I Speak My Language My Way!—Young People’s Kunwok

Alexandra Marley

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Bininj Kunwok is a Gunwinyguan language (a non-Pama-Nyungan) spoken in west Arnhem Land and Kakadu National Park, NT, Australia. With around 2500 speakers and children learning it as a first language, Kunwok is one of the strongest Indigenous languages in Australia. Despite its small speech community, it exhibits considerable variation, much of which has been the subject of recent research. One of the primary findings from this study into variation in Kunwok is the rich interspeaker diversity, particularly between different generations of Kunwok speakers. Comparing the speech of young adults and children with that of their elders through a multigenerational corpus has revealed a language change in progress (demonstrated both in real time and apparent time). This paper will discuss three of the key differentiating features of young people’s Kunwok: word-initial engma production, pronominal forms and paradigms and loanwords. We will also ex-amine community members’ perspectives on young people’s Kunwok on the basis that they provide insight into the ideological frameworks that support the linguistic variation and change documented in the community. In conclusion, the paper will summarise the findings, outlining the main features of young people’s Kunwok, and then reflect on the trajectory of Kunwok and the contributions of this study to our understanding of language change in the Australian Aboriginal context.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-29
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2021


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