Jill Vaughan (NTNU)


In Maningrida, northern Australia, code-switching is a commonplace phenomenon within a complex of both longstanding and more recent multilingual practices. Fourteen Indigenous languages representing three language families are spoken among 2500 people, alongside increasing use of local Englishes and contact varieties (such as Kriol, spoken further south in the Maningrida region, and right across northern Australia). Individual linguistic repertoires are typically large, but strong ideologies exist dictating rights/responsibilities around language ownership and use. A variety of code-mixing practices is observable between local Indigenous languages, and is now also widespread between local languages and English. Code-switching has been a feature of the longstanding stable ‘egalitarian’ multilingual ecology of the region (Singer & Harris 2016), yet the practice is also symptomatic of a changing local language ecology, shaped by the large-scale incursion of English and implicated in the emergence of a local urban koine.

In this paper, I give a brief overview of code-switching practices in Maningrida, and consider the nature of both linguistic and social constraints on their shape and function. Much work in the literature attributes the shape of code-switching to predominantly linguistic factors, such as the interaction of the grammars of the contributing languages, while allowing that social factors may influence more macro aspects, such as the choice of the matrix language or motivations for the practice itself (e.g. Backus 2003, Meakins 2011, Pfaff 1979). First, I address core linguistic/typological effects, and consider whether the observable code-switching patterns may be accounted for by general predictions from the literature, and the typological congruence of the languages implicated. Next, I consider social-psychological and ideological effects, derived from such locally salient pressures as the important connection between language and territory, and the perseverance of small-scale multilingualism (Lüpke 2016) in the region. I demonstrate that while linguistic/typological factors are able to account for many observable tendencies in the data, there is reason to include language-external social motivations in accounting for not just the function, but also the shape of code-switching in northern Australia.

This paper contributes novel data from multilingual interactions in Maningrida, where code-switching is evident both between local languages and also with English and Kriol. Little published work addresses code-switching between Indigenous Australian languages only, but I consider what data exists in a           vailable accounts from northern Australia (e.g. Coleman n.d.; Evans 2010; Haviland 1982; O’Keeffe 2016; Sutton 1978), as well as data featuring mixing between Indigenous languages, Kriol and/or English (e.g. Meakins 2012; McConvell 2002; O’Shannessy 2012) to highlight broader tendencies, constraints and particularities. This paper is intended to demonstrate the importance and value in looking beyond purely language-internal motivations influencing the shape of code-switching practices, and suggests that in fact such a dichotomy may not always be tenable in understanding the diverse outcomes of language contact.

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