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Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity

IMPACT: Studies in Language and Society

IMPACT publishes monographs, collective volumes, and text books on topics
in sociolinguistics. The scope of the series is broad, with special emphasis
on areas such as language planning and language policies; language conflict
and language death; language standards and language change; dialectology;
diglossia; discourse studies; language and social identity (gender, ethnicity,
class, ideology); and history and methods of sociolinguistics.
For an overview of all books published in this series, please see

General Editor
Ana Deumert
University of Cape Town

Advisory Board
Peter Auer Marlis Hellinger
University of Freiburg University of Frankfurt am Main
Jan Blommaert Elizabeth Lanza
Ghent University University of Oslo
Annick De Houwer William Labov
University of Erfurt University of Pennsylvania
J. Joseph Errington Peter L. Patrick
Yale University University of Essex
Anna Maria Escobar Jeanine Treffers-Daller
University of Illinois at Urbana University of the West of England
Guus Extra Victor Webb
Tilburg University University of Pretoria

Volume 34
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity. Sudanese refugees in Australia
by Anik Hatoss
Language Maintenance
and Identity
Sudanese refugees in Australia

Anik Hatoss
University of New South Wales

John Benjamins Publishing Company

The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of

theAmerican National Standard for Information Sciences Permanence

of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ansi z39.48-1984.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Hatoss, Anik.
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity : Sudanese refugees in Australia /
Anik Hatoss.
p. cm. (IMPACT: Studies in Language and Society, issn 1385-7908 ; v. 34)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
1. Language maintenance. 2. Language and culture. 3. Sudanese--Australia. 4.
Refugees--Australia. 5. Intercultural communication. 6. Multilingualism.
I. Title. II.Series: Impact, studies in language and society ; 34.
P40.5.L32H38 2013
306.44--dc23 2013033895
isbn 978 90 272 1875 9 (Hb ; alk. paper)
isbn 978 90 272 7100 6 (Eb)

2013 John Benjamins B.V.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, by print, photoprint, microfilm, or any
other means, without written permission from the publisher.
John Benjamins Publishing Co. P.O. Box 36224 1020 me Amsterdam The Netherlands
John Benjamins North America P.O. Box 27519 Philadelphia pa 19118-0519 usa
To my Grandmother
There were four children wrapped around her when the soldiers broke
through the door. The little ones were screaming; my mother being the old-
est was tightly holding the hands of her little sisters and brothers, in silence,
awaiting fate. My grandmother shouted out in German, please do not was the wrong language to choose... the Russians pointed their
machine guns to her.... luckily she corrected herself in Russian.
In a village in the west of Hungary, 1944
Table of contents

List of tables xi
List of figures xiii
Acknowledgement xv
Preface xvii

Introduction: Communities in transition 1

chapter 1
The ecology of immigrant languages 23
Introduction 23
1.1 Theories of language maintenance and shift 23
1.1.1 Objective measures of ethnolinguistic vitality 24
1.1.2 Demographic variables 25
1.1.3 Domain-based sociolinguistic approaches 27
1.1.4 Social psychological approaches to vitality 28
1.1.5 Motivation 29
1.2 Language attitudes and identity 31
1.2.1 Language attitudes 31
1.2.2 Measuring language attitudes 33
1.2.3 Language ideologies 36
1.2.4 Identity 39
Conclusion 41

chapter 2
The ethnolinguistic study 43
Introduction 43
2.1 Locality 43
2.2 Research approach, aims and methods 46
2.2.1 Approach 46
2.3 Participants 47
2.3.1 Selecting participants 47
2.3.2 The sample 47
2.4 Methods of data collection and analysis 50
2.4.1 Phase I: Sociolinguistic survey 50
2.4.2 Phase II: In-depth interviews 53
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

2.4.3 Phase III: Ethnolinguistic observations 56

2.4.4 Phase IV: Data analysis 58
2.5 Methodological observations concerning ethics 59
Conclusion 62

chapter 3
Language policy context 63
Introduction 63
3.1 Languages of Sudan 63
3.2 Historical overview of language planning in Sudan 64
3.2.1 Languages of education in Sudan 64
3.2.2 Condominium (18981956) 65
3.2.3 The Post-colonial era (after 1956) 67
3.2.4 From Addis Ababa (1972) to Naivasha (2004) 67
3.2.5 Current state of languages and education in Sudan 68
3.2.6 Schooling and literacy 70
3.2.7 Shift to Arabic in Sudan 71
3.2.8 Dinka language planning in Sudan 72
3.3 The Australian context 72
3.3.1 De facto multiculturalism and multilingualism in Australia 72
3.3.2 Multicultural policies 75 National agenda and productive diversity 79 From the Lo Bianco report (1987) to present 79
3.3.3 The Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) 81
3.3.4 Language learning other than English for immigrants 82
Conclusion 83

