Changes in spatial frames of reference use in Iwaidja in different intergenerational contexts

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    Research into sociocultural factors affecting the use of spatial frames of reference (FoR) has begun to move away from characterizing FoR choice as inherent to each language, instead emphasizing variation within speech communities, but has so far paid little attention to variation in individual speaker’s FoR use with different addressees. This paper reports on differences in two senior adults’ use of FoRs in Iwaidja when addressing a peer compared to addressing a child. Performing the Man and Tree task, the speakers made frequent use of geocentric descriptions with their peers, and substantially fewer geocentric descriptions with a child. The study was conducted in a complex multilingual speech environment where younger generations’ language use is shifting away from Iwaidja towards English and to other Australian languages. Factors motivating the different FoR choices in child-directed speech may include elements of parentese and accommodation to the children’s incomplete acquisition of Iwaidja. The children’s contact with English, particularly through schooling, may affect the adults’ expectations of the children’s acquisition of frames of reference in English. Drawing attention to the impact of the addressee in spatial speech, this study adds to understanding sociocultural elements of spatial reference in the context of language contact and shift.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)101-111
    Number of pages11
    JournalLinguistics Vanguard
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022


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