6 Aboriginal English in:

Katja Lenz

Lexical Appropriation in Australian Aboriginal Literature, page 83 - 132

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

Tectum, Baden-Baden
Bibliographic information
83 Part Two: Aboriginal English(es) – an Aboriginal Code in an English Guise? 85 6 Aboriginal English Aboriginal English, the major language variety spoken by Aboriginal people in Australia (apart from (St)AusE) is defined by Rigsby (1998: 825) as “those distinctive varieties of English which have been vernacularised in Aboriginal communities” and which “display significant structural, lexical and pragmatic [...] continuities with regional substrate indigenous [sic] languages, but they are kinds of English, not creole varieties”. AborE is the variety of English which Aboriginal people have made their own through a process of indigenisation and appropriation of the colonisers’ language (Harkins 2000: 61). The outcome of this process is a dialect which serves its speakers’ purposes and provides “an alternative identity-bearing form of communication” (Malcolm 2013: 44) in a situation in which an increasing number of Aboriginal languages have become extinct. This new and appropriated form of the colonial language not only provides speakers with a language variety which caters for their communicative needs but also equips them with a tool for the expression of a distinct cultural and social identity. By today, AborE has developed into the most widely spoken variety within the new Aboriginal language ecology and functions both as an intra-group language and for wider communication with the mainstream society. 6.1 The AborE Continuum AborE is best described as a “social dialect of English”, in the sense that it is spoken all across Australia and that who acts as speaker is determined socially rather than regionally, that is, by membership in the wider Australian Aboriginal community (Hill 2002: 90). Still, we will see in the following that despite the pan-Australian character of AborE, regional variation resulting from the substrate influence of the local languages is a distinctive characteristic of the dialect. AborE must be differentiated from the other linguistic varieties that constitute the post-contact Aboriginal language ecology, such as pidgins, creoles, and also AusE, even though it shows both lexical and grammatical influence from pidgin and creole languages, as well as grammatical features that can also be observed in various non-standard forms of English. AborE varieties further draw on the resources of local and regional Aboriginal languages. It can thus be described as occupying a position between the contact languages and the AusE spoken by the Australian mainstream society; it involves a range of varieties creating a continuum that, at one end, shares many features with creoles, while the varieties at the other end of the continuum bear much re- 86 semblance to (standard) forms of AusE (Malcolm & Grote 2007). Consequently, as Harkins (1994: 187) points out, even though usually defined as a dialect of English, the term ‘Aboriginal English’ is better understood in analogy to terms such as ‘British English’, ‘Australian English’ or ‘American English’ which express a social reality in that they allow their speakers to identify as Britons, Australians, Americans, independent of factors such as use of standard/non-standard forms or regional and social characteristics. Just as there is not one single, homogeneous dialect of British or Australian English, AborE is far from being uniform and involves a range of forms, or even “a range of continua of Aboriginal English dialects” (Eades 1996: 134). These vary from acrolectal or ‘light’ varieties close to Standard English to basilectal or ‘heavy’ varieties which are close to the creoles. While the former typically occur in urban or metropolitan areas, the latter are more likely to be spoken in the more remote parts of Australia where creoles and traditional languages are still in use and bilingualism or multilingualism in these linguistic varieties influence the local or regional forms of AborE. However, not all variation within AborE can be explained by pinning a speaker’s form of speech down to a certain point along the Standard Englishcreole continuum. Instead, we must consider three additional types of variation that cannot be accounted for on the basis of proximity to the substrate or superstrate alone, viz. regional variation, i.e. variation that is due to geographic distribution, social variation, i.e. differences arising in connection with different social contexts, stylistic variation, i.e. variation within a speaker’s linguistic inventory (Kaldor & Malcolm 2004: 71f; Malcolm & Grote 2007: 168ff). Regional variation is the result of those linguistic influences that have shaped AborE in different localities, that is, of the (varying degree of) exposure to other language varieties, including standard and non-standard forms of English, Aboriginal languages, and contact languages. Many of the lexical, phonological, and grammatical features that are characteristic of a particular variety of AborE can be attributed to the traditional language substrate influence. This influence is most notable in the area of lexicology where borrowings from Aboriginal languages, pidgins, and creoles provide a kind of ‘local flavour’. Still, regional lexical variation can also be observed in the use of English-derived lexemes which denote particularly Aboriginal concepts. Cases in point are words which describe events or situations that make a person feel ‘shame’: in South Australia, the expression shame job describes the concept which in Western Australia is known as big shame (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 168f). 87 Less notable perhaps is variation on the level of grammar and phonology. Disparity in morphological and syntactic features is often due to the exploitation of resources of different (dialectal) varieties of English. However, it also appears as a regional phenomenon. For instance, whether or not grammatical features derived from creoles occur in a particular variety of AborE depends on the degree of exposure to such creole varieties. Since the use of creoles is regionally restricted, this degree of exposure varies in different areas. Exposure to pidgins, creoles, and Aboriginal languages is further responsible for much of the variation observed in the domain of phonology, even though many of the phonological features of AborE can be traced back to the influence of non-standard varieties of English that are in use in the respective areas, including features derived from ‘transported’ dialects, such as the Scottish and south western English element in Cape Barren English (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 169f). Arthur (1996: 3) argues that despite all the variation found within AborE, it is possible to make one major distinction between the varieties spoken in the south of Australia (south-western WA, southern SA, Victoria, Tasmania, NSW, and south-eastern Queensland) and those prevailing in the northern parts (the Northern Territory, central Australia, the major part of WA, northern and western Queensland). This north-south division results from the paths taken by the colonial expansion on its way inland and the intensity of early European colonisation in the south which went hand in hand with the eradication and displacement of large parts of the Aboriginal population and led to a severe loss of Aboriginal culture and linguistic variety. Much of northern Australia, on the other hand, was settled in later periods so that here the percentage of the Aboriginal population is much higher than in the south, and the delayed colonisation allowed Aboriginal people to preserve aspects of their cultural and linguistic heritage. These factors impact on the types of English spoken in the Australian north, and the northern varieties are generally closer to the basilectal end of the continuum than those in the south. Also, AborE is more frequently spoken as a second language in the north. Kaldor & Malcolm (2004: 72) further suggest that additional variation may arise from differences between town and camp speech forms, a type of variation that might also be included in the broader category of regional/geographic variation. Social variation involves the speaker’s choice of a particular form of speech that fits the situation in which communication takes place and caters best for the participants in the conversation. Speakers of AborE, like most bilingual or bidialectal speakers, adapt their way of speaking to the social context, the communicative purpose, and their audience, so that, for example, the dialect of English used in official contexts is commonly adjusted to that variety within the speaker’s repertoire which comes closest to Standard English. It thus differs from the English used in communication with family members or within 88 the community where this more formal style would be perceived as inadequate. Also, the linguistic output may be fine-tuned to either allow a better understanding of what is said for non-Aboriginal interlocutors or deliberately prevent them from understanding the contents of a conversation (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 170f). Stylistic variation, the third type of variation discussed here, is the variation within a speaker’s linguistic inventory which, through the exploitation of different resources available, allows him or her to express a linguistic identity and communicate particular meanings. Hence, it enables speakers to distinguish themselves from others by choosing an individual style and by expressing social meanings that are different. At the same time, the speaker expresses his or her biological or cultural affiliation with a particular socio-cultural group, or an emotional or ideological connection to it. This expression of a special identity can be effected on different linguistic levels, e.g. phonologically, through use of certain intonation patterns or pronunciation features, grammatically, or lexically through the choice of particular words or expressions (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 171ff). The latter two may also be used in written language, along with particular discourse markers, and according to Malcolm & Grote (2007: 172), lexical items and expressions are “[p]erhaps the most distinctive linguistic features to communicate style (and identities) in writing”. In addition, while the use of particular grammatical features varies among different speakers, even those whose variety comes close to StAusE frequently employ lexical items that relate to Aboriginal cultural features. Keeping these differences in mind, it is understandable why Eades argues that we not only have to deal with one continuum, but with a whole range of continua. In addition to the types of variation discussed, Kaldor & Malcolm (2004: 72) explain that we must allow for second-language/interlanguage continua as well as developmental/acquisitional continua. Above we have contemplated the different developmental processes that led to the formation of AborE varieties in different parts of the country: in some areas, forms of AborE developed in processes of depidginisation from contact languages. Elsewhere, AborE developed as the result of a process of indigenisation when speakers learnt English as a second language. Other AborEs emerged in a context of (almost) total traditional language loss and a relatively high exposure to English. Diagram 2 is based on Trudgill’s (2000, but first published in 1974) model of the relationship between regional and social variation in British English. Like Trudgill’s model, it acknowledges that regional variation is reduced when speakers choose a more formal, acrolectal variety of AborE that approaches StAusE, in comparison to when they use a more basilectal variety which is marked by a greater degree of substrate influence. 89 Stylistic variation Diagram 2. Variation in Aboriginal English. And yet, irrespective of this wide range of variation and the heterogeneous historical, social, and linguistic factors that have led to a complex pattern of developmental paths of different forms of AborE, Malcolm (2001: 201) and Malcolm & Grote (2007: 163) argue that we are dealing with one single English dialect, subsumed under the heading ‘Aboriginal English’. They explain that the different varieties have undergone a process of levelling, so that today, forms of AborE are sufficiently homogeneous to be recognised as one dialect that is fit to express the cultural and social realities of Aboriginal Australians across the continent. Not all scholars, and especially not all speakers of AborE, agree with this position. According to Eades (1996: 134), many speakers do not identify their variety as ‘Aboriginal English’, but simply refer to it as ‘English’. Others are well aware of the characteristics of their dialect and prefer a term such as “Koori English” which may, but need not, be used in a regionally restricted sense. Russo (2010a: 41ff) explains that the variation which exists within the AborE continuum is a testimony to the diverse traditional language ecology and the heterogeneity of the Aboriginal society at the time of contact. Aboriginal people were denied their diverse cultural and linguistic heritage by the colonisers who introduced the notion of a single homogeneous Aboriginal culture and community. She (2010: 43) maintains that a re-labelling of AborE as ‘Indigenous English varieties’ confirms the diversity of Aboriginal culture and reflects the diverse developmental processes. According to her, the term ‘Aboriginal’ was employed in the 1960s to stress the notion of pan- Regional variation So ci al v ar ia tio n 90 Aboriginality and strengthen pan-Indigenous political movements. At the time, AborE was an important element of this pan-Aboriginal movement, as it was the language that was shared by the Aboriginal community, one that could function as a common medium of protest and action against white administration. Still, more recently, “the strategies associated with pan- Aboriginality or Aboriginality have altered [...] with Indigenous peoples reasserting their identification with specific societies defined by place, language, cultural practises, and kinship”. 