chapter 4
Displacement 85
Introduction 85
4.1 Displacement 86
4.2 Narrative mode of discourse 88
4.2.1 Sequentiality, temporality and spatiality 88
4.2.2 Narratives, identity and evaluation 89
4.3 The journey of the Lost Boys 92
4.3.1 Lost Boy 1 Goy 92
4.3.2 Lost Boy 2 Deu 97
4.3.3 Lost Boy 3 Keer 98
Conclusion 102
Table of contents

chapter 5
Languages lost and gained in transition 105
Introduction 105
5.1 Transitions and the use of mother tongue 105
5.2 Stories of survival and interethnic contact 107
5.2.1 Language as an advantage: Wimpy Markets in Nairobi 110
5.2.2 Language as a matter of life and death 111
5.2.3 Picking up languages 114
5.3 Education during transition in Africa 119
5.3.1 Educational profile of participants 119
5.3.2 Education in Sudan 120
5.3.3 Literacy and interrupted schooling 123
Conclusion 125

chapter 6
New spaces of multilingualism in Australia 127
Introduction 127
6.1 Domains versus space and scales 127
6.2 Spaces of language use 132
6.2.1 Language use in translocal spaces 132
6.2.2 Language use in bridging spaces 133
6.2.3 Language use in bonding spaces 140
6.2.4 Language use in the home 141
6.3 Language attitudes and ideologies 146
6.3.1 Attitudes to African vernaculars 146
6.3.2 Attitudes to English 148
6.3.3 Attitudes to Arabic 149
6.3.4 Attitude to Kiswahili 150
Conclusion 153

chapter 7
Constructing identities 155
Introduction 155
7.1 Identity in diasporic contexts 155
7.1.1 Identity and ethnicity as social constructs 157
7.1.2 Ethnicity, identity and language 158
7.1.3 Ethnolinguistic identity among Sudanese Australians 160
7.2 Racial boundaries and otherness 162
7.2.1 Everyday othering in interethnic contact 162
7.2.2 Identity labelling 165
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

7.3 The multilingual self 168

7.3.1 School survey data attitudes to multilingualism 168
7.3.2 Youth data multilingual self 170
Conclusion 175

chapter 8
Projecting the future 177
Introduction 177
8.1 Language maintenance and shift 178
8.1.1 Parents perceptions of shift 178
8.1.2 Language rules at home 183
8.1.3 Motivation in language maintenance 188
8.2 Projecting the future 193
8.2.1 Perceived vitality of African tribal languages 193
8.2.2 Returning to Sudan 194
8.2.3 Language regimes 197
Conclusion 201

chapter 9
Micro-level language planning 203
Introduction 203
9.1 A cosmopolitan outlook for language planning 203
9.1.1 Why cosmopolitanism? 203
9.1.2 Cosmopolitanism versus methodological nationalism 205
9.1.3 Challenges for LPP research 208
9.2 Micro planning: Language planning from bottom-up 210
9.2.1 Language planning and the church 211
9.2.2 Motivation of volunteer teachers 214
9.2.3 Micro planning crossing national boundaries 216
9.2.4 Cyberspora Internet diaspora 217
9.2.5 Cyberspora the online literacy classes 220
9.3 Modelling language planning as community development 227
9.3.1 Stage 1 Diagnosis and setting goals 228
9.3.2 Stage 2 Designing an action plan 228
9.3.3 Stage 3 Implementation (pilot) 229
9.3.4 Stage 4: Increasing independence and empowerment 229
Conclusion 230

