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Carmel O'Shannessy has just lodged her doctoral thesis Language contact and children's bilingual acquisition: learning a mixed language and Warlpiri in northern Australia in the Sydney eScholarship Repository (D-Space) at the University of Sydney. It's on the emergence of a new language, Light Warlpiri, in the multilingual community of Lajamanu in northern Australia, and on how children acquire this language as well as one of the source languages, classical Warlpiri. It's the first time anyone's looked carefully at mixed languages in Aboriginal Australia, let alone documented the acquisition and development of such a language. A major theme is how children differentiate between the input languages. She's got some very interesting results on how adults and children distribute ergative marking differently in the two languages, but show similar word order patterns in both. The correlation between ergative marking and word order patterns is stronger among children - and Carmel suggests the children are leading language change here.

Go click! It's a ripper!


thanks for letting us see but I can't as the server is error

Hmm - you should see a screen with the abstract, and then below it a screen with links to the full version - you can press 'view' or 'open' to see it.

I've only read the abstract at this point, but this seems to be an important thesis for the study of mixed languages. First, because there aren't many known "bilingual mixed languages" (other examples being Michif, Media Lengua, Ma'a, Medniy Aleut) and they are very variable in structure, so it's difficult to make generalizations about them as a classs. So any study on a new mixed language is welcome in the field. Secondly, one issue currently being discussed in creolistics is how long it takes for a stable grammar to emerge and whether it is possible to differentiate between grammar that develops through creolization and that which develops subsequently through normal language change. The issue can be extended to mixed languages in general. The Light Warlpiri case is interesting because it seems that the language has already emerged as a stable norm (recognizing that all languages exhibit variability) and the changes being introduced by children are therefore part of normal language change. After the change has run its course, however, it won't be possible to look at the resulting structures and say "this is language mixture" or "this is historical change" There's a conference on language contact in Paris next September that Carmel should be encouraged to attend. Unfortunately, the abstract deadline is very close - Dec 15.

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