as euphemisms when English terms are perceived to be too explicit. In addition, TSE makes distinctive use of kinship terms which may be extended in their meaning to be used with close friends e.g. sissy/my sister ‘female sibling’, auntie ‘female of above generation’, uncle ‘male of above generation’ (Shnukal 2001: 192ff). In the following, we will see that many of these features are shared with varieties of Aboriginal English; so is the motivation that underlies their use. 4.2.3 Aboriginal English The impact of English on the Australian languages is described by Malcolm (2000a: 123) in the following way: Since the coming of English speaking colonists to Australia from 1788 there has been a massive shift to English among the formerly multilingual Indigenous population. Probably fewer than one in four Aboriginal people today use a traditional language and most would be monolingual in English. Today, English is the first language for the majority of all Aboriginal Australians, and it is a second or other language for practically all the remaining Aboriginal population (Harkins 2000: 60). This is not surprising, given that English is the official language of education, administration, and law, and generally the language of the Australian mainstream society. In the course of the ongoing loss of the original languages – provoked by the very introduction of the English language on the Australian continent – the colonisers’ language has come to adopt a significant role within the post-contact Aboriginal language ecology. Yet, in many instances, the forms of English spoken by Aboriginal people differ in many aspects from the Australian English spoken by the mainstream society, so that Malcolm (2000a: 123) continues as follows: However the English repertoire and patterns of language use among Aboriginal Australians are distinctive and show the enduring influence of culturespecific interactional norms and values. It has been argued (e.g., Eades 1983) that English has become an Aboriginal language. This language is marked by linguistic, semantic and pragmatic differences from Australian English and, for many Aboriginal Australians, forms part of a bidialectal repertoire which serves them for interaction in different contexts within Australian society. This form of English is usually referred to as ‘Aboriginal English’ in the literature. According to Malcolm (2001b), AborE may be compared to other socalled “New Englishes” that have developed as the result of British colonisation. It is an indigenised form of English in so far as the language of the invaders was adapted to the Aboriginal cultural and linguistic tradition. Hence, even though its emergence occurred simultaneously to the development of AusE, beginning in the late 18th century (Malcolm 2001a: 201), AborE must be seen as an independent phenomenon. Further, it needs to be distinguished 51 from the creoles that have a regionally restricted use. Kaldor & Malcolm (2004: 69ff) suggest further criteria that set AborE apart from the creoles: Its origins. In the following chapters we will see that, albeit multiple and historically complex, the origins of AborE are clearly distinct from those of the major Australian creoles Kriol and Torres Strait Creole. Its functions and motivations. Different to Kriol or Torres Strait Creole that arose as communicative tools in situations in which there was no full access to Standard English, some varieties of AborE (even though not all of them) developed from processes of formal learning that aimed for competence in Standard English. In addition, AborE has become a medium of communication both within Aboriginal society and with non-Aboriginal people. The creoles, on the other hand, are not used for the latter purpose. Its mutual intelligibility with (Standard) Australian English. Even though the differences between AborE and AusE can cause misunderstanding and communication problems between speakers of the two dialects, varieties of AborE are generally better understood than Kriol or Torres Strait Creole, which are hardly comprehensible for speakers of AusE. Speaker awareness. The use of the term ‘Kriol’ has become accepted in the northern parts of Australia and Kriol has increasingly been recognised as a linguistic variety of its own. In contrast, AborE is generally identified as a form of English, although it is usually classified as ‘blackfella English’ or ‘blackfella talk’ that clearly differs from the Standard varieties perceived as ‘posh’, ‘flash’ or ‘strong’ English, ‘whitefella talk’. Its lack of a unique orthographic system. Literary programmes, Bible translation, and bilingual education have led to the development of a Kriol orthography that is based on a phonemic representation of the spoken language. Texts in Kriol orthography unmistakably show that the written creole is not English. AborE, on the other hand, is usually presented through English orthography that has been modified to a certain degree in order to reflect its unique features that differentiate it from St(Aus)E. Structural differences. The phonological, morphological, syntactic, and lexical features found in AborE generally differ from those of the creoles even though both AborE and the creoles exhibit continua ranging