Indigenous Voices in Sydney

Hidden in plain view: The Aboriginal people and places of the 19th century Sydney

by Paul Irish (Sydney)

Uptalk and Aboriginal English in Sydney

by Anne Jespersen (Cambridge)


Paul Irish ‘Hidden in Plain View’

Like in many colonial cities, it has been widely assumed that Aboriginal people were not part of Sydney’s colonial history beyond the earliest decades. In particular, it has often been asserted that Aboriginal people disappeared from Sydney by the mid-nineteenth century (or were pushed aside by urban growth), and that later Aboriginal residents were all from somewhere else, or were no longer ‘authentically’ Aboriginal. This assumption of disappearance has dissuaded most people from looking for evidence. But when we painstakingly piece together fragments of historical information, a fascinating picture emerges of how locally connected Aboriginal people were able to find a place for themselves in the growing city of Sydney. Their story is closely bound up with the city, some of its prominent colonial families, and a number of places around the Sydney landscape. It is a history that has literally been hidden in plain view, and warrants much greater recognition. 

Anna Jespersen, “Alive and deadly?”: Uptalk in Sydney Aboriginal English

Aboriginal Sydneysiders live in a multicultural melting pot. Although this type of linguistic environment is conducive to the development of richly dialectal minority speech communities, previous work on Sydney Aboriginal English describes a fairly assimilated speech community with few or no linguistic features that separates it from standard Australian English. In this talk I will attempt to delve deeper into this issue, using uptalk as a starting point from which to tease out linguistic differences between Sydney Aboriginal English and the standard variety. Uptalk is a rising intonation pattern produced with statements, which is often considered to be emblematic of standard Australian English. My work shows that Sydney Aboriginal English and standard Australian English differ not in the types of rises used but in the frequency with which each rise type is used. Furthermore, these subtle differences are picked up by Aboriginal listeners, who are able to use them to recognise Sydney Aboriginal speakers. In other words, Aboriginal Sydneysiders are using the stereotypically Anglo-Australian English uptalk rises in Aboriginal ways, and as linguistic markers of Aboriginal identities.