Aboriginal language use in Darwin

Wadeye school

The Aboriginal languages of northern Australia are remarkably diverse, and in many cases unusually complex in their grammatical structure. It has been argued that this sort of linguistic complexity develops in small societies with relatively dense, localised social networks, but although this may be true of Aboriginal languages’ traditional social contexts, it does not reflect their current reality. Nowadays, many speakers of these languages spend substantial time in major urban centres, where they engage in much wider, looser social networks. This is especially true of Darwin, where several Aboriginal languages can be heard on any given day. This project aims to investigate how highly complex Aboriginal languages, traditionally spoken by small semi-nomadic clan groups, are used in an urban context.

This project is supported by the Australian Research Council, grant DE180100872.

Chief Investigators: Dr John Mansfield.