Conclusion 233
References 237
Index 257
List of tables

Table 1. Australian residents born in Sudan 44

Table 2. Top 10 countries of birth in Toowoomba (Census 2006) 45
Table 3. Top 10 languages spoken in Toowoomba homes in 2006 45
Table 4. Respondents by first language 48
Table 5. Sample by age ranges 49
Table 6. Families by number of children 49
Table 7. Respondents by period of leaving Sudan 50
Table 8. Discourse transcription conventions 59
Table 9. Languages spoken at home (ABS 2006) 74
Table 10. Language shift among first generation migrants in Australia 75
Table 11. AMEP number of hours available according to entry type 81
Table 12. Number of respondents by transition countries and stages 87
Table 13. Average years in transition 87
Table 14. Historical present in narratives 104
Table 15. Average age for starting languages by family members 114
Table 16. Average age for starting languages by family members (2) 115
Table 17. Education in community language prior to arrival in Australia 119
by gender of adult respondents
Table 18. Educational experience prior to arrival in Australia 120
Table 19. Average years of education pre-migration to Australia by lan- 121
guage and family member
Table 20. A comparative summary of traditional and new ethnographies 130
Table 21. Language use with friends and relatives in Australia 133
Table 22. Language use with friends and relatives in Africa 133
Table 23. Language use at Church 141
Table 24. Parents literacy practices in the community language 142
Table 25. Mothers language use with children 143
Table 26. Fathers language use with children 143
Table 27. Childrens language use with family members 143
Table 28. Language use with siblings by age groups 144
Table 29. Childrens language use with extended family 144
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

Table 30. Children by age group and country of birth 145

Table 31. identity labels and positionings by 14 pilot-interview participants 167
Table 32. Language change as perceived by parents 179
Table 33. Parents satisfaction with childrens CL skills 179
Table 34. Parents satisfaction with childrens CL skills by parents gender 180
Table 35. Motivational dimensions of heritage language maintenance 189
Table 36. Perceived vitality of CL in home country 194
Table 37. Perceived CL vitality in Australia 194
Table 38. Contrasting cosmopolitanism and nationalism 206
Table 39. Contrasting strong and weak forms of cyber-planning 225
List of figures

Figure 1. Attitudes to African languages 147

Figure 2. Attitudes to English 149
Figure 3. Attitudes to Arabic 151
Figure 4. Attitudes to Kiswahili 152
Figure 5. Dinka tribal system 166
Figure 6. Attitude to multilingualism 169
Figure 7. The multilingual self model 171
Figure 8. Spacio-temporal scales of language regimes 201
Figure 9. Modelling micro language planning 230

First of all, I would like to acknowledge the Australian Research Council and the
funding they provided for this 3-year research project. The majority of the data
presented in this volume were gathered painstakingly through the visits our re-
search team made to Sudanese families in regional Queensland. I wish to express
my gratitude to all the participants in this project who gave up their time and pro-
vided us with the opportunity to explore their settlement issues and their spaces of
This research would not have been possible without the support of my re-
search assistants who were data collectors, interview facilitators, translators, tran-
scribers and provided invaluable support with the data analysis and management.
Hereby, I would like to acknowledge them all and express my gratitude for their
support: Peter Kooch, Irena Kobald, Susan Aloyo, Akol J. Mager, Mark Garang,
Achol Yaak Dut, Wilson Oyat, Doug Eacersall, Akihiro Saito, James Kuer Ajak,
Kerry Taylor Leech, Ajak Manyok, Kuer Dau Apai, Sanam Kubra, Gary Ngo, Olga
Kozar, John Keenan, Dnes Neumayer and Agnes Bodis.
I would also like to acknowledge the two universities which supported me as
a researcher during my time of working on this project. My thanks go to the
Faculty of Education at the University of Southern Queensland, and the Faculty of
Arts and Social Sciences, at the University of New South Wales. I am grateful for
the feedback and encouragement I received from my critical friends and colleagues
including Dick Baldauf, Denis Cunningham, Susan Gal, Peter Garrett, Tim Greer,
Bob Kaplan, Francis Mangubhai, Stephen May, Catherine Miller, Shirley ONeill
and others. All the remaining faults and errors are solely mine.

