“We mix it up”: Indigenous youth language practices in Arnhem Land

Jill Vaughan, Abigail Carter

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review


On Australia’s north-central coast, the regional hub of Maningrida is distinguished by a highly diverse language ecology, with local linguistic repertoires taking in elements of multiple traditional languages as well as localised Englishes, Kriol (an English-lexified creole), and a local alternate sign language system. Texts and talk in Maningrida are rarely monolingual. Youth culture in Maningrida is characterised by the interacting demands of traditional cultural life and an emergent urban subculture that increasingly connects to global phenomena. Young speakers are more, and differently, mobile compared to earlier generations, and their language practices are fundamentally implicated in community language change. While some elders are concerned that young people are connecting less deeply to their languages’ traditional heartlands, young speakers themselves have different perspectives to offer. This chapter explores the language practices of Maningrida youth and centralises local Indigenous perspectives on this phenomenon. Drawing on data collected through collaborative community language research, we consider the emergence of a restructured urban variety of the Burarra language, a process of “linguistic urbanisation” in which youth are central. We further consider examples of the creative multilingual practices of young Maningrida speakers/signers, such as the recent success of an all-female band from the community who sing in five local languages. This chapter aims to illustrate how Maningrida youth create affordances within the diverse multilingual resources of their community, and the ways in which they draw on tradition and modernity to create new forms of meaning making.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGlobal perspectives on youth language practices
EditorsCynthia Groff, Andrea Hollington, Ellen Hurst-Harosh, Nico Nassenstein, Jacomine Nortier, Helma Pasch, Nurenzia Yannuar
Place of PublicationBerlin Germany
PublisherDe Gruyter Mouton
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781501514685, 9781501514777
ISBN (Print)9781501520778
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes

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