Carmel O'Shannessy at the workshop on Intentional Language Change

By Robin Queen
Oct 13, 2013 Bookmark and Share

Carmel O'Shannessy with Warlpiri speaker in Lajamanu

Carmel O'Shannessy with Warlpiri speaker in Lajamanu

Carmel O'Shannessy gave a talk titled "Evidence against intentionality
in the emergence of Light Warlpiri, a mixed language in northern Australia" at the workshop: Intentional Language Change, at the University of Leiden, The Netherlands, Sept 27-28.


Some researchers see a strong role for deliberate decision in the emergence of mixed languages. But in the case of Light Warlpiri, a mixed language spoken in north Australia which combines Warlpiri, Aboriginal English and/or Kriol, the evidence points away from deliberateness. Light Warlpiri appears to have been formed through a two-step process. First, adults directed code-switched speech to children consistently in a baby talk register, combining languages in a pattern which is like that of Light Warlpiri. Second, children processed the code-switched speech as a single system, conventionalized it and added innovations in the verbal auxiliary system. There is no role for deliberateness at the innovation stage of the development Light Warlpiri – the child speakers re-analyzed and grammaticalized existing structures and developed new structures. Now that Light Warlpiri is stabilizing, deliberateness does play a role in its continuation as it signals the identity of its speakers as young Warlpiri in one community.