The Verb System in Australian English and Aboriginal English

Seminar Paper, 2018

15 Pages, Grade: 2,0


Table of Contents


2. Theoretical Background
2.1.Varieties of English
2.2. The Verb System

3. Data
3.1. Sociolinguistic Background
3.2. Data analysis

4. Discussion

5. Conclusion

6. Bibliography

1. Introduction

Australia is a nation with different cultures, traditions and languages. As it is known, more languages besides Australian English exist there. One of these languages is referred to as Aboriginal English, which is spoken by indigenous people of Australia. In this term paper, the main question that arises is “What are the forms and functions of the verb system in Aboriginal English and Australian English?”. Thus, studies about verb usages of both varieties of English will be analysed, providing an illustration of differences in both systems. Before dealing with these data in detail, one theory concerning World Englishes and their emergence will be presented in chapter 2.1. One of the theoretical approaches was made by Edgar W. Schneider. His theory is called “The Dynamic Model of New Englishes.” References of this theory that are utilized in this term paper are “The dynamics of New Englishes; From identity construction to dialect birth” (2003) and “Postcolonial English. Varieties around the World” (2007). An explanation of historical, sociolinguistic and linguistic processes leading towards the emergence of New Englishes will thus be given. Secondly, the Verb system will be illustrated in 2.2., giving an overview of how certain verb structures are used by speakers of English. Before dealing with the analysis of examples of both varieties, the sociolinguistic background of both Australian English and Aboriginal English will be taken into account in chapter 3.1. In this part, the question arises where these varieties are spoken and who acquired and speaks them. Moreover, the history of Aboriginal English and Australian English will be explained. The data analysis in chapter 3.2. shows studies and examples of both varieties. Examples made by Ian G. Malcolm, Peter Collins and Pam Peters are mostly significant. Last but not least, a discussion at the end of the term paper will be added. This shall give readers a conclusion of certain data findings of the verb system of Australian English and Aboriginal English and how data findings apply to Schneider´s Dynamic Model and to the research question.

2. Theoretical Background

2.1.Varieties of English

Schneider´s Dynamic Model

As it is known, Aboriginal English evolved due to British settlement (Malcolm 2013: 269) and is spoken by Aboriginal people of Australia (Kaldor & Malcolm 1991: 67). Australian English was a result of settlement, as well (Collins & Peters 2004: 593). But the question arises, how the processes of the development of these languages looks like. In order to give readers of this term paper an idea of how these languages might have evolved, a theory will be presented. Edgar W. Schneider (2003) describes the emergence of New Englishes as the result of colonization (Schneider 2003: 233) and of a process of five stages. These stages are referred to as “Foundation, Exonormative stabilization, Nativization, Endonormative stabilization and Differentiation.” (ibid: 243) Schneider explains his theory by initiating phase one of the process of the emergence of New Englishes, which is referred to as Foundation. He clarifies that in this phase, due to a settlement of people who speak English, the usage of English to a little extend begins in a country of people who already have been speaking indigenous languages before. (ibid: 244) It is illustrated that non-indigenous people settle due to political or economic reasons in their own country. (Schneider 2007: 33) One may as well mention that dialect contact emerges and the exposure of indigenous languages is restricted. “koenéization” takes place in this stage as well, which is considered toponymic borrowing and is a process which settlers encounter. (Schneider 2003: 255) The second phase is called Exonormative stabilization. In this phase, settlers establish a stabilization of their colonies. (Schneider 2007: 36) Another consequence is that bilingualism begins to spread amongst indigenous residents of the country that is colonized and lexical borrowing is a trend that languages undertake. (Schneider 2003:255) Nativization is the third phase Schneider describes in his theory. Countries become politically independent. However, people remain a feeling of cultural belonging to their mother country (ibid: 247) Furthermore, bilingualism is common in the lives of indigenous residents. Changes such as borrowing of lexemes and different linguistic elements are another aspect that has to be mentioned (Schneider 2007: 42). Further developments may be observed in phonology, morphology and syntax. Indigenous residents lean to their original phonological, morphological and syntactic system. Furthermore, the English language undergoes a “structural nativization”, meaning, complementation of verbs, changes in terms of phrases etc. appear. (Schneider 2003: 255) Schneider illustrates that in the phase of Endonormative stabilization settlers of the indigenous country identify themselves as residents of a new nation (Schneider 2007: 49). Mark Newbrook makes the utterance that ‘the new local norm, distinct from the norms of the original colonizers, will also be accepted as adequate in formal usage.’ (Newbrook 1997: 236, Schneider 2003: 250). The fifth stage is called Differentiation. In this phase, the stabilization of a new nation is established (Schneider 2003: 255) Social dialects, different accents and linguistic structures emerge which underline the fact that the new variety undergoes a formation of new varieties. (Schneider 2007: 54)