6.2 The Role of AborE in the Post-Contact Aboriginal Language Ecology Kaldor & Malcolm (2004: 82, 67) report that the number of Aboriginal people who are gaining competence in Standard Australian English has been growing in the last decades and, moreover, some speakers are shifting to a monodialectal use. Mühlhäusler (1996a: 15) recognises a similar trend, arguing that in fact, these developments noticeably affect the post-contact Aboriginal language ecology with its new forms of multilingualism: The possible change in the linguistic picture of Australia is one from traditional multilingualism, involving over 250 Aboriginal languages, to monolingualism in English. In most parts of Australia this transition is completed, but in the more remote communities there have been a number of alternative responses to the impact of English. These developments are still evident, such as pidgins and creoles, Aboriginal koinés, Aboriginal English and multilingualism or bilingualism. It would appear that of these, any solution that does not involve Standard Australian English in some way, will not be a lasting one. If we reflect on these developments, it seems that we must ask ourselves whether this gradual shift to English and, more importantly, to the dialect spoken by the Euro-Australian majority, marks the beginning of the end of a distinctive Aboriginal language ecology? The answer to this question, however, is ‘no’: despite the widening relevance of (St)AusE for Aboriginal speakers, (St)AusE and AborE complement each other and function in different contexts. Kaldor & Malcolm acknowledge this and concede that even though the use of Standard Australian English has been increasing among Aboriginal Australians in the last years, AborE fulfils functions which the standard language cannot perform. The role of AborE within the post-contact Aboriginal language ecology and the ways in which its position differs from that of AusE becomes clearer in the following quote from Malcolm & Grote (2007: 153): Aboriginal English is at once the product and the symbol of the maintenance of Indigenous identity in the face of linguistic and cultural domination by immigrant Australians. Ironically, it represents a colonisation of the language 91 brought by the immigrants in order to make it serve the purposes of Indigenous speakers. Like the habitat involuntarily shared by its original inhabitants with the newcomers, the language of the newcomers came to be shared for their own purposes by its new Indigenous speakers. In a quite similar vein, Eades (1996: 133) defines AborE as a dialect of English that “differs from Standard Australian English in systematic ways, and which reflects, maintains and continually creates Aboriginal culture and identity”, and Mudrooroo Narogin (Colin Johnson), Australian writer and activist, points out that it is this range of English varieties which Aboriginal speakers “are most at home with” (Johnson 1995: 58). Originally a foreign language, English has now become “the default medium of communication in interactions among the majority of Aboriginal people” (Malcolm 2000a: 140). Even though many Aboriginal Australians are bi- or multidialectal, fluent in AusE as well as in (several forms of) AborE, the standard dialect is often regarded as inappropriate for communication within Aboriginal society. Elsewhere, especially in the geographically more remote areas of the country where a creole or a traditional language is used in interaction among Aboriginal speakers, AborE may be employed in communication with non-Aboriginal interlocutors. It also increasingly serves to communicate Aboriginal ideas, viewpoints, and meanings to the mainstream society. During its history, AborE has held a number of communicative and social functions, and it continues to do so. The most important ones are summarised by Malcolm & Grote (2007: 164ff): a. (early) contact with Europeans, a. communication in employment situations, b. exchanges with Aboriginal people from other language groups, c. the indexation of Aboriginal identity, d. the transmission of Aboriginal culture within families and communities, e. informing non-Aboriginal people about Aboriginal culture and world views through language based art forms. Above, we have seen that the functions (a)-(c) began to be of significance already in the earlier periods of colonisation when forms of English and English-based contact languages enabled cross-cultural communication in a variety of contexts. AborE as medium for inter-group communication, too, quickly gained relevance in the post-contact situation, especially when mission and station life and multilingual employment situations such as those on sheep and cattle stations, in the pearling industry, or in the camel industry forced speakers of non-mutually intelligible Aboriginal languages into contact. Here, early forms of AborE served purposes comparable to those of the NSW contact varieties, that is, it provided speakers with a tool for conceptualising and sharing the contact experience and served as a lingua franca in communities 92 formed by members of different linguistic backgrounds. In present-day Australian society, AborE continues to fulfil these purposes; according to the authors (2007: 166), communication within the Aboriginal community remains the primary function of AborE, even today. As to (d)-(f), it seems that the significance of these functions has been growing in the last few decades. The use of AborE as the language of literature, film, and pop songs is a more recent development. In addition, the role of AborE as marker of Aboriginal identity and transmitter of culture, as well as its use as medium for creative expression, I would suggest, may be related to the changing attitudes towards AborE, its rise in status, its recognition as a dialect of its own, and a growing awareness of and pride in Aboriginal culture. At the same time, (d) and (e) are reactions to the ongoing destruction of what is left of the traditional language ecology, i.e. the loss of the Aboriginal language as carriers of cultural and religious knowledge. Malcolm & Grote (2007: 166f) suggest that for younger speakers who have grown up monolingually with English, AborE provides the connection to an Aboriginal view of the world and creates a bridge to Aboriginal understandings of different domains, such as family, religion, or notions of space and time. It further familiarises the children with traditional communication patterns that, as we will see below, persist in AborE. In the face of the various forms of pressure exerted by the mainstream society, many Aboriginal people struggle to maintain an identifiable linguistic and cultural identity, and AborE has come to be perceived as a possible answer to their needs. As Eades (1996: 134) points out, the dialect has assumed an important role in the creation and expression of a pan-Australian Aboriginal identity. While in the past, the use of AborE was reason for embarrassment and shame on the part of the speakers, it has developed into a symbol of Aboriginality which an increasing number of speakers recognise as a linguistic variety in its own right that is different, but not inferior, to the Standard dialect. As such, AborE is central for the expression of a distinct identity for many Aboriginal people whose physical appearance and lifestyle do not distinguish them from the Australian mainstream community (Eades & Siegel 1999: 267). Perhaps one of the most salient examples of how an Aboriginal identity can be expressed by drawing on the resources of AborE is the utilisation of lexical items that signal the speaker’s affiliation with a particular geographic area and its language(s). This includes the use of regional names for Aboriginal Australians, such as Koori (south-east), Murri (great parts of Queensland), Nyoongah (south-western WA) and Yolngu (north-eastern Arnhem Land), as well as various names of smaller local language groups (Leitner 2004c: 81). AborE may further create a feeling of solidarity among its speakers and, as a bi-dialectal speaker of a Kimberley Aboriginal community has pointed out, provides them “with not only ‘a sense of identity’ but ‘belonging’” (quot- 93 ed in Malcolm & Grote 2007: 166). The use of AborE not only strengthens the bonds between those who share a common linguistic and cultural heritage but also provides a means to set oneself apart from those who do not. It has been shown that even those speakers whose variety is closest to StAusE and who make efforts to improve their proficiency in the standard dialect are increasingly becoming aware of the dialect’s social function and role as a symbol of an Aboriginal identity, and deliberately maintain a form of AborE in their repertoire (Kaldor & Malcolm 2004: 81f). Since its development and early use as a lingua franca, the functions of AborE have continuously been expanded, and the dialect has come to be applied in a number of contexts. It is now increasingly being recognised as a functional system of its own by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people alike and thus gaining acceptance as a modern Aboriginal language. As such, it may become a major influence on AusE (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 168), and some, e.g. Leitner (2007: 222), argue that this process has already been set in motion. Already, we can observe that features of the AborE lexicon have been adopted by speakers of the younger generation and are gradually entering more widely used forms of AusE (see for example Harkins 2000: 73, 76). As the number of those who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Australians is growing, so is their influence in the wider Australian society, and Aboriginal voices are becoming ‘heard’ by all Australians. This is also due to the work of Aboriginal writers, playwrights, singers, and other artists who increasingly rely on Aboriginal modes of expression and whose works now also reach Australian mainstream audiences. These issues will be explored further in chapter 7. 6.3 Feature Description of AborE In order to understand how Aboriginal people have appropriated the language of the colonisers to suit their own purposes and to define the ways in which AborE is employed to index an Aboriginal identity, we must take a closer look at those properties that set AborE apart from AusE and other varieties of English. Like other dialects of English, AborE is distinguished by a set of characteristic features which spread across all levels of the language. As an indigenised form of English, the language has been adapted phonologically, grammatically, lexically, and pragmatically to the social and cultural realities of Aboriginal people and has developed innovative structures which allow for the expression of these realities through English. While some domains, including the lexicon and the field of pragmatics, show many features that are exclusive to AborE, a number of grammatical properties are shared with other (nonstandard) forms of English. Therefore, Harkins (2000: 75) argues that “the combination of them [both unique and shared linguistic features, K.L.] and the 94 patterning of variable features is what makes Aboriginal English an identifiable dialect among other varieties of world English”. The study of AborE varieties began in the 1960s with descriptions of the speech varieties used in different Queensland communities. Since then, a number of studies have investigated the grammatical, phonological, and lexico-semantic structures of AborE varieties spoken across the country. Other fields of research include discourse structures, oral narrative, and AborE pragmatics. Still, a comprehensive description of all the phonological, morphological, syntactic, lexico-semantic, pragmatic, and discourse features occurring in AborE is not feasible for several reasons. Even though Eades (1996: 135) asserts that the majority of these features occur widely in different varieties of Aboriginal English, there is still a considerable amount of variation across the different forms. As such, feature descriptions of AborE are usually limited to the portrayal of a particular variety or a range of neighbouring varieties and cannot be seen as representative for the entire continuum of AborE. Also, several scholars (e.g. Eades (1983), Harkins (1994)) have pointed out that accounts of AborE which focus solely on those features that differ in their form or application from Standard English are not representative of the dialect’s character, as such an approach tends to obscure the real nature of AborE as a vital, expressive and creative linguistic resource – a living tongue which serves the speakers in a large array of functions and situations and which expresses and reflects their culture and social world (Kaldor & Malcolm 2004: 72). In a similar vein, Harkins (1994) argues that instead of contrasting properties of AborE with their StAusE ‘equivalents’, it is necessary to take into consideration the underlying structures and processes that bring about the evolution of novel forms and regulate their usage, and to explain why these features persist in AborE. In her interpretation of the features occurring in the AborE spoken around Alice Springs, Harkins (1994) emphasises the role of transfer from the regional languages, operating on the assumption that most features of Alice Springs AborE reflect structural properties of the local languages rather than pidgin or creole influence. Some of the results of her analysis of Alice Springs AborE will be presented in more detail below in an attempt to comprehend the ways in which the colonisers’ language has been appropriated to answer the Aboriginal speakers’ demands and to express Aboriginal ideas and meanings. Even though the focus of our empirical research will be on the characteristic lexico-semantics of AborE, a brief discussion of AborE phonology, grammar, pragmatics, and the lexicon seems advisable in order to become acquainted with features we might encounter in a later corpus analysis. Since the purpose of the following sections is to provide an outline of those aspects that make AborE a distinguishable dialect of English, it is nevertheless inevitable to 95 revert to a more superficial description and present a list of features which set AborE apart from other varieties of English, first and foremost AusE. In this context, we must also keep in mind that a comparison between AborE and StAusE is not entirely unproblematic as standard forms of any variety are usually associated with a formal, official register and written language, whereas AborE is most commonly used as a spoken language. Further, as should be clear by now, AborE has emerged as a distinctive dialect in a context of multilingualism, with Indigenous languages and contact varieties impacting on its linguistic structures and use. In many regions, this type of language contact still persists as traditional languages and creoles provide a continuing substrate influence which accounts for much of the existing regional variation (Harkins 2000: 61). As a result, varying degrees of influence from the traditional languages and creoles may be distinguished, with the more basilectal varieties of AborE showing a greater number of substrate features than the more acrolectal varieties. And yet, many authors (e.g. Eades 1996; Harkins 1994, 2000; Malcolm 2001a) emphasise the homogeneity and structural similarities which exist across the different varieties. In addition, processes of stabilisation and levelling continue; they are the result of AborE assuming the role of a pan-Australian lingua franca for an Aboriginal population which is increasingly interacting beyond regional boundaries while at the same time becoming involved in the wider Australian society (Harkins 2000: 61). However, before we turn to a more detailed feature description of AborE, we once more need to underline that we are dealing with a variety of English which expresses an Aboriginal worldview. One of the consequences is that differences to AusE and other varieties of English do not only manifest themselves at the level of grammar, the sound system, or the lexicon. Rather, this underlying world view determines how speakers use language, how they behave in particular communicative settings, how they structure spoken and written text, and how they convey and interpret meanings. While these factors, too, are reflected in the dialect, it is not always obvious for speakers of AusE that some of the salient characteristics of AborE need in fact be attributed to different attitudes, perspectives and conversational principles. Königsberg & Collard use the image of an iceberg to show the different levels on which AusE and AborE may vary from each other: [There are] three crucial parts of language difference: the parts that are exposed and obvious, the parts that are very hard to get at and the parts that are hidden under the water. Like the parts of an iceberg that are exposed to the air, some language features are very obvious; they are easily observed in speech and writing. Some aspects of language are almost irretrievable – like the part of the iceberg visible just under the water. Lastly, there are aspects of a language which cannot be understood without being deeply submerged in the culture (Königsberg & Collard 2000, quoted in Hill 2002: 90). 