Aboriginal English and associated varieties

Document Type

Book Chapter


Mouton de Gruyter


Faculty of Education and Arts


School of Communication and Arts




Malcolm, I. G. (2013). Aboriginal English and associated varieties. In B. Kortmann & K. Lunkenheimer (Eds.). The Mouton world atlas of variation in English (pp. 596-619). Berlin, Germany: Mouton de Gruyter. Original book available here


Aboriginal English coexists in Australia with the transported, or “settler”, varieties (Collins and Peters 2008) of English: Australian English and Australian Vernacular English, as well as with the major creole varieties: Torres Strait Creole and Roper River Creole (generally considered, with closely related varieties, under the title Kriol). Like the varieties of Australian English, it drew, in the past, on the English varieties brought by settlers to Australia from the 18th century, probably predominantly varieties from Southeast England and Ireland (Taylor 2000; Collins and Blair 2000). However, unlike the varieties of Australian English, it has been influenced by – or been a part of – the contact processes which have led to the existence of pidgins and creoles. This chapter attempts to take advantage of the data provided by the WAVE matrix to enable Aboriginal English to be better understood in relation to the main varieties with which it has had contact, both in Australia’s colonial past and in the present. By examining the features of Aboriginal English shared by varieties of Australian English and creole, as well as by the English of Southeast England and of Ireland, it is hoped that this Aboriginal dialect of English will be able to be more accurately characterised.