from ‘light’ to ‘heavy’, which sometimes makes it difficult to draw a clear line between the two and speakers may draw on a variety of resources. As the last point indicates, in practice it is not always easily feasible to distinguish between forms of AborE and the creoles; neither is it always possible to straightforwardly define the linguistic repertoire of individual speakers as either Kriol or AborE. As should be clear by now, the post-contact Aboriginal language ecology encompasses a continuum of linguistic varieties that 52 include (modified and traditional forms of) Aboriginal languages, Indigenous and English-based contact varieties, Aboriginal forms of English, as well as forms of standard and non-standard AusE, with AborE occupying a position between the (English-based) contact languages and AusE (Leitner 2004c: 81). Aboriginal speakers can thus draw on an array of different linguistic resources that form their personal speech styles and allow them to fine tune their speech according to the situation and their communicative intentions. Thus, it is often not possible to determine which elements should be allocated to AborE, the contact languages, and the traditional languages. The different varieties that constitute the post-contact Aboriginal language ecology, although identifiable as individual languages, may overlap, and AborE and the creoles share features with AusE and the traditional language varieties as well as with each other. In this context, Leitner (2004b: 144) suggests that “[...] even today, contact languages reveal a shared base that their speakers can exploit to signal specific shades of meaning, loyalties with their mob, their region of origin, an urban, rural or traditional orientation.” 4.3 Assessment of the Endangerment Situation Having taken a look at the post-contact Aboriginal language ecology and the processes that lead to its formation, it is time to return to the topic of Aboriginal language maintenance and loss. So far, we have merely provided a rough estimate of the current situation, stating that the degree of language loss is enormous and that only a small number of the traditional languages are still being retained. In the following, we will try to present a more detailed picture, based on the findings of the 2001 SOIL report and the 2005 NILS report which will be complemented with data from the last two Australian Census rounds. In State of Indigenous Languages in Australia – 2001 (SOIL), McConvell & Thieberger (2001: 2) point out that “[t]here has been a decrease of 90% in the number of Indigenous languages spoken fluently and regularly by all age groups in Australia since 1800”. They further observe that “[t]here has been a decrease in the percentage of Indigenous people speaking Indigenous languages from 100% in 1800 to 13% in 1996”. Still, these figures, alarming as they are, deal with a time period of 200 years. Contemplating the speed with which Aboriginal languages have declined in the recent past, the situation becomes even more worrisome. Considering the accelerating loss of languages and the decline of speaker numbers in the period 1986-1996, the authors warn that “[i]f these trends continue unchecked, by 2050 there will no longer be any Indigenous languages spoken in Australia.” They concede that the stage of complete extinction will probably not be reached in the near future, but still underline the graveness of the situation: 53 It is unlikely that this prediction will be borne out in exactly this way since the trend will probably level out at the last leaving a handful of strong languages still spoken for another generation or two, but the overall scenario is nevertheless bleak. The 2005 National Indigenous Language Survey is another comprehensive recent work on matters of language maintenance and loss in Australia. Its main findings concerning the vitality of the Australian languages are: • Most of Australia’s traditional languages are no longer fully or fluently spoken. • The majority of the Australian languages have reached a stage of more extreme endangerment, that is, they have only older speakers. Few languages show an early stage of moderate endangerment. • Once language shift starts, it usually spreads quickly through all generations. In some cases, a group of older speakers will continue to use the language for up to 20 years after language shift has reached all generations. • About 145 languages are still spoken. Still, 110 of these need to be considered critically or severely endangered as they are only used by small groups of speakers, most of whom are over 40 years of age. These languages are in an advanced stage of endangerment and will die out within the next two to three decades, if not earlier. • Only about eighteen languages can be considered ‘strong’ in the sense that they are spoken by all age groups. While this number has been relatively steady in the past few years and some of the ‘strong’ languages speaker numbers are even increasing, three to four others begin to show signs of endangerment status. • Although many languages are no longer fully spoken, single words and phrases are remembered and continue to be used. In addition, considerable community support for revitalisation programs