This study grew out of an ethnographic project in South-East Queensland with the
aim to explore the motivational dimensions of mother tongue maintenance in the
Sudanese community of South East Queensland. Soon after the project commenced,
I faced the first challenge as some of the operational concepts such as ethnicity,
mother tongue, language maintenance and identity, to name a few, were not an
easy fit to this complex sociolinguistic context. For example, the assumption that
mother tongue referred to African local languages quickly proved wrong, as some
participants spoke Arabic as their first language1. Others learnt two or three lan-
guages from birth; therefore, these seemingly neat concepts had to be contested.
On the outset, I need to clarify the terms I use to refer to the community in
question. In line with well-established sociolinguistic research, I use the term
speech community as opposed to language community, as it refers to a group of
people who interact through a language or a range of languages, rather than a
group defined on the basis of their common first language (Wardaugh, 2006). I
also use the concept of discursive community, as my interest is in the everyday
lines of communication and the patterns of discourse that shape their everyday
living. Since discourse is a social practice (Fairclough, 1992), discursive communi-
ties can also be conceptualized as communities of practice. This concept was first
used in the context of learning (see Eckert & Wenger, 2005), but it is useful in so-
ciolinguistics, as it is a good locus for studying how power is organized and exer-
cised in day-to-day linguistic practice (Eckert & Wenger, 2005, p. 582). This con-
cept allows sociolinguists to focus on the dynamic actions of a speech community,
including linguistic, social, discursive and identity-related, rather than describing
them through static and abstract categories, such as gender, age, ethnicity and oth-
ers (Holmes, 2008, p. 199).

1. In this monograph I use the term African languages to refer to the local ethnic vernaculars
such as Dinka, Nuer, Acholi, etc. as these languages have all been classified as Nilo-Saharan
languages whereas Arabic has been classified as an Afro-Asiatic language. The Nilo-Saharan
family is to be found exclusively in Africa and in a large part in Sudan. The term African
vernaculars is used by some researchers, but this term can be confusing in the Sudanese context,
as Sudanese Arabic is also an African vernacular, and secondly because the term vernacular to
some suggests a kind of under language. It is also important to understand that the classifica-
tions of African/non-African languages are largely ideological and do not necessarily reflect the
local reality (personal Communication with Catherine Miller).
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

The speech community I am presenting in this volume also posed a challenge, as

it used a complex set of codes in their everyday lives. Terms such as language and
dialect soon surfaced as problematic, as respondents often had a different view as to
the status of their dialect or language. Applying generic language labels, such as Ara-
bic, were troublesome as the communitys speech repertoire included a whole range of
Arabic dialects. These observations were a reminder to drop a number of ideological
postulates that have been dominating not only the Sudanese political life, but also a
large part of the international research on language and identity (Miller, 2006, p. 8).
The second major challenge came from the communitys refugee status and
journey of displacement. While in language maintenance and shift studies it is
customary to use family as a unit of analysis, it was difficult to define what
family means in this community, and whether to design the survey for house-
holds, nuclear family or extended family units. On the one hand, families were
fragmented due to the civil war, and guardians represented the parents. On the
other hand, it was typical to have cousins and extended family members living in
the same household. In addition, identifying Sudanese respondents by the
country of birth being Sudan was fraught with problems, as in many cases people
were born during transition in refugee camps in Africa and they would have never
seen their home country or have had little or nothing to do with its culture.
Also, while at the time of data collection Sudan and South Sudan were one
country, in 2011 South Sudan gained independence. Sudan, in most of the discus-
sion that follows refers to the old Sudan including the Arabic North and the largely
Christian South.
Some children were separated from their family at an early age, and learnt
their first language from an auntie or a guardian rather than their biological moth-
er. Some other children who grew up in Sudan were exposed to a range of local
languages and sometimes they acquired two or more languages from birth. In ad-
dition, they used various forms of Arabic which were also used for inter-ethnic
communication. The concept of language maintenance was also difficult to apply
to the whole community, as some of the community members did not learn any of
their local African language in Africa. For them, language maintenance meant
learning their heritage language anew. Others were conversant in their African
community language, but lacked literacy skills.
In summary, the community in question was characterised by complex sociolin-
guistic features. The community was neither homogeneous nor static, but multifac-
eted and dynamic. It was a community in transition, which means that their past,
present and future had to be included in the study. On the one hand, these three
stages of their lives, whether lived, imagined or real, were shaped by their linguistic
resources. On the other hand, their linguistic resources were also shaped by the spac-
es of their past and present experiences and their future aspirations. Therefore, the
study took a multiperspectival approach paying attention to past, present and future.

