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Why can Aboriginal English be viewed as a unique variety of English?

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"Why can Aboriginal English be viewed as a unique variety of English?" Australian Aboriginal English is one of many varieties of English prevalent throughout the English-speaking world. It is the first and often the only language of Aborigines in Aboriginal communities. Aboriginal English has evolved in two ways; the first way was through a pidgi...n English used by English settlers and native Aborigines developing into a creole which is highly distinctive from Standard Australian English (the basilectal variety), and the other way was through a hybridisation of the pidgin with Standard Australian English. Many of the features of Aboriginal English, which were brought about by the influence of Aboriginal languages, are not found in any other English variety, which allows it as a whole to be viewed as a unique variety. There are many phonological features in Aboriginal English distancing it from Received Pronunciation - which we will consider here as a benchmark - and are not found in many other varieties of English. ...read more.


is assigned to the subject (he) without the use of the copula verb (is). The use of the auxiliary 'bin' (a weak form of the auxiliary 'been') signifies present perfect (not present perfect continuous like 'been') and all other verbs are used in the infinitive form rather than the past participle. The Standard English sentence 'he has burnt it and made it clean' would be written in Aboriginal English has 'he bin burn it and make it clean.' The infinitive forms of the verbs 'burn' and 'make' are used with 'bin' signifying past tense. Another syntactic characteristic is the use of 'eh?' and 'unna?' as interrogative tags, for instance in the interrogative 'it's good, unna?' These examples are not commonly found in many other languages (with the lexemes mentioned found in almost no other language), which point to the fact that the lexicon and syntax of Aboriginal English is quite distinct from most other varieties of English. ...read more.


We have examined distinctive features of Aboriginal English in terms of the various subsystems. Within each subsystem it was concluded that Aboriginal English was highly distinct; as a whole language (taking together all the subsystems) we can deduce that Aboriginal English is unique. It needs to be stressed that although we are discussing features of Aboriginal English using Standard English as a benchmark, we should not fall into the trap of considering it a primitive or degenerate version of English. Firstly, Aboriginal English has equal linguistic merit with all other forms of English, as it facilitates the functions of language - communication, identity, maintaining social relationships, an instrument of action, and facilitation of cognitive and conceptual development. Secondly, its syntax is complex - consider the example of the use of the word 'bin' as an auxiliary. Also, we need to understand that these features do not make the Aboriginal variety inferior, simply different. As put by language expert Bruce Moore: "We said 'Aboriginal English? Substandard!' We forgot that 50 years ago, people were saying 'Australian English? Substandard!'" ...read more.

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