exists. (AIATSIS/FATSIL 2005: 3ff, 67) In 2014, the results of the Second National Indigenous Language Survey (NILS 2) were published which complement and update the 2005 results. The findings of the 2014 survey confirm the fears voiced by many researchers in the field: within less than a decade, the number of Aboriginal languages spoken in Australia has dropped from 145 to 120, and only 13 languages can still be considered ‘strong’. Thus, five of the formerly ‘strong’ languages must now be seen as ‘moderately endangered’. This downwards trend stretches through all categories, even though in some cases, language maintenance and revival efforts appear to yield first positive results: 54 There appear to now be around 100 languages that can be described as severely or critically endangered, but at the same time a fair number of languages in this category, perhaps 30 or more, are seeing significant increases in levels of use as a result of language programs (AIATSIS/FATSIL 2014: xxi). In the following, we will examine more recent Census data to find out if these trends are continuing. Since 1996, the Census also records which languages are spoken by Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. Census data is thus the most comprehensive survey of speakers of Australian languages in the sense that it provides speaker numbers for the entire country on a regular basis. Still, Census results must be carefully interpreted and cannot be equated with data provided by releases such as the NILS Report, as the Census neither asks for speakers’ levels of proficiency, nor for frequency of use of Aboriginal languages. In addition, the Census specifically asks whether individuals speak an Aboriginal language at home, which may possibly lead to under-reporting. This notwithstanding, the Census provides information on language use which is based on a regular and recurring collection of data, so that the results of several Census rounds can be compared to identify trends over a period of several years. Age group data further allows identifying patterns of language shift. In 2006, the majority of the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, i.e. 372,000 persons, reported to use English as their only language. However, another 52,000 persons claimed to speak an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language at home (ABS 2012b). In 2011, the number of those who reported to speak only English rose to 453,896 persons, or 82.8% of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander respondents. Another 60,552 persons, or 11.0% of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons, maintained to speak an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language at home. The remainder either speaks another language or did not state language use (ABS 2012c). The use of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander languages was more frequently reported by residents living in geographically remote parts of the country. In 2006, only 4% of the total of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language speakers lived in major cities. In contrast, 14% lived in remote areas and 76% in very remote areas. More than half, i.e. 56% of those who reported to use an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language at home lived in the Northern Territory. In this state, 59% of the total Aboriginal population reported to speak an Aboriginal language (ABS 2010a). 55 Table 3. Most Commonly Spoken Indigenous Languages10, adapted from (ABS 2010b). Language Total no. of Speakers % of Aboriginal Language Speakers 1 Torres Strait Creole 5,769 11.1% 2 Kriol 3,869 7.4% 3 Australian Indigenous Languages, nfd 3,671 7.1% 4 Arrernte 2,796 5.4% 5 Djambarrpuyngu 2,732 5.3% 6 Pitjantjatjara 2,592 5% 7 Warlpiri 2,468 4.7% 8 Murrinh Patha 1,833 3.5% 9 Tiwi 1,701 3.3% 10 Alyawarr 1,658 3.2% 11 Luritja 1,474 2.8% 12 Anindilyakwa 1,259 2.4% 13 Kala Kawaw Ya/Kala Lagaw Ya 1,069 2.1% 14 Burarra 1,007 1.9% 15 Wik Mungkan 990 1.9% 16 Anmatyerr 988 1.9% 17 Ngaanyatjarra 970 1.9% 18 Kunwinjku 907 1.7% 19 Guugu Yimidhirr 759 1.5% 20 Yolngu Matha, nfd 640 1.2% The Australian Bureau of Statistics National Tables on Population Characteristics, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, Australia - Most commonly spoken Indigenous languages, Indigenous persons (ABS 2010b), based on the results of the 2006 Census, details the 20 largest Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages with respect to speaker populations. Of these 10 Note that the table includes two entries of languages classified as nfd. It thus exemplifies another problematic issue with regard to Census data, as in several instances, languages and dialects are arranged into larger groups and language names that cannot be identified properly are either coded as nfd ‘not further defined’ or nec ‘not elsewhere classified’. In the former case, the respondent did not specify a language name, in the latter case, the language name is specified by the respondent but the name stated cannot be allocated to a variant in the Australian Bureau of Statistics Standard Classification thesaurus (McConvell & Thieberger 2001:42ff) Thus, the existence of multiple spellings and the complex naming patterns