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Aboriginal English

Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language
Tom McArthurTom McArthur

Aboriginal English. 

The technical name given to a continuum of varieties of English, ranging between standard AusE and creoles, acquired and used by Aboriginal Australians and often referred to by their speakers as blackfella English or blackfella talk. In some parts of Australia, the transition from a traditional language to Aboriginal English has occurred within four generations in the 20c. It is used by Aborigines both among themselves and with non-Aborigines. Most varieties are intelligible to speakers of standard AusE, though certain norms for the use of language are very different (for example, direct questions are not typically used to elicit information), and there are considerable differences in grammar and phonology. Some of the features of Aboriginal English are shared by non-standard varieties around the world, such as the use of past and participial forms of certain verbs (brang, not brought), and double negatives (He hasn't got no toys). Others are more characteristic of creoles, such as the non-occurrence of the copula (His name John, not His name is John) and lack of plural marking with -s (two bird, not two birds). Although the variety is generally stigmatized by white Australian society, it often functions as a symbol of Aboriginal identity. See australian pidgin, kriol.