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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: Referring Expressions and Referential Practice in Roper Kriol (Northern Territory, Australia) Add Dissertation
Author: Sophie Nicholls Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of New England, Australia, PhD
Completed in: 2009
Linguistic Subfield(s): Discourse Analysis; Language Documentation; Pragmatics; Semantics; Anthropological Linguistics;
Subject Language(s): Kriol
Language Family(ies): Australian Pidgins and Creoles
Director(s): Jeff Siegel
Cliff Goddard
Brett Baker

Abstract: Referring Expressions and Referential Practice in Roper Kriol
(Northern Territory, Australia)

In this thesis I describe aspects of referring expressions and referential
practice in an English-lexified creole language spoken in the Ngukurr
Aboriginal community, in the Northern Territory of Australia. Kriol has
substrate influences from seven traditional Aboriginal languages. Dialects
of Kriol are spoken in Aboriginal communities across the Top End of
Australia; with estimates suggesting more than 20,000 people speak it as a
first language. The language has a low status and in many contexts, such as
health, medical and legal contexts, it frequently goes unrecognised as a
legitimate language requiring interpreters. There is no comprehensive
grammar of Kriol and as yet, there have been few in-depth studies into its
structure and use.

I investigate referential expressions in Kriol from various perspectives,
using tools from a range of theoretical frameworks and research traditions,
including descriptive linguistics, discourse analysis, information
structure, and ethnopragmatics. The thesis provides an integrated
description of how referential expressions are structured and how they are
used in spontaneous talk to meet communicative needs. A further goal of
this thesis is to demonstrate that there is significant continuity of
referring strategies from Kriol’s Aboriginal substrate languages. The data
used in this study consists of a corpus of spontaneous discourse between
two or more speakers, elicited material, and consultation with Elders on
cultural issues relevant to language use.

Chapter One provides an overview of Kriol, its speakers and the Ngukurr
community. I discuss the development of Kriol; of particular significance
is that it developed over a number of generations, enabling the possibility
of continuity of cultural speech practices. Chapter Two provides a sketch
of Kriol grammar, as well as an introduction to interactional style in
Aboriginal languages. Chapter Three provides a detailed description of the
Kriol noun phrase, as well as possessive and inclusory pronominal
constructions. Chapter Four draws on interactional data to describe the
distribution and function of a determiner, det. Using various diagnostic
tests, I show that this determiner is a definite article, and that its
discourse function is to indicate assumed 'familiarity' of the referent of
the noun phrase. Chapter Five examines clause-level phenomena involving
referring expressions in Kriol using tools from the theory of information
structure. It includes a discussion of how the concepts of topic, focus and
'accessibility' apply in Kriol discourse, as well as an empirical study of
left and right-dislocated noun phrases.

Chapter Six is a description of aspects of communicative practice in Kriol,
in particular, person reference and information exchange. This chapter
employs the 'cultural scripts' method of ethnographic description. It shows
how cultural values and interactional norms influence aspects of
referential practice in the Ngukurr community.

Each chapter contributes original description of the Kriol language. By
combining a number of theoretical perspectives, the thesis offers an
integrated description of the structure and function of referring expressions.