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Encyclopedia > Australian Aboriginal English

Australian Aboriginal English (AAE) is a term referring to the various varieties of the English language used by Indigenous Australians. These varieties, which developed differently in different parts of Australia, differ systematically from Standard Australian English (SAE). While the different regional varieties of AAE have much in common they also differ in various ways, reflecting the local indigenous Australian languages. The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ... See also, List of Indigenous Australian group names Indigenous Australians are the first human inhabitants of the Australian continent and its nearby islands. ... Australian English (AuE) is the form of the English language used in Australia. ... The Australian Aboriginal languages are a Australia, and the rest are descended linguistically from them. ...

Aboriginal English varies along a continuum, from forms close to standard English to more nonstandard forms. The furthest extent of this is Kriol, which is regarded by linguists as a distinct language from English. Speakers change between different forms according to social context. Kriol is an Australian creole that developed out of the contact between European settlers and the indigenous people in the northern regions of Australia. ...

Several features of AAE are shared with creole languages spoken in nearby countries, such as Tok Pisin in Papua New Guinea, Pijin in the Solomon Islands, and Bislama in Vanuatu. A creole language, or just creole, is a well-defined and stable language that originated from a non-trivial combination of two or more languages, typically with many distinctive features that are not inherited from either parent. ... Tok Pisin (tok means word or speech, pisin means pidgin) is the creole spoken in Papua New Guinea (PNG). ... Bislama is a Melanesian creole language, one of the official languages of Vanuatu. ...





Although he and him are masculine pronouns in standard English, in Aboriginal English, particularly in northern Australia, it may also be used for females and inanimate objects. The distinction between he as the subjective form and him as the objective form is not always observed, and him may be found as the subject of a verb.


In some forms of Aboriginal English, fellow (also spelt fella, feller, fullah, fulla etc.) is used in combination with adjectives or numerals, e.g. big fella business = "important business", one-feller girl = "one girl". This can give it an adverbial meaning, e.g. sing out big fella = "call out loudly". It is also used with pronouns to indicate the plural, e.g. me fella = "we" or "us", you fella = "you".


Kin terms

Words referring to one's relatives are used in different senses to Standard English, reflecting traditional kinship systems. Australian Aboriginal kinship refers to the system of law governing social interaction, particularly marriage, in traditional Aboriginal culture. ...

  • Aunty and uncle are used as terms of address for older people, to whom the speaker may not be related.
  • Brother and sister include close relatives of the same generation, not just siblings.
  • Cousin includes any relative of one's own generation.
  • The combinations cousin-brother and cousin-sister are used to refer to biological cousins.
  • In south-east Queensland, daughter is used to refer any woman of one's great-grandparents' generation. This is due to the cyclical nature of traditional kinship systems.
  • Father and mother include any relative of one's parents' generation, such as uncles, aunts, and in-laws.
  • Grandfather and grandmother can refer to anyone of one's grandparents' generation. Grandfather can also refer to any respected elderly man, to whom the speaker may not be related.
  • Poison refers to a relation one is obligated to avoid. See Mother-in-law language.
  • The term second, or little bit in northern Australia, is used with a distant relative who is described using a close kinship term. For example, one's second fathers or little bit fathers are men of one's father's generation not closely related to the speaker. It is contrasted with close, near or true.
  • A skin or skin group are sections which are determined by the skin of a person's parents, and determine who a person is eligible to marry.
  • Son can refer to any male of the next generation, such as nephews.

Avoidance speech, or mother-in-law languages, is a feature of many Australian Aboriginal languages and some North American languages whereby in the presence of certain relatives it is taboo to use everyday speech style, and instead a special speech style must be used. ...


Many Aborigines use the word business in a distinct way, to mean matters. Funeral and mourning practices are commonly known as Sorry Business. Financial matters are referred to as Money Business, and the secret-sacred rituals distinct to each gender are referred to as Secret Women's Business and Secret Men's Business.


Many Aborigines refer to their house as their camp, particularly in Central Australia. Central Australia is a term used to describe the area of land surrounding and including Alice Springs in Australia. ...


Deadly is used by many Aboriginal people to mean excellent, very good, in the same way that wicked is by other English speakers. The Deadlys are awarded for outstanding achievement by Aboriginal people. This usage is not exclusive to Aboriginals though. The Deadlys are an annual celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander achievement in music, sport, entertainment and community. ...


Victorian English word for pretend. Still used by some Australian Aborigines to mean joking generally. Gammoning – usually pronounced Gam'in'. Queen Victoria (shown here on the morning of her Ascension to the Throne, 20 June 1837) gave her name to the historic era The Victorian Era of Great Britain marked the height of the British industrial revolution and the apex of the British Empire. ...


Gubbah is a term used by some Aboriginal people to refer to white people. It is a shortening of the word Government, since traditionally Aborginal people's contact with whites most often involved government officials. Another theory is that it is a contraction of Governor or "White Ghost".


Whereas humbug in broader English (see Charles Dickens's Scrooge character) means nonsensical, or unimportant information, humbug in Aboriginal English means to pester with inane or repetitive requests. The Warumpi Band's most recent album is entitled Too Much Humbug. In the Northern Territory, humbug is used by both black and white in this latter, Aboriginal way. Look up humbug in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Dickens redirects here. ... Ebenezer Scrooge encounters Ignorance and Want in A Christmas Carol Ebenezer Scrooge is the main character in Charles Dickens 1843 novel, A Christmas Carol. ... The Warumpi Band was an Australian band from the bush, coming from Papunya, Northern Territory, Australia. ... Emblems: Sturts Desert Rose (floral) Motto: None Slogan or Nickname: The Territory, The NT, The Top End Other Australian states and territories Capital Darwin Government Const. ...


Regularly used to mean a group of people. Unlike broader English, it does not usually mean an indiscriminate crowd, but a cohesive group. My mob – my people, or extended family. Mob is also often used to refer to a language group – that Warlpiri mob.


English word for a long story, often with incredible or unbelievable events. In Australian English, and particularly among Aborigines, has become a verb, to talk. Often, Yarnin'. Australian English (AuE) is the form of the English language used in Australia. ...


  • Arthur, J. M. (1996). Aboriginal English. Oxford University Press Australia.
  • (2000) Aboriginal English in the courts: a handbook. Dept. of Justice and Attorney General. ISBN 0-7242-8071-5.

See also

Australian Aboriginal Pidgin English refers to the pidginised varieties of English spoken by Australian Aborigines until about the early 1950s for communication with Europeans and other immigrant ethnic groups, as well as with other Aborigines with whom they did not share a common traditional language. ... Australian English (AuE) is the form of the English language used in Australia. ... The Australian Aboriginal languages comprise several language families and isolates native to Australia and a few nearby islands, but by convention excluding Tasmania. ... Kriol is an Australian creole that developed out of the contact between European settlers and the indigenous people in the northern regions of Australia. ... These words of Australian Aboriginal origin include some which are almost universal in the English-speaking world, such as kangaroo and boomerang. ... Torres Strait Creole (also Torres Strait Pidgin, Torres Strait Broken, Cape York Creole, Lockhart Creole) is a creole language spoken on several Torres Strait Islands (Queensland, Australia). ...

External links

  • 'Aboriginal English', by Diana Eades
  • West Australian Aboriginal English
  • The Aboriginal English web site

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