The meta-pragmatic discourses of Australian high school students on language, migration and belonging

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Recent years have seen a backlash against multiculturalism in many Western countries and increasing calls to restrict migration and citizenship rights to those who can pass language tests. This paper explores the sentiment of high school students who were born and raised in Australia towards issues of language and migration, including the need for migrants to speak English and use Australian dialect and accent. Results show that Australian youth have diverse and sophisticated understandings of what is a complex and often polarising issue of public debate. While public multicultural backlash discourse may be influencing some students who support the idea that migrants should learn English before coming to Australia, many students believe that individual circumstances should be considered when evaluating migrant language issues. Student views about migrants use of Australian dialect and accent also vary but these responses include less mitigation than to those about migrants English language abilities, suggesting that the role of English is more contested than the role of dialect and accent. We close by reflecting on the design of our data instruments for eliciting opinions in this controversial area and what our findings might mean for future Australian discourse on language, migration and belonging. (c) 2015 Taylor Francis
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)550 - 566
Number of pages17
JournalLanguage and Intercultural Communication
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • adolescents
  • Australian language policy
  • integration
  • language ideologies
  • migration

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