96 Diagram 3. The Language Iceberg (adapted from Hill 2002: 91). On the upper half of the iceberg, the part that is clearly visible above the water, we find the most obvious and most readily recognised features of AborE. These include the sounds employed by speakers of AborE as well as characteristic stress and intonation patterns, grammatical features, such as unfamiliar morphological and syntactic forms, and the ways in which AborE speakers structure oral and written text. Just beneath the surface of the water are the features which, though still discernible, are not as easily identified, viz. the lexical and pragmatic structures which govern meanings and language use. Further down, deeply hidden under the water are the values, beliefs, and attitudes that create the Aboriginal worldview. The following feature analysis is largely based on Malcolm & Grote (2007) who focus on characteristics that generally occur in the “more distinctive varieties of contemporary Aboriginal English”, i.e. those varieties further away from the StAusE end of the continuum. However, as Eagleson’s (1982) study on the forms of AborE used by urban speakers shows, many of the features prevailing in the ‘heavier’ varieties can also be observed in more acrolectal speech forms, if to a lesser degree. Additional information comes from Arthur (1996), Butcher (2008), Eades (1996), Harkins (1994, 2000), Kaldor & Malcolm (2004), Hill (2002), Leitner (2004b), Malcolm (2001a, 2001b, 2002, 2004a, 2004b), Malcolm & Sharifian (2007), Rochecouste (2002), and Sharifian Stress/Intonation (prosody) Sounds (phonology) Words (morphology) Sentences (syntax) Textform/Structure (genres) Meaning (semantics) The way language is used (pragmatics) Values Beliefs Attitudes 97 (2006). Discourse features will not be treated here; for a discussion see for example Malcolm (1994b), Malcolm & Rochecouste (2000), and Malcolm & Sharifian (2002). 6.3.1 Phonological Features AborE varieties show a number of distinctive features which can be traced back to the sound systems of the traditional language substrate. The extent of this substrate influence ranges from being quite profound in the ‘heavy’ varieties of AborE to a minimal influence in the ‘lighter’ and ‘lightest’ AborE varieties which exhibit only few distinctive features. While in the former case, the phonological system of AborE may be nearly identical to that of the traditional languages, acrolectal varieties are frequently only discernible by features such as/h/-dropping or by few instances of allophonic variation. As such, the features discussed in the following should be seen as phonological characteristics that may, but need not, occur in different varieties of AborE. Broadly speaking, we can say that in many varieties of AborE, the consonant and vowel inventory differs from that of StE in such a way that fewer phonemes can be observed, and Malcom and Grote (2007: 154) suggest that the vowels/i/,/e/,/a/,/o/, and/u/“are the most readily distinguished”. Apart from that, the realisation of the individual phonemes may be quite distinct in many varieties. The processes discussed below, e.g. the substitution of fricatives, the reduction of consonant clusters, and the occurrence of h-dropping, can usually be traced back to the phoneme inventory of the traditional languages in which the sounds do not occur. a) Vowels Reduced opposition between high front and mid back vowels • The opposition between high front /i/ and / / as well as between mid back / / and / / is reduced. As a consequence, /i/ and / / and / / and / / may be used interchangeably, as in /kr k/, ‘creek’ and /d g/ ‘dog’ (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 154f). Shortening of long vowels • The long vowels /i:/and /u:/ may be shortened and merge with short vowels so that both seek and sick may be realised as /s k/ (Leitner 2004b: 123). Absence of mid central / / and / / • Mid central / / may be replaced, so that terms such as ‘first’ are realised as /fæs/. Also, / / may be substituted by mid central 98 / / or low central /a/, e.g. /r bat/ ‘Robert’ (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 154f). Monophthongisation • Diphthongs tend to undergo monophthongisation, e.g. /d :/ ‘there’, /ra:d ræ nd/ ‘right around’(Malcolm & Grote 2007: 154f). b) Consonants Distinct fricatives Perhaps the most common feature of AborE phonology is the distinct use of a set of fricatives which typically do not occur in Aboriginal languages (Malcolm 2001b: 225): • Initial /h/ may be absent in words in which its pronunciation is required in StE, e.g. / ladei/ ‘holiday’. As noted above, hdropping can be observed even in lighter varieties (Butcher 2008: 629). • In other cases /h/ may be inserted before an initial vowel even though it is not required, e.g. /handi/ ‘auntie’ (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 154f). • Stops may take the place of fricatives, so that labio-dental /f/ and /v/ become replaced by bilabial /p/ and /b/, e.g. in /p n / ‘finish’ or /d b l/ ‘devil’. Interdental /ð/ and / / may be replaced by alveolar stops /d/ and /t/, e.g. /de / ‘they’ and /t / ‘thing’. The fricative / / may also be replaced by /s/ as in /s / (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 154f). • Kaldor & Malcolm (2004: 76) further suggest that / / may alternate with /f/, e.g. /f / ‘thing’, and that /ð/may alternate with /v/, as in /w v/ ‘with’. They also put forward a possible alternation of the fricatives /s/, / /, /z/ and / /, e.g. in the terms boyce ‘boys’ and fiss ‘fish’. According to Butcher (2008: 628), this type of alternation is more common in lighter varieties, while in heavier varieties fricatives and affricates tend to be replaced by stops. • The pronunciation of /t / and /d / is generally weakened, and the affricates may be replaced by / / or reduced to /t/, e.g. / k/ ‘chuck’ or /m t/ ‘much’ (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 154f). Absence of voiced/unvoiced contrast and replacement of/t/and/d/ • Voiced and unvoiced consonants are not always distinguished so that ‘bed’ may be realised as /b t/ (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 154f). Leitner (2004b: 123) assumes that this phenomenon predominates in areas with less exposure to StAusE. 99 • /t/ and /d/ may be replaced by the flap / / in put it and got it (Kaldor & Malcolm 2004: 76). c) Phonotactics Reduction of consonant clusters • Consonant clusters tend to be reduced, as in /mita/ ‘mister’. This may lead to the final /s/ being omitted, thus affecting the representation of plurals and third pers. sing. forms of the present tense (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 154f). The ending -ing may be realised as / / or / n/, a feature which, according to Malcolm (2001b: 225) is “readily recognised by Australian English speakers because of its stigmatisation”. Aphesis • Forms such as / la/ ‘all the’ result from the omission of /ð/ in the lexeme the (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 154f; Malcolm 2004a: 667. Prothesis • Reanalysis of the word boundaries may result in forms such as this nother one (reanalysis of another) (Kaldor & Malcolm 2004: 76; Malcolm 2004a: 667). d) Morphophonemics Elision Elisions may be used differently than in standard dialects: Liaisons tend to be absent, so that the is invariably pronounced /ð / or /ða/ also before vowels; in addition, there is no insertion of /n/ when the article a is followed by a vowel, e.g. a egg (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 154f). • Forms such as I’ll go are exceptional since ‘will’ is rarely used as an auxiliary (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 154f). • /w/ + vowel may be elided in lexemes such as was or want, e.g. /wi( )z/ ‘we [wa]s’ and /aint aiskrim/ ‘I want an ice cream’ (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 154f). e) Suprasegmental features Distinctive stress and intonation patterns • Aboriginal languages prototypically exhibit prosody patterns in which stress falls on the first syllable of a lexeme. This pattern is often retained, especially in the more basilectal varieties of AborE (Butcher 100 2008: 631), e.g. / kæ gru/ ‘kangaroo’. In other cases, initial vowels tend to be elided in words beginning in unstressed vowels, e.g. way ‘away’, long ‘along’ (Malcolm 2001b: 225). • Questions are not necessarily marked by grammatical and morphological change so that rising intonation is more often employed than in StAusE (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 154f). • Final tags, such as eh, inna, unna, inti, on the other hand, which ask for the interlocutor’s affirmation of shared knowledge are usually marked by falling intonation (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 154f). • Intonation and vowel length may also mark duration, as in We was ri-ii-ide, riding for lo-o-ong time or serve to express intensification, e.g. she got a bi-i-ig mouth (Harkins 2000: 67). 6.3.2 Morphological and Syntactic Features Also in the domain of grammar, AborE varieties exhibit salient morphological and syntactic structures, which are more pronounced at the basilectal end of the continuum. It is most readily observable for speakers of St(Aus)E that several grammatical structures required in StE are optional in AborE or may be absent altogether. Malcolm & Grote (2007: 155) explain this phenomenon as “a carry-over of the processes of simplification from earlier contact varieties from which the dialect has evolved, but also the result of deliberate communicative strategies, as the users of the dialect tend to avoid explicitness and to expect a significant interpretive role on the part of the listener, taking due account of context”. Other grammatical elements may differ in their form from what would be expected in StE. Again, many of these features can be attributed to the substrate influence of traditional languages (Butcher 2008: 631). Hence, it is not surprising to find that many of those grammatical elements the lack of which is a salient marker of AborE do not have a direct equivalent in pre-contact varieties. Other characteristics described below are shared with creoles and non-standard varieties of English. They may have entered AborE via the contact languages (Department of Education and Department of Training and Workforce Development 2012d: 102f). Again, all of the features discussed in the following show a certain level of variability in the sense that while some may occur in a given variety of AborE, others may not. Also, distinctive AborE grammatical features may be used interchangeably with their StE counterparts (Harkins 2000: 69). 101 a) Verb phrase Unmarked verbs and subject-verb agreement • Neither third person singular nor past tense forms are necessarily marked by inflection, e.g. he still live in that house or on that night my dog jump on my head (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 155ff). • In analogy, past-tense forms of ‘(to) be’ are regularised so that was is used for all subjects (Malcolm 2001b: 226). Tense and Aspect • Future is expressed through gonna or, more rarely, through gotta (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 15ff). • Perfect tense is only rarely used (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 155ff). • Certain verbs, such as see, go, come may take on past participle forms when used to express simple past tense; some verbs show irregular inflection, e.g. brang, shined, formed in analogy to other verb forms (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 155ff) • Especially in rural and geographically remote areas, the pre-verbal marker bin signals past tense, e.g. in combinations of bin + invariable present verb stem, as in Jim bin go to Derby; it may also be used as copula, as in ‘e bin in hospital yesterday (Kaldor & Malcolm 2004: 75). Auxiliaries and forms of (to) be • The use of auxiliary verbs in continuous forms is variable. According to Harkins (2000: 71), constructions without auxiliary verb are more common in the present continuous, e.g. we goin, than in past continuous forms where the auxiliary marks tense. Regularisation of the auxiliary is more common in past tense forms, e.g. they was goin (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 155ff). • Also interrogative sentences do not need a copula or auxiliary verb, e.g. What class you in, Kevin? ‘What class are you in, Kevin?’ and Where they went fishing? ‘Where did they go fishing?’ (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 155ff). • Zero-copula forms may be found in present tense constructions where the copula is not needed to mark tense, e.g. this my place (Harkins 2000: 72). • Due to its rare use as copula or auxiliary, be occurs less frequently than in StE. Seldom applied in the present tense, it is mostly used in the forms was and bin in the past tense. Get is preferred also in passive constructions or existential sentences, e.g. e got some sand there ‘there is some sand’ or got kill ‘were killed’ (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 155ff). 102 Negation • Not, never, and more rarely nomore negate the verb, and also double negatives occur frequently, possibly indicating influence from ‘transported’ dialects, e.g. my father don’t shear no more (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 155ff). Passive • The passive is rare in Aboriginal English which often employs active voice where Standard English has a passive form, e.g. A bee sting him ‘He was stung by a bee’). When it is used, the passive is either formed without an auxiliary verb, e.g. Most books made of paper or with the auxiliary get, as in Uncle Steve, he got hit (Malcolm 2004b: 671). Transitive • In areas with stronger creole influence, the affix -im marks transitivity, e.g. you can see im alla fish ‘you can see a lot of fish’ (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 155ff). • Some intransitive verbs may be used transitively in AborE, as in I growled him or my mother grew me up (Kaldor & Malcolm 2004: 77). Emphasis • Verb repetition serves to indicate emphasis, e.g. I bin running, running, running, running, running ‘I ran and ran’ (Department of Education, Western Australia and Department of Training and Workforce Development 2012d: 105). Adverbs • Many adverbs may lack the –ly suffix required in StE (Malcolm 2004b: 671). Adverbials may be constructed using the suffixes -way for adverbs of manner, e.g. quick-way, ‘quickly’ or -time for adverbs of time, e.g. all time, ‘always’. According to Malcolm & Sharifian (2007:387), this suffixation process displays the influence of Kriol on AborE. b) Noun phrase Determiners • Noun phrases in subject position requiring a determiner in StE may not require one in AborE, e.g. man went hunting ‘a man went hunting’, or they may feature a different type of determiner, e.g. one may be used as indefinite article, as in one little boy trouser bin come down ‘a lit- 103 tle boy’s trousers came down’. In analogy, the noun in the object position does not require a determiner, e.g. I went to sandhill ‘I went to the/a sand hill’ (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 155ff). • Other characteristic determiner+noun combinations involve the use of this/dis, that/dat, or them/dem in contexts where StE would use an article, e.g. We ‘as in that old house or might not require any determiner at all, e.g. We went to dat Malcolm Dam, ‘We went to Malcolm Dam’ (Malcolm & Sharifian 2007: 383). • Combinations such as lotta/(big) mob (of/a) or all the/alla may be used as determiners when indefinite plural is expressed, as in mob a little cats ‘a lot of little cats’ and e cutting all the fish tails off ‘he is cutting the tails off the fish’ (Malcolm & Sharifian 2007: 383f). Number • Regular plural inflection occurs where irregular forms would be expected, e.g. womans, mens (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 155ff). • Inflectional plural markers such as plural -s may be optional when plurality can be inferred from context; in such cases, the plural may be expressed by non-inflectional markers such as the determiner forms two, lotta, alla (Harkins (2000: 70). • Count and non-count nouns may not be distinguished, e.g. little woods ‘bits of wood’ (Department of Education and Department of Training and Workforce Development 2012d: 103). Gender • Third person singular pronouns may not be differentiated for gender, so that ‘he’, ‘she’ or ‘it’ may be expressed by e (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 155ff); female referents may also be denoted by he, e.g. He a big girl (Malcolm 2004b: 672). Possessive constructions • Possessives may, but need not, be expressed by -s inflection. Alternatively, possession can be indicated by juxtaposition, e.g. my mum mum ‘my maternal grandmother’, or by periphrastic possessive markers, e.g. he was for my sister husband ‘he was my sister’s husband’ (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 155ff). The pronoun system • Differentiations of case in third person singular and plural pronouns may not be made, so that both elements of the pairs (h)e or (h)im, they/dey and them/dem can be found in the subject slot (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 155ff). 