may complicate the interpretation of Census data. 56 20 varieties, only fourteen have 1,000 or more speakers. Apart from the ‘strong’ traditional languages, the two largest Australian creoles, Torres Strait Creole and Kriol, are the most widely spoken Aboriginal languages. Still, the speaker numbers for the two large English-based varieties Kriol and Torres Strait Creole cannot be taken at face value. Much higher speaker numbers are suggested in the literature, e.g. Walsh (2010: 82) suggests a speaker population of approximately 20,000 for Kriol. LoBianco & Rhydwen (2001: 401), too, propose speaker populations of around 20,000 for both languages (cf. 4.2.1 and 4.2.2). Discussing this phenomenon in relation to 1996 Census data, McConvell & Thieberger (2001: 41) suggest that either respondents did not think that Kriol was an Aboriginal language or that it was identified as a second language and thus not counted, due to Census design. At the same time, we must also account for possible over reporting, e.g. respondents claiming to use an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language while their speech is actually a variety of English or a creole interspersed with words and phrases of the traditional language. For the latest Census round, the only information available concerns the most frequently spoken language groups instead of individual languages. According to the 2011 Census of Population and Housing, Arnhem Land and Daly River Region Languages were the most widely used varieties, spoken by 18% of those who reported to speak an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language. Western Desert Languages were spoken by another 14%, and Yolngu Matha and Torres Strait Island Languages were each spoken by 11% of all Aboriginal or Torres Strait language speakers. Arandic languages were spoken by 9% and Northern Desert Fringe Area languages were spoken by 8% of language speakers (ABS 2012d). 4.4 Maintaining Cultural Identity in the Face of Language Loss Despite these alarming numbers, some positive developments could be observed in the more recent past. In the 1970s, old negative language policies and practises were replaced by new approaches and the abolition of assimilation policies gave way to a new multiculturalism. A reawakening Aboriginal self-consciousness and a newly found ethnic identity have triggered a growing interest in Aboriginal languages which may help to slow down the decline and even result in efforts to revive a number of moribund or extinct languages (Wurm 2010: 449). Several initiatives aimed at revitalising Aboriginal languages have achieved that a number of threatened languages are currently being learnt and spoken again. Some languages that had been thought extinct or on the brink of extinction have been brought back and several languages 57 now have partial speakers also among the younger generations (Walsh 2010: 85). In addition, Walsh (2007: 79f) explains that there are only few Aboriginal people who do not at least know a few words or phrases of their ancestral language. Even though many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons may feel embarrassed, given their lack of knowledge of the language, the knowledge of these few words provides them with pride as they can be used as a marker of a linguistic identity. In some regions of the country, words and phrases of languages considered ‘extinct’ are still in regular use and the elders in the community have retained considerable vocabulary knowledge. They object strongly to the idea of their language being a ‘dead’ language (McConvell & Thieberger 2001: 22). Jeanie Bell, Aboriginal linguist and educator, contends that even in urban areas, such as those of south-east Queensland, a significant number of traditional language words are remembered. Most of these are terms denoting body parts, kinship terms, and place names, but also ‘swearwords’ and entire sentences may be recalled and used (Bell 2003: 165). For many Aboriginal people, their ancestral languages are an integral part of their cultural heritage and identity. These in turn are expressed through the traditional languages which store crucial cultural and religious information. Examples in point are accounts of the creation of the land by the Dreaming beings: narrated through the medium of traditional languages, the Dreaming Stories provide explanations for the significance of particular sites and the land’s relation to the people and the language. The continuing significance of this type of knowledge embedded in traditional languages is underlined by Bell (2003: 169): It’s probably hard for non-Aboriginal people to understand how much our own languages enrich our lives as Indigenous people. To speak our language, even if we only know a few words, gives us a real connection with our land and our culture. We can never get that from English, no matter how well we speak it. Our languages are much more descriptive of the environment and the landscape they developed in. And they’re much more descriptive of relationships in our culture. We have whole kinship systems in Aboriginal society that English just doesn’t have accurate terminology for. Despite its importance, the connection between language and cultural heritage often receives only little recognition, as is pointed out by McConvell & Thieberger (2001: 27): Language is often overlooked because it is an intangible part of culture and something which is used constantly by people, without them reflecting on it or being conscious of it. Nevertheless language is one of the most significant aspects of the cultural heritage of any group. It is both part of culture and the most important means of expressing culture and communicating culture to others and transmitting it to the next generation. 