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International Journal of the Sociology of Language

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Ed. by Duchêne, Alexandre / Coulmas, Florian

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Volume 2016, Issue 241


What practices and ideologies support small-scale multilingualism? A case study of Warruwi Community, northern Australia

Ruth SingerORCID iD: http://orcid.org/0000-0003-4915-3262 / Salome Harris
Published Online: 2016-08-11 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijsl-2016-0029


At Warruwi, a remote Australian Indigenous community, people use a range of Indigenous languages on a daily basis. Adults speak three to eight Indigenous languages and these high levels of multilingualism are out of step with current trends which see most Australian Indigenous communities shifting to a single variety be it a variety of English, a contact variety or a traditional Indigenous language. The three Indigenous languages most widely spoken at Warruwi are quite dissimilar as they belong to separate language families. This article discusses three characteristics of language use at Warruwi that are likely to play a role in supporting the levels of multilingualism found there: the diversity of individual linguistic repertoires, receptive multilingual practices whereby interlocutors address one another in different languages and language ideologies that are quite different to those found elsewhere. Characteristics of multilingualism at Warruwi are compared with those reported for other communities with small-scale multilingualism. Francois’ (2012) concept of egalitarian multilingualism is used as a starting point for the exploration of models of small-scale multilingualism.

Keywords: multilingualism; Indigenous Australian languages; Australian Aboriginal languages; receptive multilingualism; language ideologies


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About the article

Published Online: 2016-08-11

Published in Print: 2016-09-01

Citation Information: International Journal of the Sociology of Language, Volume 2016, Issue 241, Pages 163–208, ISSN (Online) 1613-3668, ISSN (Print) 0165-2516, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijsl-2016-0029.

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