104 • In some of the ‘heavier’ varieties, characteristically those used in areas where creoles exert a stronger influence on AborE, the pronoun system can show differentiations unknown to StE. In these varieties, dual forms may exist along plural forms, e.g. you two and you-n-him may exist along you mob (south-eastern Qld), minyu exists along yupala (Kimberley region, WA). Further dual forms include dattufela/distufela (north-western Qld). Another widely employed plural pronoun which is found in many AborE varieties is yous (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 155ff). • Pronouns may also be reanalysed so that, for example, his becomes hees while himself and themselves change to hisself, theyself/theirself. The third person singular they may function as a possessive pronoun, as in they all got they hat on (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 155ff). • Them is widely employed as demonstrative pronoun, e.g. them blokes (Kaldor & Malcolm 2004: 74). Adjectives • Superlative suffixes or reduplication may be used to intensify adjectives, e.g. we catch one biggest turtle ‘we caught a really big turtle’; e bin catch long-long one ‘he caught a very long one’ (Butcher 2008: 635). • In comparatives, more and the -er suffix may occur simultaneously, e.g. my daughter more older than im ‘my daughter is older than him/her’ (Butcher 2008: 635). • English suffixes may also be attached to lexemes borrowed from Aboriginal languages, e.g. winyarnest ‘very sad’, ‘saddest’ (Nyoongah, Western Australia) (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 155ff). • Especially in predicative use, adjectives may have suffixes attached that suggest nominalisation, e.g. same-one, cheeky-fella (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 155ff). • Adjective forms may function as transitive verbs, as in they cruellin that little boy (Butcher 2008: 639). Change of grammatical category • Aboriginal languages generally do not make a distinction between nouns and adjectives (Arthur 1996: 201). As a result, we find a number of terms that are unusual in their adjectival application, e.g. the noun phrase big mob as in big mob trailers ‘a lot of trailers’ and the verb phrase camping out as in camping out spot (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 158f). The element shame may be used as a noun, as in she getting big shame and as an adjective, e.g. I was shame (Butcher 2008: 638). 105 Prepositions • Prepositions may be omitted, as in long time ago when I was goin [to] Boulder School; when they are used, in, at, on may be used interchangeably, e.g. they went fishing at bush (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 155ff). • Kaldor & Malcolm (2004: 75) report the use of the prepositional elements la/longa from northern locations, e.g. hit him la guts ‘hit him in the guts’. • Prepositional phrases involving motion may feature the element to, e.g. I climb up to the pepper tree, ‘I climbed up the pepper tree’ (Malcolm & Sharifian 2007: 384). • The preposition for introduces an intended prey or harvest, e.g. then they went for kangaroos, or may be used in the sense of ‘on account of’ in reference with human relationships, e.g. I am pregnant for you (Malcolm & Sharifian 2007: 385). c) Syntactic structure Statements • Word order may be reversed to emphasise a particular element, as in only one they caught ‘they only caught one’ (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 155ff). • Objects may be followed by adjectival elements, e.g. we get five sheeps fat one (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 155ff). Questions • Questions may be formed by attaching one of several (invariant) tags to non-inverted structures, e.g. He can walk to Newry, eh? ‘Can he walk to Newry?’ and Sonia talks to no one, unna? ‘Sonia talks to no one, doesn’t she?’ (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 155ff). Predicate marking • Two separate elements may refer to the same subject, viz. a resumptive pronoun may follow the subject NP, as in my uncle he slept at the back of the car (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 155ff). Apposition • When the topicalised element in a sentence is a pronoun or generic noun phrase, it is followed by an appositional NP expansion, e.g. I kill im, that old kangaroo ‘I killed the old kangaroo’ or ‘e buy muticar, that blue-one Toyota ‘he bought a blue Toyota’ (Butcher 2008: 632). 106 Successive pronoun subject deletion • Subjects may not be repeated even though different verbs in the sentence refer to them, e.g. We went with Christine, with bus, to get alla wild bananas, and then Ø come back Trucking Yard, Ø drop us of, then Ø eat them wild bananas (Harkins 2000: 69). Parataxis • Complex sentences may lack conjunctions and other structuring sentence elements such as relative pronouns, e.g. no rain they don’t camp in the cave ‘If there is no rain, they don’t camp in the cave’ and I saw one bird was going across ‘I saw a bird that was going across’ (Kaldor & Malcolm 2004: 74). 6.3.3 Pragmatic Features Most Aboriginal people in Australia, including those who live in geographically remote communities, maintain some degree of contact with the AusE speaking mainstream society. As a result, many speakers of AborE are at least to some extent bidialectal and may adapt their speech according to their needs. The choice of an appropriate form of English in a particular situation usually depends on factors such as the interlocutors and the topic of the conversation. Generally, AborE is chosen in situations where all those present are Aboriginal people, especially so if the conversational topics deal with aspects of Aboriginal life, or when Aboriginal narrative genres are employed. Use of StAusE in a context that demands AborE is regarded as improper and the speaker risks being chided for ‘talking flash’, that is, for using inappropriately formal language. In contrast, institutional settings, impersonal matters, and topics relating to the anglophone European society trigger the use of the standard dialect or a variant closer to the StAusE end of the continuum (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 160). In contrast to AborE phonological and grammatical features which are evident to any listener, the domain of pragmatics is easily overlooked as a field in which AborE differs from StE. Deviating pragmatic principles do not generally manifest themselves in salient forms that stand out as they are obviously different from standard usage. Rather, AborE pragmatics depends heavily on factors such as a culture-specific understanding of what constitutes appropriate communication behaviour and on the assumptions that underlie the interpretation of a given message. The different pragmatic standards operating in StE and AborE can become a source for concern in communicative settings involving Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal speakers of Australian English, e.g. in educational contexts or in court rooms where they may cause severe communication problems or lead to a wrong assessment of the AborE 107 speakers intentions or truthfulness17. In order to appreciate the difficulties that may arise in such situations, it is necessary to understand some of the principles that underlie AborE communication. Group-oriented behaviour • As Malcolm & Grote (2007:161) point out, the communicative behaviour of many speakers of AborE reflects the norms found in traditional languages in so far as it is group-oriented and avoids singling out the individual from the group. Thus, speakers of AborE address their contributions and questions to the group as a whole rather than to an individual person. Likewise, it is generally the group that responds collectively. • In addition to showing group-oriented behaviour, speakers are expected not to speak on behalf of others, a requirement which may result in a person falsely claiming ignorance of a particular fact (Malcom and Grote 2007: 161). Questions • Direct questions are often avoided, especially if they are targeted at gathering personal information or (culturally) significant knowledge. Instead, a person will provide some of the information he or she holds and waits for the interlocutor to add new information. This approach reflects the idea of reciprocity that is a crucial principle in Aboriginal society. It further takes into account that certain knowledge may only be shared among small groups of people and that not everybody is entitled to the same amount of information (Eades 1996:137). • The use of uninverted questions and question tags such as those discussed above supports this way of sharing information (Harkins 2000: 69). Uttering a question such as He can walk to Newry, eh?, the speaker suggests a particular proposition and invites the addressee to confirm or deny it. Interlocutors are not required to answer to a question unless they wish to do so. If they choose to respond, it is respected that they take as much time as they need. The silence that may unfold in such situations is another example of what Eades (1996: 137) calls the “different meaning for same form principle”. While silence in StE is usually seen as a sign for the breakdown of a communication, AborE speakers use silence as a way of establishing a relationship 17 For implications in educational contexts, see Eagleson et al. (1982), Malcolm & Königsberg (2007), or one of Malcolm’s many publications on the topic (e.g. 1979, 1994a, 1995). Diana Eades has published several works that focus on miscommunication in legal settings. 108 with the other interlocutor(s) or they just remain silent while contemplating their answer. Respect • Other characteristics of AborE pragmatics that are frequently misinterpreted by non-Aboriginal speakers are the tendency to avoid eyecontact and the use of low volume to convey respect (Department of Education and Department of Training and Workforce Development 2012d: 107). Politeness • Another obligation which prevails in Aboriginal society is the duty to share. This entails that politeness strategies found in standard forms of English are not required in AborE when making a demand for something (Malcom and Grote 2007: 161). Harkins (1994: 166f) explains that requests expressed through imperatives such as Give me X do not carry any connotations of impoliteness when interpreted as transfer from traditional languages. 6.3.4 Lexico-semantic Features Even a brief and superficial illustration of AborE features as the one attempted on the last pages serves to underline the status of AborE as an independent dialect of English which is to be distinguished from AusE as it relies on a distinct set of sources. Especially in the domain of grammar, we can observe several features that are shared with informal AusE and other non-standard forms of English. Yet, several other characteristics of AborE phonology and grammar can be attributed to the structural influence of traditional languages and contact varieties, most notably, creoles. In the domain of pragmatics, the influence of the former is even more pronounced as speakers of AborE frequently resort to culture-specific patterns of behaviour and ways of conceptualising the world, even though this type of influence is less obvious for the non-trained observer. The domain of lexico-semantics, on the other hand, once again reveals more readily observable differences between AborE and Australian English. Here, characteristic lexical items stand out as salient markers of the ways in which Aboriginal speakers have indigenised the English language and created a lexical inventory which reflects Aboriginal socio-cultural concepts. As such, the AborE lexicon is a vital resource for the linguistic construction and assertion of Aboriginality, and as has been noted above, even speakers whose varieties come close to StAusE show a distinctive Aboriginal usage of vocabulary. 