In Yuendumu, a remote community in Central Australia, children grow up speaking a traditional Aboriginal language, Warlpiri, learn English as an additional language and are exposed to other local and global languages via family networks, travel, media, and technology. At Yuendumu School, which aims to offer a bilingual with biliteracy program, Warlpiri educators have articulated Warlpiri pirrjirdi 'strong Warlpiri language' as both a medium of instruction and a goal for learning. This is in...[Show more] accordance with the community's aspirations for the school to be a key site of Warlpiri linguistic and cultural maintenance, and amidst concerns about pressure from English on Warlpiri language use, as well as minor documented changes to contemporary language practices since first contact with Europeans in the last century.
This research into the 'ways of speaking' in three Warlpiri teaching and learning contexts at Yuendumu school in 2018-2019 drew on ethnography of communication as its theoretical and methodological approach to document both the linguistic practices and ideologies surrounding teaching and learning in and of Warlpiri language. Guided by a panel of Warlpiri mentors, it used mixed methods which included interactional analysis of classroom speech, complemented by thematic analysis of interviews with Warlpiri educators, of grey literature (professional development workshops reports, advocacy, curriculum, and policy documents) and multimodal arts-based language awareness activities with students.
In this study, Warlpiri students expressed multiple identities within Warlpiri and global youth cultures, strong plurilingual awareness and reflected community values promoting Warlpiri language maintenance. The research showed how Warlpiri educators, as part of a broader Warlpiri Triangle professional network have developed and refined linguistic strategies over four decades to achieve their stated goals of Warlpiri language maintenance. In the classrooms, Warlpiri educators used these linguistic strategies to enact a target Warlpiri language policy, establishing and where necessary re-establishing Warlpiri pirrjirdi 'strong Warlpiri' as the classroom code. They also deployed plurilingual practices that reinforced social and kin relationships and created a favourable framework for in-depth processing of academic content and the co-construction of knowledge. As evidence of their learning and their sensitivity to different 'ways of speaking,' Warlpiri, students produced age-appropriate Warlpiri pirrjirdi 'strong Warlpiri' in specific tasks, such as re-telling traditional stories. They also reconceptualised content in ways that reflected their contemporary plurilingual repertoires and identities, such as in mapping activities following bush trips. The study explored the ways in which Warlpiri educators' language pedagogies exemplified linguistically responsive and culturally sustaining practices that build students' competence in Warlpiri pirrjirdi 'strong Warlpiri,' while also accommodating their contemporary ways of speaking, literacies, and identities in the school context.
This thesis is one of very few in-depth documentations of educators' and students' first language practices and ideologies in an endangered Australian language maintenance education program. This work contributes to understandings of the local development and enactment of language-in-education policy and draws out lessons for dual language models of education in schools operating in contexts of language endangerment and change.
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