Date: Thu, 18 Nov 2004 16:54:47 +1000 From: Louisa Willoughby Subject: Australia's Many Voices: Australian English - The National Language
AUTHOR: Leitner, Gerhard TITLE: Australia's Many Voices SUBTITLE: Australian English - The National Language SERIES: Contributions to the Sociology of Language PUBLISHER: Mouton de Gruyter YEAR: 2004
Louisa Willoughby, Language and Society Centre, Monash University
Gerhard Leitner's book, together with its companion volume Australia's Many Voices: Ethnic Englishes, Indigenous and Migrant Language, Policy and Education, provides what is undoubtedly the most comprehensive survey of Australian English to date. This much anticipated series charts the development of Australian English from settlement to the present day, covering topics as varied as lexical borrowings from Aboriginal languages, origins of the Australia accent and variations within it, the impact of the Macquarie dictionary and other codification attempts and Ethnic and Aboriginal varieties of Australian English (covered predominantly in volume two). While some readers may already be familiar with much of the material presented, Leitner is to be commended for the lucidity with which he draws together numerous small-scale studies into a grand history of English in Australia.
The division of labour across Australia's Many Voices: Australian English - the national language may strike some readers as slightly unusual, as Chapter 3 comprises around two thirds of the book, with the remaining three chapters essentially serving as introduction and coda to the main argument.
Chapter one ''Australia's Language Habitat'' introduces the diversity of Australia's language habitat, both past and present, and demonstrates the difficulties of precisely defining both what (mainstream) Australian English is, and what it's origins are. In order to answer these questions, Leitner outlines the following key areas for investigation:
''1. what features of language are affected by contact and interaction?'' ''2. what has happened to the old language habitat as people of different language and cultural backgrounds started to interact?'' ''3. what has changed in the lives of languages?'' and ''4. what was and is the role and impact of the society and of elite sections of it?'' (p 13).
These questions, as well as Leitner's ensuing model of language development in a new habitat (represented diagrammatically on p 21), give the book a theoretical grounding much stronger than earlier surveys of Australian English (such as Burridge and Mulder or Blair and Collins), and provide theoretical food for thought for all linguists working on contact languages. Indeed, many linguists may be interested in the book solely for the strength of its contribution to the field of contact linguistics, and will no doubt be pleased to hear that the theoretical underpinnings so thoroughly developed in Chapter one are referred back to throughout the book. The chapter concludes by drawing a distinction between mainstream Australian English (the focus of this volume) and Aboriginal and Migrant varieties of Australian English (the focus of volume two). While Leitner acknowledges that the boundaries between the mainstream Australian English and other varieties are highly permeable, for the purposes of this book he defines mainstream Australian English as ''the nationally dominant ... [variety which] now influences any variety, and indeed any indigenous and migrant LOTE on the continent'' (p35).
Chapter two ''The Demography of Australian's Language Habitat'' provides the background on Australia's chequered immigration history necessary to understand the complex beast that is mainstream Australian English today. The basic story of Chapter two should be familiar to most Australians or those interested in Australian history, however the detail with which Leitner explores immigration - particularly pre 1900 - makes it an interesting read for all. Readers less familiar with Australian history and society will find this chapter particularly useful, not least for it's analysis of subtle differences in immigration patterns between the States and Territories and their implications for language use in those areas today. In addition to profiles of Anglo-Celtic, European and Asian migration patterns, Leitner provides a brief overview of the Aboriginal situation since white settlement, which, although more relevant to volume two in the series, is crucial to understanding the linguistic situation Australia's Aboriginal communities find themselves in today.
As mentioned previously, chapter three ''Australian English: the national language'' advances the bulk of Leitner's argument and therefore warrants a somewhat extended summary. The first section of chapter three deals with attitudes towards mainstream Australian English both locally and overseas over the past 200 years. Leitner sees pride in an Australian accent or way of speech as arising in the late 19th century as the country moved towards federation only to decline under the effects of colonial cringe (circa 1930- 70) before reasserting itself in recent history. This discussion leads naturally into section two, which deals with the British English heritage of mainstream Australian English, and through this the degree to which mainstream Australian English has deviated from British norms over time. The inventory of mainstream Australian English vowel phonemes, and comparison with their RP equivalents will be a highlight for phoneticians unfamiliar with the Australian accent, although as Leitner himself points out, the phonemic status of some of these phones remains under dispute. The subsections on lexis and grammar which follow the discussion on accent are commendable in their attempts to synthesise numerous small research projects on mainstream Australian English quirks in these areas, although the emphasis on how these forms reflect a British English heritage does become somewhat lost.
Section three moves the focus away from British influences to examine the effect of contact with Indigenous and migrant languages, and other varieties of English (American English, New Zealand English, Scots English etc). Going through each variety in turn, Leitner first examines lexical borrowings, (as this is where contact has had its most noticeable effect) before discussing their impact on mainstream Australian English syntax morphology and pronunciation, along the way providing attestations of current usage from a wide variety of media sources.
