Influences of Indigenous language on spatial frames of reference in Aboriginal English

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    The Aboriginal English spoken by Indigenous children in remote communities in the Northern Territory of Australia is influenced by the home languages spoken by themselves and their families. This affects uses of spatial terms used in mathematics such as 'in front' and 'behind.' Speakers of the endangered Indigenous Australian language Iwaidja use the intrinsic frame of reference in contexts where speakers of Standard Australian English use the relative frame of reference. Children speaking Aboriginal English show patterns of use that parallel the Iwaidja contexts. This paper presents detailed examples of spatial descriptions in Iwaidja and Aboriginal English that demonstrate the parallel patterns of use. The data comes from a study that investigated how an understanding of spatial frame of reference in Iwaidja could assist teaching mathematics to Indigenous language-speaking students. Implications for teaching mathematics are explored for teachers without previous experience in a remote Indigenous community. 

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)169-192
    Number of pages24
    JournalMathematics Education Research Journal
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014


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