Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue: Australian Aboriginal Students Schematic Repertoire

Document Type

Journal Article


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences


School of Communications and Arts / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts, Technology, Education and Communications




Malcolm, I. G., & Sharifian, F. (2005). Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue: Australian Aboriginal students' schematic repertoire. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 26(6), 512-532. Available here


Learning a second dialect entails learning new schemas, and in some cases learning a whole new set of language schemas as well as cultural schemas. Most Australian Aboriginal children live in a bicultural and bidialectal context. They are exposed, to a greater or lesser extent, to the discourse of Australian English and internalise some of its schemas. This may occur in diverse contexts, not only the context of the school. However, Western-based schooling by its nature generally expects students to operate exclusively according to the schemas that underlie the ‘standard’ dialect. An analysis of the discourse of bidialectal Aboriginal children in the South-west of Australia suggests that it exhibits the use of schemas from Aboriginal English (‘something old’), Australian English (‘something new’) as well as parodic uses of Australian English schemas (‘something borrowed’) and schematic blends which may sometimes be dysfunctional (‘something blue’). In this paper, discourse illustrating each of these schema types will be exemplified and discussed in terms of its implications for our understanding of second dialect acquisition and the literacy education of Aboriginal children.




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