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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton May 27, 2008

Kun-dangwok: “clan lects” and Ausbau in western Arnhem Land

  • Murray Garde


The sociolinguistic concept of an Ausbau language is widely thought of as exclusively associated with the standardization of languages for the political and social purposes of nation states. Language policy initiated by state institutions, the development of literacy and new specialist registers of language are typical elements involved in the Ausbau process. However, the linguistic ideologies of small language groups such as those of the minority languages of Aboriginal Australia can drive certain forms of deliberate language elaboration. An important aspect of Aboriginal linguistic ideology is language diversity, reflected in the development of elemental sociolinguistic varieties such as patriclan lects. In the Bininj Kun-wok dialect chain of western Arnhem Land, a regional system of lectal differentiation known as Kun-dangwok has developed, reflecting an Aboriginal linguistic ideology whereby being different, especially different ways of speaking, are seen as central aspects of identity. The functions of the Kun-dangwok clan lect system are described using examples of naturally occurring conversation which provide evidence that clan lects are the result of an Ausbau process that results in the opposite of language standardization and an increase in Abstand between varieties.

Published Online: 2008-05-27
Published in Print: 2008-May

© 2008 by Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, D-10785 Berlin

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