Most people modify their ways of speaking, writing, texting, and e-mailing, and so on, according to the people with whom they are communicating. This fascinating book asks why we 'accommodate' to others in this way, and explores the various social consequences arising from it.
Date: Tue, 29 Mar 2005 10:50:28 +1000 From: Louisa Willoughby Subject: Australia's Many Voices: Ethnic Englishes, Indigenous and Migrant Languages
AUTHOR: Leitner, Gerhard TITLE: Australia's Many Voices SUBTITLE: Ethnic Englishes, Indigenous and Migrant Languages. Policy and Education SERIES: Contributions to the Sociology of Language 90.2 PUBLISHER: Mouton de Gruyter YEAR: 2004
Louisa Willoughby, Monash University
[For Louisa Willoughby's review of Australia's Many Voices: Australian English -- The National Language, see http://linguistlist.org/issues/15/15- 3240.html --Eds.]
"Australia's Many Voices: Ethnic Englishes, Indigenous and Migrant Languages. Policy and Education" and its companion volume "Australia's Many Voices: Australian English -- the National Language" provide perhaps the most comprehensive survey of the Australian language habitat by a single author. Two questions guide the volume (and its companion): 1. "What happens when people of diverse language backgrounds are forced into contact with each other." 2. "What is specific to Australia in such a situation" (p7), making the miniseries of great interest to scholars of language contact as much as those interested in the details of the Australian language habitat. While volume one attacked the question of mainstream Australian English from a variety of angles, "Australia's Many Voices: Ethnic Englishes, Indigenous and Migrant Languages. Policy and Education" focuses its attention on each of the title area in turn.
After a brief introductory chapter, chapter two looks at the language habitats of Indigenous Australians, with a particular emphasis on how that habitat has been altered since colonisation. Section 2.1 introduces the reader to the traditional (pre-colonial) language habitat, stressing the strong link for Aborigines between the land, their language and their mythology, and resultant issues of ownership in language learning (since the language holds sacred stories many feel only tribesmen should be allowed to speak or learn it). Leitner also speculates on the migratory history behind Australian settlement and hypothesises that the high level of similarity between different Aboriginal languages may well be the result of extended periods of contact rather than a single proto-language origin. The focus then shifts to the typology and structure of indigenous languages in section 2.2, with examples drawn from various indigenous languages of key features such as ergativity and avoidance styles. Section 2.3 moves on to the social history of language contact, and marries neatly with 2.4 -- the section on linguistic contact that forms the bulk of the chapter. Through these sections Leitner illustrates the processes that have led to language loss in Aboriginal communities around Australia as well as the way English has influenced surviving languages. From this he goes on to discuss the history, structure and phonology of English-based contact languages used within Australia, with a particular emphasis on Kriol (spoken across northern Australia), essentially arguing that all surviving Aboriginal languages have been affected by these contact processes .The focus then shifts to Aboriginal English, with Leitner setting himself four main questions for discussion: When, how and why did Aboriginal English evolve into a nationwide language?, What are its main characteristics, and social stratifications (age, region, education etc)?, Do it's characteristics show a link with other contact languages? and How far advanced is it on the path to standardisation? (p111). The chapter concludes with a discussion of the modern language habitat, with particular emphasis on the ways Aboriginal speakers can wed features from Indigenous languages, Kriol, Aboriginal English and mainstream Australian English in order to create a distinctive Aboriginal discourse or story- telling style.
Chapter three 'Languages of Australians of non-Anglophone background' follows much the same structure as chapter two, although its introduction to the social history of migrant language diversity is extremely brief, running to just four pages. Having touched on this long and varied history, Leitner moves on to discuss linguistic responses to contact in section 2.2, beginning with a comparison the demographics of language other than English (LOTE) communities according to census data from 1976 to 2001. Essentially Leitner then surveys the main issues in language maintenance (drawing on Clyne 1991, 2003 and Kipp et al 1995) to outline common patterns as relates to length of residence, gender, marriage patterns, usage by domain and the importance of the ethnic language as a 'core value'. Moving away from the more sociological stance of the first half of the chapter, sections 3.2.2 'Modifications of Languages other the English', 3.2.3 'English Proficiency' and 3.2.4 'Contact Languages' outline the various ways in which Australian migrant languages (including migrant English) are subject to borrowings, code-switching and phonological transfers. A particularly noteworthy contribution of this section is its discussion of Norfolk and Pitcairnese -- languages rarely discussed alongside the more traditional 'immigrant' languages.
