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Review of  Australia's Many Voices

Reviewer: Louisa Willoughby
Book Title: Australia's Many Voices
Book Author: Gerhard Leitner
Publisher: De Gruyter Mouton
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Subject Language(s): English
Issue Number: 16.955

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Date: Tue, 29 Mar 2005 10:50:28 +1000
From: Louisa Willoughby
Subject: Australia's Many Voices: Ethnic Englishes, Indigenous and Migrant

AUTHOR: Leitner, Gerhard
TITLE: Australia's Many Voices
SUBTITLE: Ethnic Englishes, Indigenous and Migrant Languages. Policy and
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
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.


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

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