Please note that this is a hybrid event and will be recorded.
The emergence of the mixed language, Light Warlpiri, spoken in northern Australia, raises key questions about sociolinguistic contexts of language change and emergence, and about the cognitive processing by child speakers in complex language contact situations. Light Warlpiri systematically combines the nominal structure of Warlpiri with the verbal structure of Kriol and English, and also shows structural innovation. The language emerged through a two-stage process where, firstly, adults code-switched in a consistent pattern when speaking to young children and, secondly, the young children internalised the mixed input as a single system, and added innovations in the verbal auxiliary system, introducing new structure that is not in the source languages. This prompts the question of whether multilingual change in progress seen in the emergence of contact languages is qualitatively different from that in other kinds of language acquisition situations. In this talk I trace the sociolinguistic and processing factors in the emergence of Light Warlpiri and some of its unusual features, and the sociolinguistic factors that support the emergence and stabilisation of new structures and languages.
About the speaker
Carmel O’Shannessy is Associate Professor in the School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics at the Australian National University. In the 1990s her background as an ESL teacher and Applied Linguist took her to work in remote Indigenous schools in Australia’s Northern Territory, in the areas of Indigenous language maintenance and education. While working in the Warlpiri-English bilingual education program in the Warlpiri community of Lajamanu she noticed what sounded like extensive code-switching by younger speakers, and with the community’s approval was keen to investigate how young people were speaking. She subsequently completed her PhD in Linguistics at the University of Sydney (Australia) and the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics (The Netherlands) in 2007, with documentation of the genesis and development of Light Warlpiri, a mixed language that had recently emerged in the community. Within the areas of language contact and change and language acquisition, her research continues to document children’s bilingual acquisition and maintenance of Light Warlpiri and Warlpiri. She is especially interested in the roles of children and adults in contact-induced language change. She also documents traditional Warlpiri songs. Carmel has been involved with languages in remote Indigenous communities in Australia since 1996, in the areas of bilingual education and her current research.
Associate Professor Carmel O’Shannessy
Carmel O’Shannessy is Associate Professor in the School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics at the Australian National University. Carmel has been involved with languages in remote Indigenous communities in Australia since 1996, in the areas of bilingual education and her current research.