LAL SEMINAR - Working together: Sociolinguistic research in urban Aboriginal Australia

Working together: Sociolinguistic research in urban Aboriginal Australia

Celeste Rodriguez Louro and Glenys Collard

(University of Western Australia and Mallee Aboriginal Corporation)

Variationist sociolinguistics has seen an upsurge of research into how Labovian theory and method may adapt to minoritized languages in small-scale, remote communities. In this paper we focus on Australian Aboriginal English (AAE) as used in Nyungar country (southwest Western Australia), and on how yarning – an Indigenous cultural form of storytelling and conversation – can expand variationist fieldwork. We describe the two-way, cross-cultural model underpinning our research, focusing on how yarning as a data collection tool reflects the unique experiences of AAE speakers. We draw on a corpus of 25 hours of video-recorded data with 40 speakers of Nyungar ancestry for whom AAE is their underlying vernacular. Our analysis of premonitory yarns about the death of youth in the community reveals a rich performative style: itself a window into the community’s vernacular. We reflect on the role of yarning in cultural preservation and truth-telling.

Dr Celeste Rodriguez Louro is a Senior Lecturer and Australian Research Council DECRA Fellow at UWA Linguistics. She is also Vice-President of the Australian Linguistic Society. Celeste holds a PhD in Linguistics (University of Melbourne, 2009), an MA in Hispanic Linguistics (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA, 2004), and a BA in English Language (Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata, Argentina, 2001). Her research tracks language change across time. Celeste is also interested in macro sociolinguistic issues including standard language ideologies, language contact and multilingualism. Her publications have appeared in high-ranking international journals and her work has featured in more than 40 peer-reviewed conferences, including recent invited plenaries and panels. Celeste has taught Linguistics to more than 1,000 students since joining The University of Western Australia (UWA) in 2011 – winning two UWA Teaching Excellence Awards in the space of three years. She has a strong record of media appearances and is committed to sustainability in academia and to making academic knowledge widely available through public talks, workshops and online content.

Glenys Collard, an Honorary Research Fellow at UWA, is a southwest Nyungar woman and matriarch within her nuclear family of over 400 people. She has co-authored numerous educational publications and academic papers, including two books written in Nyungar and Aboriginal English: “Kwobba Keip Boya” and "Kura". Glenys has worked in government and non-government agencies including providing training on Aboriginal English. In the public sector Glenys’ experience in Nyungar language, Aboriginal English, culture and education have enabled her to contribute significantly to developments related to policy and planning.

Friday 19 June, 3:15pm

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