109 As Harkins (1994: 167) points out, one of the central mechanisms of language change is linguistic reanalysis, and while this process also operates at the levels of grammar, phonology, and pragmatics, it is perhaps best exemplified at the level of the lexicon. However, a better understanding of this process is essential if we wish to outline how the unique lexical features of AborE have developed. We find that a notable parallel to the domain of pragmatics exists: albeit the major part of the AborE lexicon is based on English, the lexical elements’ meanings and their interpretation are strongly influenced by the socio-cultural background of the Aboriginal speakers. As a result, not only the lexemes’ use but also the denotations and connotations associated with them may deviate considerably from what would be expected by speakers of AusE (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 158). Many distinctive AborE lexical elements may be described as following the ‘same form-different meaning’ principle which has already been alluded to in our discussion of AborE pragmatics. That is to say, a great portion of the AborE lexicon are lexemes which are found in the same form in AusE and other varieties of English, but in AborE exhibit a new meaning or a range of meanings. Among these English terms that are used with a differing semantic scope in AborE, we may distinguish between lexemes that have experienced a change of meaning through processes of semantic widening, semantic narrowing, or shift. Other terms used in AborE might be better described as ‘new form-new meaning’, whereby the ‘new form’ derives from an innovative application of existing lexical components. Most commonly, English lexemes are used to create neologisms which reflect the structure of the underlying semantic concepts they denote, e.g. cousin brother, a cousin who has the same status as a brother. In other cases, words occur in uncommon lexical combinations or are applied in ways that appear remarkable for non- Aboriginal speakers of English, e.g. they may change their word class. Another category of lexical items that contribute to the special flavour of AborE are borrowings from traditional languages, pidgins, or creoles. Their frequency of occurrence is generally a lot more limited and the degree to which they are used depends on a number of factors, including regional and social variation. Still, borrowings, especially those from traditional languages, are probably the most salient markers of Aboriginality in English, as they rely on entirely ‘foreign’ terms in order to express uniquely Aboriginal semantic concepts. Their use thus reinvokes both the conceptual categories and the physical representation of traditional language lexical items. Apart from that, the use of Aboriginal language words reflects the great heterogeneity of the original Australian language ecology, parts of which are preserved in varieties of AborE. Below, we shall illustrate those processes that are most commonly applied in the formation of the AborE lexicon. Readers should be aware that although many of the examples presented are among the most frequently and 110 most widely used vocabulary items of AborE, they only constitute a fractioned representation of the wealth of lexical features that make AborE unique. We will begin our discussion with English words which, though in form equivalent to their StE counterparts, have developed differing senses in AborE. The changes can be ascribed to different processes of linguistic reanalysis: a) Semantic changes Extension The most common form of meaning change occurring in AborE is that of semantic widening. Examples of semantic widening include: • Terms for body parts, e.g. hand ‘hand and arm’ and head ‘head and neck’ (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 158f). • Verbs such as learn, which also incorporates the meaning ‘teach’ (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 158f) and hear, which in many Aboriginal languages is additionally used in the sense of ‘understand’, a meaning that has also been transported into the English usage. A similar type of extension is found in the term kill, which also covers the meanings ‘hit’ and ‘injure’ (Butcher 2008: 639). • Adjectives such as raw, meaning both ‘uncooked’ and ‘unripe’ (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 158f). Other semantic extensions include a more obvious reference to Aboriginal ways of conceptualising experience. Two of the most well-known examples are: • The term shame, described by Arthur (1996: 107) as “‘embarrassment’, ‘fear’, a sense for having transgressed the social and moral code of society, intentionally or unintentionally”, which denotes a feeling of embarrassment and shyness resulting from being put in an uncomfortable position, e.g. when singled out from a group. • The term country, frequently used in the sense of ‘place of belonging’ (Eades 1996: 136), which refers to a tract of land that is traditionally linked to an Aboriginal group and their language. Shifts • Shifts of meaning abound in AborE and many of them are inversions, such as hungry ‘desirable’ or cruel ‘terrific’ (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 158f). Deadly ‘excellent’ is another frequently quoted example of semantic shift and a commonly employed term in AborE; this usage has even been adopted into (some forms of) AusE (Eades 1996: 136). Conversions such as these demonstrate how speakers of AborE rein- 111 terpret the terms that in the colonial history have been used against them and provide them with a positive or at least neutral meaning. Many Aboriginal people refer to themselves and to one another as blackfella or nigger, using the offensive and demeaning terms positively or ironically (Malcolm 2002: 114). The term flash, on the other hand, may be used to mean ‘ostentatious’ or ‘pretentious’, especially with reference to (contextually inappropriate) non-Aboriginal ways of speaking or behaving (Butcher 2008: 638). • Examples of semantic shift which are not based on inversion include (to) camp ‘sleep over’, too much ‘very much’, sing out ‘call out’, stop ‘remain at a place for some time’, boss ‘very good’ (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 158f). Narrowing • Processes of semantic narrowing are applied in terms such as language ‘Aboriginal language’, clever ‘possessing spiritual powers’, and police ‘police officers’ (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 158f). According to Butcher (2008: 639), however, semantic narrowing is less frequent than widening or shift. Metaphor • A number of terms are based on metaphor, often created by a transfer from the domain of nature and environment to that of human experience, as in emu ‘a person with thin legs and distinctive Aboriginal ankles’, horse ‘great’, bony ‘thin’, in the ashes ‘in the context of Aboriginal life’ (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 158f). A hungry person may be described as hollow (Malcolm 2001b: 231). Other terms based on metaphor relate to the contact experience, e.g. behind bars ‘in an institution’ (which must not necessarily be a prison), crown ‘really good’, or cheeky ‘dangerous’ (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 158f). Conceptual mapping from the domain of kinship onto the domain of land can also frequently be observed, manifested in the use of kin terms such as mother or grandfather for one’s ‘country’ (Sharifian 2006: 18). Kinship terms AborE has a range of words that denote family relationships, many of which can also function as address terms. These may differ to a considerable extent from StE usage and allow speakers to express the relationships which are encoded in the corresponding traditional language terms: • Mother is frequently used with the extended meaning ‘the woman who gave birth to a person, and that woman’s sisters’ and may even be ap- 112 plied to other female relatives of the same generation. Similar semantic ranges are found in the terms father, grandmother, grandfather, as well as son and daughter, which refer to the biological (grand-) parent and child as well as their (same sex) siblings and sometimes also other persons of the same generation. Likewise, brother and sister may be used to refer to parallel cousins, i.e. the sons and daughters of those addressed as mother and father (Butcher 2008: 637). • Address terms such as bro, sis, and cuz serve to signal solidarity and are also applied to members of the community who are not relatives. Older persons may be respectfully addressed as auntie, uncle, or grannie even though the speaker is not related to them; in the third person, the terms may be used as honorifics (Butcher 2008: 637). • Kinship terms can be used reciprocally, e.g. grannies may refer to grandparents and grandchildren alike (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 158f). Malcolm (2001a: 229) reports a young mother referring to her new born daughter as mummy. b) Terms that show an unexpected form or usage Other AborE lexical items do not necessarily involve a change in meaning but are outstanding because of their form or usage in AborE. Examples of words which catch the eye (and ear) of non-Aboriginal speakers of English include: Words rarely used in AusE • AborE has retained the use of some terms that are no longer commonly employed in AusE, e.g. supper ‘evening meal’, jar ‘scold’ (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 158f), gammon ‘nonsense’, ‘false’ (adj.), humbug ‘nuisance’, ‘trouble’, ‘(to) annoy’, ‘(to) molest’ (Butcher 2008: 636). English words with English meanings • English terms that are used with the same meanings as in other varieties of English also sometimes stand out as they may exhibit changes in pronunciation and spelling that can be attributed to the phonological characteristics described above, e.g. ‘motor car’ may be rendered as modoga and ‘river’ as riber (Department of Education and Department of Training and Workforce Development 2012b: 38). Function words, adverbs, and adjectives Function words, adverbs, and adjectives can differ from their AusE equivalents both in form and meaning, and examples of characteristic usages of prepositions and determiners have been mentioned above. AborE spatial and temporal expressions deserve a more detailed de- 113 scription as they are used in specific ways and correspond to concepts of space and time in Aboriginal languages: • Harkins (1994: 155) has shown that in the Alice Springs area, the adverb everyday is used in the sense of ‘predictably’ or ‘regularly’, and always signifies ‘frequently, regularly’, as in the utterance Sometime we always ride horse. • As stated above, the suffixes -time and -way are productive in the formation of adverbial expressions. Examples of adverbial expressions of time include all time ‘always’, everytime ‘all the time’, longtime ‘a long time ago’/’for a long time’, sometime ‘sometimes’/‘at some time’, dark time ‘in the dark’/’when it’s dark’. Manner and place adverbials with -way include quick-way, ‘quickly’, long-way ‘a long way’/‘a long way away’, north way ‘towards the north’ (Malcolm & Sharifian 2007: 387). Like -side, the element -way may express the meaning ‘in the manner of’, e.g. when speaking about English-side/English-way education (Harkins 1994: 155) or as in the example firestick way ‘in the traditional manner’ (Arthur 1996: 32). • The noun time may further be used to denote a particular period, reflecting the established pattern of indicating time by reference to (1) natural phenomena, e.g. hot time, (2) the name of a significant person, e.g. Gough Whitlam time, (3) events or a period characterised by and associated with particular conditions, e.g. welfare time, or (4) cultural events, e.g. corroboree time (Arthur 1996: 63). Malcolm & Sharifian (2007: 394) suggest that the use of -time and -way allows speakers to express time and manner experientially (e.g. long time) instead of abstractly (x hours), providing the means to view experience in an integrated way rather than abstractedly and analytically as in AusE. • The terms along or longa are frequently used prepositions in the more basilectal varieties. While their core meaning is ‘next to’ or ‘with’ as in I sit longa you, they may also express ‘to’, ‘at’, ‘into’, ‘onto’, ‘for’, ‘from’, e.g. I go along his country (Butcher 2008: 639). • The meaning of allabout includes ‘everywhere’, ‘everything’ but also ‘everybody’ as in allabout been get sick (Butcher 2008: 639). • Extent and excess may be contained in the same expression in AborE, as can be observed in the cases of too much ‘a lot’ and everybody, describing a number of people but not the entire group present. Malcolm (2001a: 230) suggests that this feature may go back to pidgins or possibly even traditional languages. • The element might be ‘perhaps’, ‘possibly’ is used as a fixed adverbial expression indicating lack of conviction or assertiveness, e.g. might be they gone to town (Butcher 2008: 639). 114 Lexical combinations Another salient feature of AborE lexico-semantics are multiword units not found in standard varieties of English. Quite a number of these combinations express realities that are alien to speakers of AusE. • AborE exhibits a comparatively high number of compounds, some of which have developed independently in AborE while others have been borrowed from other English varieties or contact languages. According to the Department of Education and Department of Training and Workforce Development (2012d: 102), the term eyeglass ‘spectacles’ is from Kriol. • A great number of these terms relate to distinctive aspects of Aboriginal culture and express concepts which cannot be described properly through the use of simple English lexemes. Thus, many examples of characteristic AborE compounds come from those semantic domains in which differences in conceptualisation between AborE and AusE are most prominent: a) In the field of kinship we find examples such as cousin brother ‘a cousin who is a brother in Aboriginal terms’, and mom mob ‘mother’s relations’ (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 158f). The element poison may be added to refer to a person with whom the speaker is in an avoidance relationship, e.g. poison cousin (Butcher 2008: 637). The truncated form lation, from relation may be combined with own, resulting in ownlation ‘one’s own relation’ (Sharifian 2006: 16). b) In the domain of religious and cultural knowledge, we find examples such as law man ‘a person very knowledgeable in the law’ (Arthur 1996: 42), featherfoot ‘an avenger who has feathers bound to his feet to cover his tracks’ (Malcolm & Sharifian 2007: 381f), and hairy man ‘a spirit being taking on the form of a large hairy man’ (Arthur 1996: 35). The element shame can be used in various combinations, including the adjective+noun combination big shame ‘embarrassing situation, embarrassment’ (Kaldor & Malcolm 2004: 76). The term shame job ‘embarrassing situation’ is reported to have entered some varieties of AusE (Butcher 2008: 638); initially adopted by younger speakers of AusE, it is now used more widely (Harkins 2000: 73). • Lexical combinations, too, can be motivated by metaphor, e.g. roo dog ‘a skilled hunter’ (Malcolm & Sharifian 2007: 380, 394). • Some combinations do not describe culturally specific concepts but still combine meanings in a way that is not found in AusE, e.g. foot track ‘track for walking’, ‘footprint’, finger ring ‘ring worn on the finger’, cold sick ‘cold’. The terms man head ‘precious little boy’ and woman 115 head ‘precious little girl’, are used as a form of recognition of the (cultural) knowledge shown by a child. Note that, while the meaning of many of the quoted examples can be deduced from the meaning of their parts, man head and woman head are examples of lexicalising (Malcolm & Sharifian 2007: 380f, 394). Some terms, such as waterflood ‘flood’ are instances of L1 lexico-semantic transfer, exhibiting use of generic classifiers (Department of Education and Department of Training and Workforce Development 2012d: 102). • Other distinctive lexical combinations include the adj.