Section four deals with the long-running question of whether there are dialects within mainstream Australian English; approaching the question from the point of view of both regional and class-based variation. On the question of social stratification, Leitner concurs with Horvath (1985) in distinguishing four accents of mainstream Australian English - Cultivated, General, Broad and Ethnic Broad - and examines them from the point of view of vowel variants, use of the High Rising Terminal and realisation of - ing. At a dialect level he examines the continuum from formal mainstream Australian English to slang, focussing
particularly on differences in lexis (primarily the love of swearing in colloquial Australian English) and grammar (nonstandard elements such as clause final but). On the question of Regional varieties Leitner draws heavily on the work of Pauline Bryant (particularly Bryant 1992) in order to develop a rough map of dialect regions within Australian (presented on page 255. While these areas have small differences in pronunciation and slightly larger ones at the lexical level, Leitner ends the section with a general caution that investigation into regional variation within Australian English is still in its infancy, and thus the findings presented remain preliminary.
Sections five and six both take a somewhat historical view of mainstream Australian English development - section five through looking at the influence of various institutions and codification attempts, and section six addressing the history directly. Section 5 begins with an extended look at the role of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation as linguistic gatekeeper and self-appointed guardian of 'correct usage' over the past 70 years. It then moves to a discussion of the impact of the Macquarie dictionary (first published 1981), along the way giving a history of the project itself and an overview of its inclusion policy. Thereafter follows short sections on the impact of Government, style guides and PC language movements, with the section concluding by foreshadowing discussion in volume two of the influence of ESL education in Australia on norms and codification efforts. Section six attempts to tie the chapter together by considering if and how developments mentioned in earlier sections correlate with developments in Australian history. Like chapter two, the historical data presented in this chapter will be of most interest to those unfamiliar with Australian history, but even those with sound historical knowledge are likely to find something new in Leitner's overview of the interaction between Australia's 19th century history and dialect development. Leitner then closes the chapter with a very short 7th section on the language repertoire of the mainstream Australian English speech community in which he highlights the high levels of bilingualism in certain sections the Australian community and foreshadows many of the issues which will be addressed in volume two.
Chapter 4 ''An Epi-Centre in the Asia-Pacific Region'' provides a brief summation of the issues dealt with throughout the book. Within its eight pages it does however touch on the new issue of the status of Australian English within the Asia Pacific - essentially concluding that while still much less widely used than either British or American norms Australian English is gaining status and credence within the region due to the popularity of Australia as a destination for study, and Australia's increased political influence (and aid commitments) in the region. The book concludes with a warning that current trends in the development of mainstream Australian English point to it overwhelming other language varieties within Australia in the near future, and as such provides a poignant lead into a discussion of these varieties in volume two.
Australia's Many Voices: Australian English - the national language is the result of years of careful scholarship, and as such presents by far the most comprehensive overview of Australian English on the market. The detail of Leitner's work may well frustrate those looking for a clear overview
of Australian English features, but those interested in unpacking the finer points of mainstream Australian English will not be disappointed. Leitner is to be particularly commended for the breadth of work synthesised within this volume, and the bibliography alone is an invaluable resource for those interested in most conceivable aspects of Australian English. That said, I feel the denseness of Leitner's prose, and some small stylistic eccentricities can make Australia's Many Voices: Australian English - the national language heavy going at times. However, as the book is clearly divided into sub- sections which comprehensively address their topic readers interested in particular topics can easily navigate the book and skim over points not directly relevant to their own interests. As Leitner himself points out, elements of his analysis, such as the inventory of mainstream Australian English monophthongs are the subject of some dispute and alternative interpretation, and thus serious scholars should not accept all of Leitner's without criticism and reflection. That said Leitner generally provides convincing argumentation as to why his particular view should be adopted and even though (as a native speaker of Australian English) I found myself quibbling at times over definitions of 'typically Australian' words and the degree to which examples reflect current mainstream usage (as oppose to discourse, or occasionally region-specific quirks), I felt the quality of the analysis to be largely exceptional.
Since Australia's Many Voices: Australian English - the national language is after all volume one in a two-part series, it seems somewhat unfair to critique it as a stand-alone volume. However, while one's understanding of each volume is certainly enhanced by reading the other, it is more than possible to read each on its own and still gain valuable insights. Although Leitner's work is not for those in a hurry, it provides a comprehensive overview of mainstream Australian English accessible and interesting to native speakers and global scholars alike.
Blair, David and Peter Collins (eds). 2001. ''English in Australia''. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Bryant, Pauline. 1993. Regional Variation in the Australian English Lexicon. In ''Style on the Move: Proceedings of Style Council 92. ed Pamela Peters. Macquarie University: Dictionary Research Centre. pp 31-42.
Burridge, Kate and Jean Mulder. 1998. ''English in Australia and New Zealand. An introduction to its history structure and use''. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
Leitner, Gerhard. 2004. ''Australia's Many Voices: Ethnic Englishes, Indigenous and Migrant Language, Policy and Education''. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Louisa Willoughby is a PhD student with the Language and Society at Monash University, Clayton. Her doctoral research focuses on the relationship between language and cultural maintenance and identity construction among the teenage children of immigrants to Australia; though she is interested in all aspects of the interaction between language use and identity construction.