Carmel O'Shannessy has been busy publishing chapters in two books and articles in the Journal of Child Language and in Linguistics:
Language contact and change in endangered language
The Cambridge Handbook of Endangered Languages
The chapter surveys outcomes of language contact, in terms of language maintenance, shift and creation, and linguistic and social–psychological mechanisms operating in contact situations. Some linguistic behaviours are both an outcome and a mechanism of change, depending on the social dynamics of the situation. Both social and structural factors are taken into account, with examples of how the two perspectives are linked. Social factors influencing mechanisms and outcomes include the reason for the contact, the differences in size and social prestige or dominance of the groups of speakers, the amount of social and cultural pressure groups exert on each other, and the relative instrumental value of the languages. How speaker communities perceive contact-induced change is discussed, along with the question of whether such change is inevitable. The chapter explains that new languages arising from contact might also be endangered and should be documented as valuable records of sociolinguistic processes.
Competition between word order and case-marking in interpreting grammatical relations: a case study in multilingual acquisition
Journal of Child Language 38 (2011), 763–792
The study examines strategies multilingual children use to interpret grammatical relations, focusing on their two primary languages, Lajamanu Warlpiri and Light Warlpiri. Both languages use mixed systems for indicating grammatical relations. In both languages ergative–absolutive case-marking indicates core arguments, but to different extents in each language. In Lajamanu Warlpiri, pronominal clitics in a nominative–accusative pattern also indicate core arguments, and in Light Warlpiri word order in a nominative–accusative pattern partially does so. The study asks which sentence interpretation strategies children rely on most, when they learn to rely on them and whether cross-linguistic influences are seen. Children aged 5;0, 7;0 and 9;0 and adults saw paired, animated events simultaneously on video and heard a transitive sentence spoken. The participants pointed to the event depicted by the sentence heard. Adults used a casemarking strategy consistently in both languages. Children initially used both case-marking and word order strategies, but used case-marking more often as age increased.
Young children's social meaning-making in a new mixed language
Growing Up in Central Australia: New anthropological studies of Aboriginal childhood and adolescence
The play and peer interactions of children in many places in the world have been well documented, but there is little documentation of the interactions and activities of young Aboriginal children in remote communities in Australia. In this chapter I present a snapshot of the kinds of spoken interactions young children engage in with each other in one remote Aboriginal community, the Warlpiri community of Lajamanu in the northern part of Central Australia. The data, drawn from approximately eighty hours of video-taped interactions between children aged 2 years to 5 years, with other children and with their carers, shows that the children use talk to explore themes and perform functions that are common to other cultures as well as some themes that are specific to their own, as do children from many parts of the world. Further, through play and talk they initiate and control scenes that they might be fearful of in other life contexts.
The role of code-switched input to children in the origin of a new mixed language
Light Warlpiri is a mixed language, with Warlpiri and Aboriginal English/Kriol as its sources. It was developed by a group who received code-switched input in a Baby Talk register from when they were young. The innovating group conventionalized the input they received and developed morphosyntactic structures beyond those in the input. The development of Light Warlpiri shows that commonly occurring processes in language contact situations, code-switching and re-analyses of existing forms, play an important role in the extreme outcome of the development of a mixed language, through a two-part process - a) an adult group directed code-switched speech to children, and b) the children conventionalized and expanded the morphosyntactic structures they heard. The new code is an in-group language and did not emerge in order to indicate a new dual-cultural identity, but since its development it has come to signal the identity of young Warlpiri from Lajamanu.