+noun combination big mob ‘a lot, many, much’, which can also function as an adjective, e.g. big mob trailers (Malcom and Grote 2007: 158f), as well as compounds involving prepositional elements, such as camping out which may also be used adjectivally, as in a camping out spot, or dinner out ‘a meal out in the open’ (Malcolm & Sharifian 2007: 382). • Verbal compounding is also common in AborE, e.g. kangaroo-marry ‘(to) live in a de facto relationship’. The elements lie or liar occur frequently in verbal compounds, as in liar-cry ‘(to) cry crocodile tears’, lie-smile ‘(to) smile insincerely’ or lie-say ‘(to) lie’18 (Butcher 2008: 639). • Further, AborE exhibits a high number of phrasal verbs, many of which are constructed using the particles up, e.g. we cook im up ‘we cook it’, block im up ‘give him plenty of food’, learn it up ‘learn it’, out, e.g. [I] sing out to them two ‘I called out to the two of them’, in, e.g. e punch in that ole fella ‘he bashed that old man’ off¸ e.g. she took off over the fence ‘she escaped/fled over the fence’ down, e.g. I chased that little one down ‘I chased the little (e.g. Kangaroo) and captured it’, away, e.g. like he was leading him away ‘as if he was stealing/leading/taking him away’ (Malcolm & Sharifian 2007: 390). • AborE verb phrases may also feature collocations formed with go and walk + go, e.g. they was goin singin on the way ‘they were singing on the way’, we ‘as goin walking ‘we were walking’ or get, as in them two bin get scared ‘the two of them were scared’, S was getting shame ‘S was deeply ashamed’ (Malcolm & Sharifian 2007: 390f). Lexical conflations An area of AborE semantics that has not been mentioned so far concerns lexical conflations that result from a phonological confusion of two 18 Kaldor & Malcolm (1982:98) suggest ‘say pretendingly’ for lie-say. 116 words. This goes hand in hand with the semantic conflation of the two lexemes: • the best known example of such a conflation is secret/sacred, where, under the influence of the basilect, the difference of the two high front vowels and the voiced/unvoiced distinction of the final plosives are neutralised, resulting in the phonological representation of both terms as [ ikr t]. Still, the semantic conflation of the two terms is of even greater importance: According to Aboriginal belief, things that are sacred are usually also secret so that the two terms readily apply and there is little need for them to be distinguished. Other examples of conflations recorded by Harkins in the Alice Springs area include buy/pay [pai] ‘(to) give someone money for something’ and catch/get [ket] that corresponds to caught/got [k t] (Harkins 1994: 161ff). c) Lexical transfer Lexical transfer from contact varieties A number of terms used in AborE are words borrowed from creoles, including Northern Territory Kriol. Other lexical elements were carried over from (earlier) pidgin varieties. • Creoles constitute a source for lexical borrowings such as olgaman ‘old woman’ (Kaldor & Malcolm 2004: 77). Note that the adjective old, in expressions such as old man, old woman, usually carries connotations of respect in AborE (Harkins 1994:156), and apart from age, old may also refer to size and importance. As a result, not only living beings but also objects and plants of exceptional age, size, or importance may be defined as old man (Arthur 1996: 51). • NSW Pidgin has contributed a number of lexical elements which possess considerable currency in modern AborE, e.g. blackfella ‘Aboriginal’, dreckly ‘in a while’, kill ‘hit or kill’ (Department of Education and Department of Training and Workforce Development 2012d: 102). Borrowings from traditional Aboriginal languages Lastly, the most outstanding AborE lexical features are borrowings from Aboriginal languages. While the use of some terms can be observed across the entire country, others have only regional currency. The lexemes’ form was often modified to some degree as it was adapted to the phonological system of English. Borrowings occur in practically all varieties of AborE although they are mostly found in higher numbers in the more basilectal varieties. In the more acrolectal varieties, Aboriginal language words are most commonly employed to denote Aboriginal 117 people, e.g. Koori (Victoria and southern NSW), Murri (northern NSW and south-east Qld) (Butcher 2008: 636). • Other frequently applied terms refer to non-Aboriginal people. While some of them are borrowings from Aboriginal languages, others have developed in contact varieties. Among the most widely used names for white people are the English-derived gubba, from ‘government (man)’, balanda, from a Macassareese corruption of ‘Hollander’, and waybala ‘whitefella’. In other areas, the terms come from Aboriginal languages, e.g. migaloo ‘white’ (from Mayaguduna). The term goonya translates as ‘excrement’ in many Australian languages (Butcher 2008: 636). • A number of early borrowings from the Sydney language have been carried across Australia as part of the lexicon of NSW Pidgin and its successors and are now in wide use (see 5.2.2). Many of the NSW terms that have been retained in AborE have also entered AusE, e.g. waddy ‘wooden club’, corroboree ‘Aboriginal assembly of sacred, festive, or warlike character’, coo-ee ‘come hither’ (Malcolm 2001b: 224). • In many parts of Australia, borrowings from the local language(s) may pertain in regional varieties of AborE even though the traditional languages are no longer spoken. The majority of these terms typically denote people and cultural concepts but adjectives are also often borrowed. For example, the Nyoongah people of south-western Western Australia frequently include terms such as yorgas ‘women’, choo ‘shame’, nyorn ‘sorry’, kat wara ‘stupid’ and moordich ‘strong, healthy, good’ in their variety of AborE (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 158f). • All of the above examples are used in their original meaning. Other borrowings, however, may have developed additional meanings to cover concepts introduced by the colonisers, e.g. Nyoongah monartj ‘policeman’ (lit. ‘black cockatoo’), kepa ‘alcohol’ (lit. ‘water’) (Department of Education and Department of Training and Workforce Development 2012b: 38). • The processes of borrowing from regional languages have resulted in a considerable degree of synonymy in the AborE lexicon. For a number of concepts a whole range of regionally restricted denotations now exist. Take, for example, the different terms for a temporary shelter that are listed by Dixon et al. (2006), e.g. gundy (Yuwaalaraay and Gamilaraay (east NSW), also Wiradhuri (s/w NSW)), gunyah (Dharuk (Sydney region)), humpy (Yagara (Brisbane region)), mia-mia (probably from Nyoongah (Perth-Albany region), but also reported from Victoria), 118 wiltja (Pitjantjatjara/Yakunytjatjara and Pitupi/Luritja dialects of Western Desert language), yu (Western Desert language). • While spelling conventions have been determined for some of the better known Aboriginal loanwords, others have a range of variants in writing, e.g. the term for ‘white person’ in the Kimberley area of northern Australia may be rendered as kartiya, cardiah, cuddyair, cudeha, gardia, gardeja, gadia, gudeeah or kardiya. Similarly, the name for the Aboriginal people of south-west WA may be spelt Nyoongah, Noong-ah, Noongar, Nyoongah, N-Yoongar, Nyunga, or Nyungah. Common to all spelling variants, however, is that they are used with regular English grammatical endings such as plural -s (Arthur 1996: 6f, 238). • Often, Aboriginal language words used in AborE have English suffixes attached, e.g. the winyarnest (saddest) thing (Malcolm 2002: 116). 6.4 Aboriginal English: An Aboriginal Language ‘in Disguise’? When speakers adopt a new linguistic variety as their own, they usually modify this variety in order to adjust it to their linguistic needs. Above, we have seen how Aboriginal people have done exactly this by adapting the English language in such a way that it has become fit to convey meanings not shared with the dialect spoken by the Australian mainstream society. Let us now take one more look at the major processes which have made this adjustment possible before we discuss the capacity of AborE to function as a cultural mediator. 6.4.1 Cultural Conceptualisations in an English-derived Lexicon More recently, the notion of ‘cultural conceptualisations’ (Sharifian 2003) has been introduced to the study of AborE in order to account for the different ways of understanding and categorising reality that have the power to trigger processes of language change. The notion of cultural conceptualisations, which is closely connected to and partly based on the cultural-conceptual approach brought forward in the last years by cognitive and cultural linguists (for example Palmer (1996), Malcolm & Rochecouste (2000), Malcolm & Sharifian (2002, 2005), Sharifian (2001), and Sharifian et al. (2004)), is grounded in the assumption that language “does not always encode an objective reality” but is “entrenched in conceptualisation, which is largely culturally constructed” (Sharifian 2006: 14). Conceptualisations, in Sharifian’s use of the term, are “the analytical tools that have been either developed or employed [...] to examine 119 how various features of human languages may be grounded in non-linguistic cognitive and perceptual systems” (2006: 14). The major types of conceptualisations, none of which should be seen as entirely separate phenomena or entities, include a) schemas, i.e. units of knowledge which are based on patterns derived from the ways in which we perceive or construe the world around us, b) categories, formed by entities that are perceived to belong to certain classes, c) metaphors, i.e. processes of mapping schemas or categories onto each other, and d) blends (Sharifian 2006: 11f). Cultural conceptualisations, then, are conceptualisations that are culturally constructed, and although they are initiated at the level of the individual speaker, these conceptualisations emerge at the group level of cognition. Their development stems from the ongoing interaction between the members of a cultural group within which they are then shared, allowing group members “to think, more or less, in one mind” (Sharifian 2003: 190). The size of the cultural group may vary; some cultural conceptualisations may even emerge at the level of the family (Sharifian 2003: 190f). Cultural conceptualisations are not static but may be negotiated and renegotiated across generations and thus expand or change over time while the corresponding lexical forms remain the same (Sharifian 2007: 182). This non-static nature of cognitive structures is also the reason why Sharifian prefers the term conceptualisation over concept (2006: 11). Also, the fact that particular cultural conceptualisations prevail in a group does not mean that they are “equally imprinted in the minds of the members of a cultural group”. Rather, “members may in fact more or less share these conceptualisations” (Sharifian 2003: 193, emphasis in original). Sharifian (2003: 199) explains how cultural conceptualisations are manifested in language use; his explanations remind of the ‘Language Iceberg’: In discourse, a marked conceptualisation may surface as an unfamiliar vocabulary item, a distinctive pattern of use, a distinctive pattern of association, a distinctive frequency of usage, etc. […]. It should however be noted that cultural conceptualisations are not always distinctively marked by surface features of discourse. The analyst may in fact need to seek emic explanations for every aspect of discourse to identify conceptualisations that are culturespecific. The emic perspective is required in this approach to provide ‘insider’ interpretations of discourse. Examples of how cultural conceptualisations are expressed at the level of grammar include the use of inclusive/exclusive dual pronouns, such as minyu or you two and you-n-him that have been considered in 6.3.2 (but see also Sharifian 2007: 188). Many of the pragmatic features discussed above, too, can be 120 seen as representations of cultural conceptualisations, e.g. silence or the use of low tone to convey respect. In the following, we will focus on how cultural conceptualisations are expressed lexically, that is, we shall explore the concept(ualisation)s that underlie particular AborE vocabulary items. In order to gain an understanding of why the underlying meanings differ from those expressed by the same terms in AusE, it is crucial to recognise that these items index schemas and categories that reflect cultural norms and knowledge as well as the experiences and worldviews of Aboriginal people. The schemas and categories associated with AborE terms for family and kinship are among the most obvious examples of culturally based conceptualisations and thus provide an ideal starting point. Above we have seen that the use of cousin brother or the semantic extension of the terms mother and father to include aunts and uncles does not reflect a biological reality. Rather, the use of these terms conveys information about the role schema associated with them, including the generational level of the person thus referred to and mutual responsibilities and obligations associated with that person. While a speaker may thus address his mother’s or father’s brother as father, the term uncle is frequently used as a term of respect for people of the older generation. Likewise, auntie serves to address a female of the older generation, typically one who possesses cultural knowledge and has status in her community. Terms such as mum mum ‘maternal mother’ underline the importance to distinguish between maternal and paternal relatives, and a cousin brother is a cousin who is perceived to have the same social status as a brother, often a parallel cousin. However, when terms such as brother or cousin are used to address people of the same generation who are only remotely related to the speaker, they serve a different but nevertheless related purpose: their use generally evokes a feeling of solidarity between the speaker and the addressee while the very schema ‘solidarity’ conveys expectations of a certain behaviour such as support and protection. As such, solidarity terms not only establish the speaker’s and addressee’s relationship but also remind all interlocutors of both the rights and the responsibilities that come along with it (Sharifian 2007: 188f). In addition, Sharifian (2011: 26f) suggests that ‘cultural models’ exist, which he defines as “conceptualisations that hierarchically characterise higher nodes of our conceptual knowledge and that encompass a network of schemes, categories and metaphors.” An example for such a cultural model would be that of Australian kinship, which comprises categories such as mum, aunty as well as schemas that conceptualise norms and values and define what is regarded as accepted behaviour towards a particular family member or another person referred to by means of a kinship term. The cultural model of kinship may further comprise conceptual metaphors employed in relation to kin. 121 Another area of cultural conceptualisations that heavily influences the way in which Aboriginal people have reinterpreted and adapted the English lexicon is that of cultural and religious practice. Here, culturally constructed conceptualisations are evident in terms such as sing ‘exercising an incantation on a person by getting hold of a belonging of him/her’ or smoke ‘walking through smoke for the sake of protection against certain spiritual exercises’ (Sharifian 2006: 15ff). Other lexical items exhibit the mapping of concepts from one domain onto another, e.g. when Aboriginal people refer to their ancestral land as their mother or grandfather. The underlying conceptualisation metaphor here could be phrased as LAND AS KIN. It underlines the importance of the relationship between a person and his or her country which is grounded in the belief that people are connected to the land through their ancestors who, during the Dreaming, created the land before they became part of it themselves, transforming into features of the landscape. “This use of kinship terms in referring to one’s country is not merely a matter of labelling but arises out of a system of conceptualisation that underlies the Aboriginal Dreamtime” (Sharifian 2006: 18). An earlier study concerned with the meanings and concepts that motivate Aboriginal speakers’ ways of using English is Harkins’ (1994) analysis of the AborE spoken in several Aboriginal camps in the Alice Springs region (henceforth referred to as ‘Alice Springs AborE’). Her investigation was undertaken before the cultural-conceptual approach was established in the study of AborE. Yet, her analysis, too, is grounded in the assumption that AborE speakers’ language use is influenced by a uniquely Aboriginal conceptual system that informs the meanings and applications of English terms. Harkins argues that the distinctive meanings she observed are motivated by the fact that even though the speakers use the language of the mainstream community, the concepts that are expressed correspond to those found in the traditional languages of the area. Harkins’ study focuses on a regionally restricted variety of AborE, and several of the examples she quotes may occur only or mostly around Alice Springs. However, she (1994: 186) maintains that despite the cultural heterogeneity of Aboriginal society, a great number of cultural concepts are widely shared. The widespread use of unique kinship terms, of lexical items with spiritually significant meaning such as country and Dreaming, and other expressions that form some kind of a ‘core vocabulary’ used in very many varieties of AborE confirm this. At this point, we will present some of the Alice Springs AborE vocabulary features discussed by Harkins, as well as additional examples from other sources to provide further illustrations of how the lexical manifestation of cultural conceptualisations triggers processes of semantic widening, narrowing, and shift. 