19th Oct 2016 1:30pm
E513, Checkland Building, Falmer Campus
Dr Ruth Singer (University of Melbourne)
This talk reflects on 5 years of researching on multilingualism at Warruwi Community, a remote Indigenous community on the north coast of Australia. Warruwi Community is unusual in that a large number of traditional Indigenous languages are still widely spoken and being acquired by children. Although the population of Warruwi Community is only around 300, there are at least 10 Indigenous languages spoken there. There are three languages that are widely known: Mawng, Bininj Gun-wok and Yolngu-matha and the other languages are spoken by smaller subsets of the community. The 10 languages used are quite diverse as they are from five different families. The aim of the research project is to understand why so many different languages are maintained at Warruwi when at other remote Indigenous Australian communities the linguistic diversity has been greatly reduced. This talk looks back at the conceptual journey the project has taken, through various different methods and theoretical frameworks, towards a better picture of language use at Warruwi. Along the way, some ideas drawn from established work on sociolinguistics and multilingualism have had to be abandoned or modified. These decision points highlight how language use at Warruwi differs from contexts more often investigated in studies of multilingualism.