In April of 2008, students in Kay Gonzalez-Vilbazo’s seminar on code-switching gave talks as part of a linguistics series known as University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Talks in Linguistics (TiL). The first Bilingualism Forum (BilForum) was organized by many of those students, and additional faculty, the following fall. The fifth installment took place on October 20-21 this year.
Carmel O'Shannessy was one of two keynote speakers at BilForum. The Forum, organized by graduate students, is held every two years and features talks on all aspects of bilingualism. Presenters came from all over the US and internationally. Carmel's talk, titled "Multilingualism and the emergence of Light Warlpiri, an Australian mixed language" was very well received. You can find the abstract below.
A combination of multilingual and sociocultural practices prompted the emergence of Light Warlpiri, a mixed language spoken in a Warlpiri community in northern Australia. In the 1970-80s adult speakers of Warlpiri in one community code-switched to very young children in a specific pattern that was then conventionalized by the children as a single code. The sources of Light Warlpiri are typologically different – English-lexified varieties (English and Kriol), and Australian Warlpiri (Pama-Nyungan). Defining features of Light Warlpiri are re-analyzed verbal structure, derived from English and Kriol, with innovations, combined with the Warlpiri nominal case-marking system. The system emerged about 40 years ago, allowing us the opportunity to track its origin and path of development. Light Warlpiri speakers are multilingual, also speaking Warlpiri and varieties of English, and switching between them fluidly.
In this paper I will first illustrate the multilingual sources of elements of Light Warlpiri grammar and phonology, and show how they combine in the new system. I will then turn to how speakers manage their multilingual repertoires, including differentiation between languages, interesting given that some properties of Light Warlpiri and Warlpiri overlap. Differentiation is seen in verbal structure, nominal morphology, phonotactics and lexical choices. Speaker practices include code-switching between Light Warlpiri and Warlpiri, which aids the maintenance of Warlpiri. Finally, I will address a mechanism of language change in multilingual contexts, arguing for a two-stage model of change, where consistent input from adults is taken up by children and altered incrementally through known processes of first language acquisition.