122 As explained above, semantic widening is the most common of the mechanisms which are used to express Aboriginal meanings through English words. An example from Alice Springs AborE is the term fire, which is extended to include firewood, firesticks, matches, and electric heaters. Thus, the semantic range of fire corresponds to that of the Arrente/Luritja categories ure/waru (Harkins 1996: 148f), which demonstrates the tendency of Aboriginal languages to use one term for both the object and the material the object is made of. Likewise, the purpose of use of a thing is closely connected to the thing itself, so that animals which serve as food may be referred to as meat. Also verbs may undergo semantic extension, covering the semantic range of the corresponding traditional language word. Often, a verb not only describes the action itself but also the intention of an action, so that the English term kill, which denotes any kind of forcible impact on a living being or thing is extended to include the meaning ‘hit’, while look also entails the meaning ‘see’ (Arthur 1996: 7). Other verbs occur in ways that are uncommon in AusE usage, e.g. intransitive verbs such as grow up may be used transitively, as in the example my mother grew me up. This transitive usage is guided by the semantics of grow up. For speakers of AborE, the central meaning of the verb grow up is ‘be nurtured while young’, an interpretation that demands for an agent who fulfils the action of growing somebody up. In other cases, the semantic scope of English verbs is extended to cover particular cultural and religious practices. The meaning of dancing, for example, also covers ceremonial dancing, and as we have seen above, sing describes a practice of exercising an incantation over someone (Harkins 1996: 170). A number of AborE vocabulary items that exhibit distinctly Aboriginal usages relate to cultural, religious, and ritual concepts. Again, semantic extension is commonly employed where English lacks corresponding concepts or terms. The important connection between people and the land that was already addressed above is also manifested in terms such as camp and place. Both terms may refer to a dwelling and location that is home to a person or group, but also to the person’s or group’s ancestral land and its significant sites (Harkins 1996: 152f). A very similar concept is conveyed by the term country, describing a tract of land to which a person belongs. Moreover, one’s country is strongly associated with religious knowledge, i.e. knowledge about the significance of particular sites created by the Dreaming beings; this knowledge also involves responsibility for the land (Arthur 1996: 119). This usage of country is further an excellent example of the ways in which the physical and the spiritual world are connected. In Aboriginal understanding, the spiritual is manifested in the physical as the Dreaming beings walked across the country and created particular sites (Arthur 1996: 28). Cut ‘circumcise’ (Malcolm 2001b: 230) refers to a cultural practice often employed in initiation rites; these rites and other cultural and religious practices are generally covered by the term busi- 123 ness ‘Aboriginal ceremony and ritual’ (Arthur 1996: 17). The connection between religion, social structures, and codes of behaviour is expressed in the term law ‘body of religious and cultural knowledge that informs and directs Aboriginal society’ (Arthur 1996: 39), and the term payback is best understood as a “system of punishments for offences under traditional law” (Butcher 2008: 638). The cultural or religious references with which these terms are used demonstrate the continuity of AborE with the conceptual frameworks found in the languages of the destroyed pre-colonial language ecology and stress the dialect’s function as a “repository of spiritual meaning” (Malcolm 2001b: 230). The continuity of traditional languages in AborE can also be observed in the way natural phenomena are categorised. Semantic narrowing is applied in terms for animals and plants which usually involve a greater degree of specification in the traditional languages, so that for example kangaroos are distinguished from euros [hill kangaroo, Macropus robustus erubescens, K.L.] in Alice Springs AborE19, a distinction that is less frequently made by non-Aboriginal speakers (Harkins 1996: 154). A related instance of semantic narrowing is reported by Malcolm (2001b: 228) who illustrates how boomers (older male kangaroos) were distinguished from roos (smaller female kangaroos) by his Nyoongah informants. The distinction is an important one when judging the quality of the meat which the animal provides. Compounding or combining serves as another means of conveying Aboriginal concepts for which no adequate English term exists, as in bush medicine, which Alice Springs AborE speakers use in the same sense as Arrernte awelye, a word that not only covers medicinal plants and prepared substances, but also splints and dressings and medical practices such as smoking, massage, special foods, healing rituals, songs and ceremonies as well as the objects associated with them. Compounding may also express a higher degree of specificity, as can be seen in the specification of grandparents as father’s father, mother’s father, concepts for which Aboriginal languages provide specific terms (Harkins 1994: 150ff). Likewise, men’s business needs to be distinguished from women’s business (i.e. specialised ceremonies and rituals which are carried out either only by men or only women) and from sorry business, which describes an act or a period of mourning (Butcher 2008: 637). Harkins (1994: 156) suggests that the use of emotional terms constitutes another major area of semantic differentiation between Aboriginal and non- Aboriginal meanings. The distinctive usage of these terms is of special concern since in this area “considerable cross-cultural misunderstandings can result from a lack of knowledge, by both non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal people, of the semantic differences in usage”. The terms teasing or swearing, for example, 19 Note that both terms are actually loanwords from Aboriginal languages. 124 not only have a much more serious meaning in AborE; the acts of doing so also involve a considerably more serious offence for Aboriginal speakers. The extent to which the usage of emotional terms may differ becomes apparent in the semantic scope of the word sorry, which in AborE has the meaning ‘sorrowful, full of grief, grieving’ and is used especially in connection with death or with issues concerning one’s country (Arthur 1996: 111). This usage goes far beyond the term’s meaning in StE, as does the AborE use of cry for ‘(to) lament, to call out in need’ (Arthur 1996: 94). The above mentioned lexical item shame is defined by Arthur (1996: 107) as ‘embarrassment; fear; a sense of having transgressed the social and moral code of society, intentionally or unintentionally’. Shame is felt in situations that may not cause non-Aboriginal speakers any uneasy feelings, e.g. when receiving praise or public attention. Aboriginal people may also get shame in the presence of certain people (such as a particular relative), or when they are near places they should not be near to. On the other hand, Aboriginal people may not feel shame in situations in which non- Aboriginal people would feel ashamed. One of Harkins’ informants, for example, explained that he did not feel shame when being arrested, as this was an experience shared with many others in his community (Harkins 1994: 158). 6.4.2 Aboriginal Language Terms Our discussion has shown that in AborE many English words convey a worldview that clearly depends on Aboriginal ways of categorising and conceptualising the world. Their distinctiveness often lies in their meaning and usage rather than in their form. To continue with the iceberg analogy, one has to take a thorough look to identify the differences in meaning that are hidden below the water’s surface. Borrowings from Aboriginal languages, on the other hand, combine a distinctive semantic content, grounded in a culturallybound worldview, with an unusual outward form. They are thus more readily identified as salient features of the AborE lexicon since they are easily recognised as foreign elements. As such, loanwords are “the most obvious expressions of Aboriginality” (Hill 2002: 98) in the lexicon of AborE. In 4.4 we have seen that even in areas where the original languages have been lost, speakers have retained a number of terms or even some stock phrases from their ancestral language. The use of Nyoongah loanwords in the AborE spoken in the southern parts of Western Australia is an often cited example of this attempt to preserve what is remembered of the language. Even though much of the original Nyoongah language has been lost, a comparatively large quantity of terms is used in everyday speech, as is attested in the writings of Nyoongah authors such as Jack Davis. A similar use of traditional language words can be observed in other varieties of AborE all across the country, even though the actual frequency of the Aboriginal language terms may depend on several factors, including the speaker’s idiolect. 125 A great part of the English terms that express distinctly Aboriginal meanings are known and used by AborE speakers across the whole of Australia. Many of these widely shared terms encode key cultural and religious concepts, e.g. the elements business, Dreaming, shame, and sorry which we have already discussed above. There are also several Aboriginal language terms that have a similar wide range of use and are known and employed throughout large parts of the country. Often, these terms relate to religious and cultural aspects of Aboriginal life or denote groups of Aboriginal people. Many of these widely used borrowings have also entered AusE where they may even have developed (additional) non-Aboriginal meanings. The NSW Pidgin term corroboree, for example, originally describing a dance ceremony, may be used in the sense ‘any social gathering, especially of a boisterous nature’ in AusE (Dixon et al. 2006: 151f). Other terms have a wider regional currency, such as the Wiradhuri term gwangy ‘soft in the head’, which is used among Aboriginal people in NSW, not all of whom are of Wiradhuri origin (Arthur 1994: 98). The majority of Aboriginal language words occurring in AborE, however, are borrowings from local languages and their usage is geographically restricted. These local borrowings provide the dialect with a regional flavour and contribute to the diversity and variation of AborE, which, according to Arthur (1996: 223), is “in part a heritage of the pre-colonial local culture, and also in part a result of the different colonising experiences that Aboriginal people in different parts of Australia have had”. For speakers of AborE, local or regional borrowings not only allow them to flag their Aboriginality; more importantly, they serve to express local or regional affiliation and indicate the speakers’ link with a particular Aboriginal group. This emblematic function may be deliberately exploited in more formal and public contexts such as public discourse (Harkins 2000: 72). There appears to be some uncertainty concerning the actual status and frequency of use of Aboriginal language words in AborE: Leitner (2004b: 129) argues that borrowings from Aboriginal languages are less prominent than many researchers estimate and that the uniqueness of the AborE lexicon is largely due to the innovative usages of English terms. According to him, [...] the use of indigenous words seems to be rare. Aboriginal concepts are now normally expressed by means of mAusE [mainstream Australian English, K.L.] words. It is them that may have acquired different cognitive meanings and connotations; they may occur in the company of unusual words from the anlge [sic] of mAusE or with different frequencies. In their study on Western Australian Aboriginal children’s English, Kaldor & Malcolm (1982: 97) note that the frequency of use of Aboriginal loanwords is higher in geographically more remote regions, and that more Aboriginal language words are employed by speakers living in desert areas with a high degree of bilingualism. They nevertheless also maintain that some terms are in wider use among monolingual speakers of AborE. This view is support- 126 ed by Butcher (2008: 636) who observes that loanwords from Aboriginal languages are an important lexical source for basilectal varieties, especially when describing aspects of local flora and fauna. He further states that loanwords occur less frequently in the lighter varieties and suggests that those which do occur denote people. Eagleson’s (1982) study on the forms of AborE spoken in the Sydney area confirms that Aboriginal loanwords are less frequently used by urban speakers. He (1982: 137), too, observes that the most commonly employed terms are designations for people, such as Koori(e)or Murri for an Aboriginal person, or gubbah ‘white’. Today, the names for Aboriginal people have a much larger group of referents than the original language names had. The term Koori(e) is used widely in south-eastern Australia whereas Murri is used further north. Sometimes, people prefer a more specific identification with a particular language group, so that Kooris may also refer to themselves by language names such as Wiradhuri, Yuin, or Wathaurong (Arthur 1996: 234ff). Some regional designations for Aboriginal people are known and used widely across the country: Koori Victoria and southern NSW, formerly also used for the people of Tasmania where it has now been replaced by Palawa, Murri northern NSW and south-east Queensland, Bama northern Queensland, Nunga southern SA, Nyoongah south-west WA, Wongi Goldfields area of WA (south-east WA), Yammadgee Gascoyne area of WA (north-west WA), Yol u eastern Arnhem Land, Anangu Western Desert (Arthur 1996: 223). All of these names are Aboriginal language terms for ‘person’ or man’. The use of such regional terms reflects that a great deal of cultural heterogeneity within the Australian Aboriginal society continues to exist. At the same time, however, it also testifies to the destruction of the original structure of Aboriginal society which was characterised by a division into much smaller language groups. For many Aboriginal people, the connection to their ancestors’ language group has been lost and the identification by means of a regional but more extensive name, such as Koori(e) or Murri better represents their cultural identity. Others may have been able to keep up their affiliation with a local group but acknowledge the need for a wider, shared cultural identification. However, in some areas, e.g. in much of northern Australia, original language names have been retained (Arthur 1996: 234ff). Similarly, terms denoting non-Aboriginal people are used widely in AborE. These, too, show considerable regional variation: 127 migaloo Queensland, from the Mayaguduna language term for ‘white’, yirili south-eastern Queensland and northern NSW, from the Bandjalang language term for ‘white’, goonya southern SA, term for ‘excrement’ in many languages (Butcher 2008: 636). Several regionally used terms for ‘policeman’ in AborE are derived from English words, e.g. bulliman, which is frequent in Queensland, or the NSW term gunjie, from gunjabal ‘constable’ (Butcher 2008: 636). Yet, also a number of Aboriginal language words for the police exist. Since contact with the police was an early phenomenon in many parts of the country, often happening at the same time or shortly after the first contact with Europeans, many terms developed during a time when Aboriginal languages were still in everyday use. The high number of terms for the police can be explained by their omnipresence and the high degree of control they exerted over the lives of Aboriginal people. McGregor (2000: 4) explains that [...] it is quite reasonable to expect that the police were regarded with fear and trepidation, and that this might be discernible in terms for them [...]