58 According to these authors, traditional language is the “key” to culture. In the face of the changes brought about by the European colonisers, knowledge embedded in traditional languages continues to be relevant for Aboriginal society and “the old languages are providing crucial ways of understanding the present and are assisting Indigenous groups to survive as distinct peoples with a unique culture in the future” (McConvell & Thieberger 2001: 20). Aboriginal communities are known by the name of their language and this language contains unique cultural information. For this reason, McConvell & Thieberger define Australian languages as a “storehouse of knowledge and tradition” (2001: 1), which not only encodes crucial religious and socio-cultural concepts but at the same time also encompasses a wealth of expertise and understanding of the unique Australian environment and ecology. Also, for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, language provides the basis for the formation of a distinct identity as Indigenous Australians. Grenoble (2011: 36) points out that “for many groups, language is an integral part of identity, and people who lose their language often speak of a deep sense of loss of self, of loss of identity”. Most Aboriginal Australians hold a particular language identity, identifying with a particular tribal group which, at the same time, is also a language group (AIATSIS/FATSIL 2005: 20f), and McConvell and Thieberger (2006: 56) observe that the identity functions of a language can continue even after the language has ceased to be spoken on an everyday basis. Kriol, Torres Strait Creole and especially also AborE have been able to cushion the disruption of the traditional language ecology by providing speakers with new ways to express a distinctive cultural and linguistic identity and to seek techniques for the continued transmission of cultural knowledge. Despised as incorrect and corrupted speech forms in the past, the modern English-based language varieties have begun to liberate themselves from former pejorative views and are increasingly used by their speakers to fill the gaps torn into their language ecology by colonisation: today, most Aboriginal people participate in some way in the wider Anglo-Australian society, and also members of geographically remote communities do not live in isolation from English-speaking Australia. In such a situation, the new language varieties facilitate interaction between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal speakers. In addition, Kriol, Torres Strait Creole, and AborE have assumed the role of lingue franche in present-day Australian Aboriginal society. The linguistic varieties thereby serve to create and maintain a pan-Aboriginal and pan- Islander community, and moreover, provide their speakers with a tool for developing a pan-Aboriginal identity. At the same time as the creoles and AborE serve as a unifying element, the development of local and regional varieties permits speakers to express regional affiliations and to identify with 59 individual language groups. Also, in a situation in which only a small part of Aboriginal people still speak a traditional language, the modern varieties represent invaluable instruments for the expression of aspects of cultural and religious tradition. They make it possible to communicate these and other issues to the wider Australian society.

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Today, virtually all Aboriginal people in Australia use English in their daily interactions. This is not surprising: in a situation in which many Aboriginal languages are lost beyond retrieval, English, as the official language of education, administration, law, and generally the language of the Australian mainstream society, has become the major medium of communication for the Australian Aboriginal community. Still, Aboriginal English, the variety most commonly spoken by Aboriginal people, often differs in many aspects from what is the accepted linguistic standard in Australia. Adapted to their communicative needs, it allows its speakers to express values, beliefs, and attitudes which are strongly influenced by their socio-cultural background.

Katja Lenz investigates how the lexico-semantics of Aboriginal English provide the means needed to express concepts not shared with speakers of Australian English. Approaching these questions from both the angle of Cultural Linguistics and that of Post-colonial Studies, she further shows how these tools are employed by Australian Aboriginal playwrights, who exploit the lexical resources of AborE for the linguistic construction and assertion of their own and their characters’ Aboriginality.