Reasons for the emergence of new grammatical patterns

Edgar W. Schneider explains in his book named “Postcolonial English. Varieties around the World” (2007) in the chapter “linguistic aspects of Nativization” why certain, different grammatical patterns in postcolonial Englishes might have emerged. He suggests that certain linguistic structures of postcolonial Englishes are the result of structural heritage. Further, he describes this as a result of contact situations as well as “dynamic processes of language emergence”. Certain usages of a variety become a part of a community after the spread of different structures, to which speakers show preference. The number of speakers who prefer to use these patterns thus increases. Structures then become a habit which hence remains as new grammatical structures (Schneider 2007: 85f.). Simplification of some varieties and the impact of different substrate languages are further reasons (ibid: 82).

2.2. The Verb System

In the following, the English verb system will be presented. Verb tense and aspects, the future, the verb be and the passive will be considered. In terms of tense, the past, present and future are considered. Aspect is basically referred to as a feature that shows whether a certain action is completed in the present or in the past, or if it still continuous and therefore indicates progressive. Another feature of the verb system is called active/passive voice. If the subject acts, the sentence is written in active voice. Passive voice refers to the subject that becomes an object (Tulloch 1990: 6f). In modals, sentences consist of a modal auxiliary like “could”. Auxiliaries might precede an ordinary verb in a verb phrase and in cases of the omission of the auxiliary, the verb is either in the form of present simple or of the past simple. Aspect is basically referred to as the perfect, and voice considers passives and actives in sentences (Eastwood 1994: 77) It is known that verbs have different forms used in different cases. These are the base form, the s-form, the past form, the ing-form and the past participle or the passive participle. These forms are not only present for regular verbs, but also for irregular verbs. The base form appears in imperatives (“Play tennis with me.”), in the present tense (“You play very well.”) and the infinitive (“I´d like to play.”). The S-form is considered in sentences in utterances in present tense, where the 3rd person singular needs to be indicated. An example for the S-form is “Simon plays very well.” Furthermore, “They played back the film” is an instance for the past tense, whereas ing-forms are known to be the gerund (“playing tennis is fun.” and the active participle (“You´re playing very well.”). “They´ve played back the film” is an example for the past participle and “The film was played back.” is a passive participle (ibid: 76). In passives, the object becomes the subject. An example is “The flat wasn´t advertised.” (ibid:79). In terms of the present perfect, one may say that it refers to happening in the past and in the present. It is used “for and action in the period leading up to the present.” (ibid: 86). It is structured with the present of the verb have and the past participle (“have opened”). The past simple is utilized for a happening in the past, for repeated actions and for states. For instance, speakers would say “The shop opened last week.” (ibid:87) However, the past perfect is utilized for “an action/ a state before a past time”. An example for the past perfect is “The rain had stopped by then.” (ibid:94). The future is used with the expressions “will” and “shall”, “be going to”, present tense forms, the future continuous, “be to” and the future perfect. Though, for the data analysis, only the expressions “will”, “shall”, “be going to” and the present tense forms are significant. When speakers use “will”, they tend to talk about a happening that is uncontrollable, willingness, a decision, an emphatic refusal or offers and promises (ibid:71f.). “shall” is used in cases of asking for advice, I/we for an offer and “you shall” for a promise (ibid:72): “be going to” precedes the base form for something happening in the present but refers to the future. It can also refer to the present, for example, one might say “I´m not going to live here all my life.” (ibid:97). Moreover, the present tense form can be used to express an action that will take place in the future, as in “Julie is going to Florida.” (ibid: 98) Furthermore, the verb “be” is referred to as a linking verb. It may be used in every tense and aspect. (ibid:105)


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The Verb System in Australian English and Aboriginal English
University of Cologne
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verb, system, australian, english, aboriginal
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Ayse Uslu (Author), 2018, The Verb System in Australian English and Aboriginal English, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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