. Moreover, it is quite common for languages to develop sets of synonyms for potent entities which, like the police, guns, and alcohol, inspire strong emotions. Again, we can distinguish between terms that have only a more restricted currency such as Wik Mungkan thapangumpan, denoting different types of sharks (McGregor 2000: 9), and Aboriginal language terms used in wider areas. In addition to animal terms, we find words that involve extension from quality terms and derivations from nouns or verbs, e.g. barabaldain western NSW, literally ‘copper’, from Wiradhuri ‘(to) grab hold’ (Butcher 2008: 636), linyju northern WA, denoting sour, bitter, or salty tastes, manatj WA, from Nyoongah ‘black cockatoo’, referring to the old black or dark blue uniforms with a red stripe at the side (McGregor 2000: 10)20. According to Harkins (2000: 73), there is a small range of other terms that show how part of the cultural information stored in traditional languages continues to exist in AborE. These terms include the names of bush foods, terms for people belonging to various age categories, as well as place names. Thus, there appears to be a quite limited set of domains for which Aboriginal language words are employed regularly and in different varieties of AborE. 20 As with many Aboriginal language words, the terms’ spelling varies in different sources and the above spellings (suggested by McGregor) differ from those that will be employed in chapter 8. 128 6.4.3 Negotiating the Bicultural Experience The preceding section has shown that AborE has numerous vocabulary features which correspond in their semantic scope to lexical items found in the traditional languages and thus reflect culture-specific conceptualisations. For this reason, Harkins (1994: 167) argues that in the domain of the AborE lexicon, we are actually dealing with “Aboriginal semantics in English guise”. In addition, the feature description in 6.3 has indicated that phonological, grammatical, and pragmatic features of AborE, too, echo structures found in traditional languages. In Harkins’ 1994 study of Alice Springs AborE, her investigation of these features yielded results similar to that of her lexico-semantic analysis, i.e. she found that many of the grammatical and pragmatic aspects that are characteristic of Alice Springs AborE correspond to patterns she observed in the local Aboriginal languages. Other studies, such as those conducted by Malcolm and his team on discourse features in the speech of Western Australian Aboriginal adolescents (see, for example Malcolm & Rochecouste (2000), Malcolm & Sharifian (2002, 2005), Sharifian (2001), and Sharifian et al. (2004)), as well as Eades’ (1983) study of south-eastern Queensland Aboriginal English confirm the weight of the structural influence of traditional languages on AborE. Hence, when discussing aspects such as distinctive usages of vocabulary, grammatical constructions, or unique pragmatic features, we must be aware that while form and outward appearance of the dialect we are dealing with correspond to that of AusE, many of the underlying rules and the meanings conveyed belong to an Aboriginal conceptual world. AborE therefore bears witness to how speakers of AborE succeeded in preserving part of their cultural and linguistic heritage in the face of the overwhelming presence of English. In adapting the invaders’ language to their communicative needs, Aboriginal people have appropriated the English language in such a way that it may be used to express all of those meanings that “form and inform contemporary Australian Aboriginal experience”; the dialect has thus come to assume a vital role “as both product and instrument of cultural survival” (Harkins 2000: 60). Moreover, it is also a symbol of this cultural maintenance. The distinctive semantics of the dialect, rooted in an Aboriginal world view, sustain and transmit the awareness of cultural and religious concepts, rules of behaviour, kinship structures, and environmental knowledge. It is through AborE that these continue to be vital and preserve their spiritual, cultural, and social significance even though the traditional languages from which the terms and/or semantic concepts are derived have fallen into disuse (Butcher 2008: 637). Moreover, the insertion of borrowings from regional and local languages not only contributes to the preservation of a (small) part of the languages’ lexical inventory; these borrowings symbolise and continue the heterogeneous character of the pre-colonial language ecology. The significance of maintaining a meaning system that is distinctively 129 Aboriginal and carries aspects of the traditional language systems and the information stored within them into the present becomes even greater in the face of the ongoing extinction of these languages. Despite the loss of the traditional language ecology, key aspects of Aboriginal culture survive in the use of AborE (Malcom 2001a: 217). As such, AborE has adopted the function of a “language of enculturation” (Malcolm 1995: 29) for children who grow up with English as their first and only language. It is also through AborE that they acquire an Aboriginal understanding of the world and come in contact with knowledge and concepts formerly transmitted through the acquisition of the traditional languages. As Harkins (1994: 177) points out, this does not mean that the minds of AborE speakers’ only and exclusively work along the lines dictated by the categories and structures of the traditional languages, and that the speakers’ use of English is restricted to Aboriginal usages and interpretations only. On the contrary, the non-Aboriginal concepts and usages provided by the standard dialect offer speakers the means to embrace StAusE as well as AborE conceptual frameworks. While AborE is the dialect most frequently used by Aboriginal Australians, all Aboriginal people in Australia are, to varying degrees, in contact with the standard language used in education, the workplace, institutional settings, and the media. At the same time, they keep up a close connection to their Aboriginal cultural heritage. As Malcolm (2001b: 220) points out, also those speakers who live in urban settings and maintain a lifestyle which does not differ greatly from that of the mainstream society are part of a network of Aboriginal people and thus preserve certain cultural and linguistic principles. For them, too, AborE presents a way to express concepts and meanings which are of particular relevance for themselves and for the wider Aboriginal community, but not necessarily for the general Australian public. In this sense, AborE serves as a signal of and a tool for dealing with what he (2001b: 219) terms “the bicultural experience” of Aboriginal Australians, “maintaining their own cultural values and relationships alongside their participation, to a greater or lesser extent, in the wider Australian society”. As such, being bidialectal in different forms of English is both an expression of and a means to negotiate this bicultural experience. As members of the wider Australian society but with a cultural heritage not shared by the majority of Australians, an Aboriginal person’s identity might be described as having a ‘dual’ character and the use of AborE is a signal of this duality. Along with this type of bidialectism comes a certain ambiguity of feeling towards the English language. On the one hand, AborE may be understood as an Aboriginal language ‘in English guise’, as Harkins (1994) has argued, while on the other, it is the language of Anglo-Australia, the invaders’ language, which was one of the most powerful tools in the disruption of the Australian 130 language ecology and the destruction of Aboriginal culture. So while for many Aboriginal people, the English language is a symbol of ongoing oppression and racism, it has also become a vehicle for the maintenance as well as for the advancement of Aboriginal culture (Malcolm 2001b: 220). Having said that, it should be clear that the dialect combines both functional and symbolic or representative aspects. Most Aboriginal people have a multilingual or multidialectal repertoire and many speakers are proficient in several dialectal varieties of English, including StAusE or a variety that approaches it. In geographically more remote locations, e.g. in the Australian north where many speakers are bi- or multilingual in (one or more forms of Aboriginal) English, contact languages such as Kriol, and traditional Aboriginal languages, AborE provides a means of communicating in mainstream contexts. Elsewhere, that is, in those regions where traditional languages or Kriol are not spoken, it is the first language for most Aboriginal people (Eades 1996: 134). In these settings, the dialect often takes on emblematic functions, and according to Kaldor & Malcolm (2004: 81), even speakers of the most acrolectal varieties perceive AborE as a medium for the expression of an Aboriginal identity. Due to the salient features discussed above, AborE is readily identifiable as a dialect distinct from AusE, and lexical features such as the application of regional names for Aboriginal people allow speakers to identify as Indigenous person and to express their link to a particular part of the country and its people. As Eades (1996: 134) points out, AborE is thus an unmistakeable signal of Aboriginality, which is of particular relevance to those Australians whose heritage is not evident in their physical appearance. Also, despite its variation and the possibility to express local or regional affiliations, AborE is an expression of a pan-Australian Aboriginal identity. As a marker of Aboriginal identity, AborE also carries an important emotional role. Kaldor & Malcolm suggest that AborE provides its speakers with a “feeling of belonging and warmth with persons with whom one shares a linguistic and cultural heritage” (2004: 81). Drawing on linguistic and conceptual resources not shared with the mainstream society, the use of AborE has an inclusive function, evoking a sense of group solidarity. These resources also allow speakers to extend their stylistic repertoire, leading to a greater degree of linguistic variation and “enable them to construct identities and affiliations that express social meanings” (Malcolm & Grote 2007: 171). The resulting indexation of identities can be directed both towards non-Aboriginal as well as Aboriginal people. Malcolm & Grote (2007: 171f), for example, relate how an Aboriginal speaker consciously incorporated pidgin features in his Standard English while addressing a group of politicians and other non-Aboriginal listeners, reminding them of his own Aboriginality and the Aboriginality of those he spoke for. Another example provided by the same source details how adolescents use lexical and grammatical features from AborE and from Afri- 131 can American hip hop culture as means of identity construction and expression of solidarity. Malcolm (2001b: 234) in fact argues that the role of AborE as a tool for stylistic variation is one of the reasons for (lexical) borrowing from AborE into AusE. The wide spectrum of grammatical, phonological, lexical and pragmatic resources ranging from light to heavy that is contained in the continuum of AborE varieties allows speakers to fine tune their speech according to the situation and the interlocutors, and make culturally and contextually appropriate linguistic choices. Thereby, AborE functions to fulfil the communicative needs of Aboriginal speakers in (almost) any social, cultural, and intercultural context (Harkins 2000: 75). At the same time that the shared dialect serves the purpose of creating a feeling of inclusion among members of the Aboriginal community, it may also create a linguistic barrier between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal society. The features described can make it difficult for non-Aboriginal speakers to follow communication among speakers of AborE, so that stress and intonation, lexico-semantics, and pragmatic features such as extended silences function to (deliberately) exclude Anglo- Australian speakers (Malcolm 2001b: 233f). The exclusion of and nonidentification with the mainstream community in situations of in-group communication is also evident in the idea of ‘talking flash’, which condemns the use of the mainstream dialect when those involved in the communication and the topics discussed are Aboriginal. The dialect’s dual function as a means of communication with the wider Australian public and as a tool to express Aboriginal concepts and world views has also contributed to a change in its status. The ways in which AborE is perceived, both within the Aboriginal community and within the wider Australian mainstream society, are complex and, like the pertaining attitudes towards the creoles, continue to be marked by the denigration of the Aboriginal contact languages in the past. Eades & Siegel (1999: 266ff) report that AborE still produces ambivalent feelings: while some speakers are still convinced that it is ‘bad English’, others show pride in their unique dialect that distinguishes them from speakers of AusE. At the same time, those who proudly use AborE may be reluctant to accept it as a medium of education of their children, feeling that this will prevent these from learning the standard language, i.e. the language of power in the mainstream Australian society. Like many creole speakers, they are afraid that the use of AborE will result in their children being stuck in a position of inferiority, of being ‘second class’. Still, there are also indicators for an increasing acceptance of AborE within the wider Australian society and a growing awareness of the value of these speech forms also among Aboriginal Australians. This is partly due to the work of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal educators and linguists who have contributed to a better understanding of the nature of AborE and the need to develop tools for improving inter-dialectal communication (Eades & Siegel 1999: 268ff).

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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.