Chapter 4 'Language Policy and Education' provides a comprehensive overview of issues in Australian language planning, with particular emphasis on developments in the last 10 years. Indeed it is this focus on recent events -- whether it be in Indigenous language policy, ESL teaching or the status of languages other than English in the school curriculum where the section comes into each own -- not least because the canonical text on Australian Language Politics (Ozolins 1993) is now more than 10 years out of date. The chapter first charts the history behind (and indeed following) the development of the National Policy of Languages in 1987, and then moves into a more detailed discussion of acquisition and communication planning for Indigenous and migrant languages, and policies for assisting these groups to learn English. The Chapter concludes with an overview of the success or not of the language policy movement, essentially concluding that while much was achieved by progressive policies, the pendulum is now swinging back to favour the hegemony of mainstream Australian English over all other languages and dialects.
The volume concludes with a short historical chapter 'Transforming Australia's Languages Habitat' which weaves together developments covered in this volume with themes discussed in volume one to provide a general timeline for the evolution of Australia's languages habitat (represented diagrammatically on p 284).
Leitner's "Australia's Many Voices: Ethnic Englishes, Indigenous and Migrant Languages. Policy and Education" is an important text for the variety of texts it brings together in one volume, and for its attempt to compare and contrast the history and circumstances of migrant, Indigenous and contact languages in Australia. However, since the book is not focussed on a single language, but rather looks at the development of all languages spoken in Australia other than mainstream Australian English, Leitner has the unenviable task of introducing readers to a plethora of languages and features and thus understandably has little time to labour over the intricacies of individual languages. In this respect "Australia's Many Voices: Ethnic Englishes, Indigenous and Migrant Languages. Policy and Education" is a very different read from volume one ("Australia's Many Voices: Australian English -- the national language), where the intricacies of Australian English was approached from virtually every conceivable angle.
Volume two also occupies a difficult space, presuming as it does that its readers have little knowledge of Australia's language history, while at the same time going well beyond the scope of a standard introduction with discussions of Norfolk Pidgin and Pitcairnese to name but two lesser-known areas covered by Leitner. Importantly, the volume should not be judged as an attempt to independently survey the three areas under consideration -- for more comprehensive surveys already exist (such as Clyne's "Community Languages: the Australian experience" (1991)) -- but rather should be judged on its ability to draw together developments from Indigenous, migrant and contact languages under one framework. Thus the volume can effectively be read on two levels -- either as an accessible introduction to the major issues and developments in Australia's non-(standard)English speaking history, or more on the conceptual level, where Leitner's pertinent observations on the similarities and differences between the migrant and Indigenous linguistic situation are bound to be thought- provoking. Regardless of what level one starts reading the volume on, Leitner again excels in the bibliography he brings together, which allows readers easy access to both seminal texts and more obscure examples and texts from the colonial period to the present day. The book is also to be commended for its detailed survey of current developments in language policy, an area which has developed hugely since the 1990s but until now has been poorly synthesised.
As part of a series, "Australia's Many Voices: Ethnic Englishes, Indigenous and Migrant Languages. Policy and Education" is naturally best- read in conjunction with its companion volume, particularly if one wishes to gain full insight into Leitner's model of the evolution of the Australian language habitat. Nonetheless it is perfectly accessible as a stand-alone volume, and readers put off by the denseness of volume one will be relieved by the more 'overview' style of volume two. Moreover, the breadth of information Leitner brings together in this series makes it a perfect ready-reference and springboard for casual enthusiast and scholars of Australian languages alike.
Clyne, Michael 1991. "Community Languages: the Australian experience". Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Clyne, Michael 2003. "The dynamics of Contact Linguistics". Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kipp, Sandra, Michael Clyne and Anne Pauwels. 1995. "Immigration and Australia's Language Resources". Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service.
Leitner, Gerhard. 2004. "Australia's Many Voices: Australian English -- the national language". Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Ozolins, Uldis. 1993. "The Politics of Language in Australia". Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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.