Communities in transition

Sociolinguistic studies of language maintenance and identity are faced with dra-
matic changes in the social organization of everyday life. Modern speech commu-
nities live in the era of globalization which is characterised by translocality of space.
In other words, communities are global and local at the same time (Canagarajah,
2005). While nation-states continue to survive and play a fundamental role in the
development of sovereign states, communities are experiencing an unprecedented
increase of economic, financial, political and physical interaction in the global
scene (Appadurai, 1996).
Sociolinguists cannot ignore the social, political and demographic forces that
influence contemporary speech communities and language communities on a
global scene. While global population flows are not new to the 21st century,
Garrett et al (2005) argue that there are four main qualities which make current
flows different. Firstly, extensivity which means that people can span larger geo-
graphical distances; secondly, intensivity which means a greater magnitude of flow;
thirdly velocity which means people, images, beliefs and ideas travel faster; and
fourthly, infrastructure and institutions which promote and regulate connectivity.
An important aspect of globalization from the point of view of intercultural inter-
action and connectedness is that shrinking space, shrinking time and disappear-
ing borders are linking peoples lives more deeply, more intensely and more
immediately than ever before (UNDP cited in Power (UNDP, 2010, p. 39). The
ecological perspective advocated in this volume aims to respond to this dynamism
of translocality in modern immigrant contexts. Without giving a full review of the
term, it is important to state here that globalization is a multifaceted phenomenon
and does not simply equate with homogenization, at least not in social and eco-
nomic terms. As Colin Power, a former Assistant Director-General for Education
at UNESCO asserts in a somewhat pessimistic, but highly realistic voice:
global cultural and economic forces are tending to polarise society: the powerful
become richer and more powerful, and marginalised ethnic and religious groups
more excluded and frustrated, laying the seeds of violence, terrorism, corruption,
greed and environmental degradation (Power, 2005, p. 39)

Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest incidence of multidimensional poverty with

Europe having 3% and Sub-Saharan Africa 65% of populations in poverty
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

worldwide (UNDP, 2010). Global forces also create uncertainty, particularly in re-
lation to job and market security and this consequently can unleash latent ethnic
and racial tensions (Power, 2005, p. 39).
Another aspect of globalization is the effect of information technology through
which domestic and national issues have shifted to the international stage. This
trend is visible in the media coverage of local matters. A popular news channel
in Australia even adopted the slogan News from home if you live in the world.
Also, the United Nations Development Program reports an upsurge of global and
transnational civil society with a fivefold increase of international organizations
from 1970 to 2010 (UNDP, 2010, p. 68). With increased access to the Internet,
political and social movements, protests have also taken an international dimen-
sion by publicizing political standpoints and documenting the illegal and violent
acts of political regimes. Examples include boycotts of the apartheid regime in
South Africa, mobilizations seeking to end the conflict in Darfur, pro-democracy
protests in Egypt, Libya and Algeria. An extreme and highly controversial example
of this freedom of information is WikiLeaks.
New translocal spaces created through the Internet offer new opportunities for
diaspora representations including symbolic, semiotic and real. For example, Garrett
et al (2005) have identified shifts in semiotic representations of Welshness through
visual images presented in the North American newspaper Y Drych (The Mirror)
established by the Welsh immigrant community in the mid-19th century. As this
newspaper has a long history (starting in 1851) it is particularly useful for identify-
ing diachronic semiotic shifts. The authors state that photographic images of home
can bridge across the physical space that separates diasporic or displaced communi-
ties from their homeland, and the differences between diasporic and homeland rep-
resentations are reflective of some of the impact of globalization:
imagery of home has the potential to bridge across the physical space that sepa-
rates new communities from their roots of origin, linking past with present in
the compression of time and space (Garrett, et al., 2005, p. 532)

Breaking down physical space across diaspora and homeland communities

through modern technology and the Internet have important relevance to lan-
guage planning initiatives on supranational and micro-level which I will turn to in
Chapter 3 and explore further in Chapter 9, through examples of planning initia-
tives in the Sudanese community.
Contemporary communities are experiencing new sorts of mobility (Garrett,
et al., 2005, p. 532). A linear view which depicts immigrants who leave their
country, settle in the new country and live there forever does not represent the
complexity of contemporary migration flows. Ethnolinguistic communities, par-
ticularly displaced immigrant communities, engage in multiple relations with
Introduction: Communities in transition

multiple localities. Similarly, diasporic communities do not only connect with

their country of heritage (source country) and their new country of settlement, but
also with other diasporic communities who settle in other countries and those
communities they engage with during their transition journey, especially for
Sudanese refugees who spend a decade in displacement before finding a new home.
Social media sites show intense connectedness between Sudanese diaspora com-
munities across the UK, Europe, USA, Canada, Australia and other locations.
Drawing on Vertovecs concept of super-diversity (2007) as applied to multilay-
ered and chaotic migrant suburbs developing in the UK, Blommaert (2010),
Blommaert and Rampton (2011) argues that sociolinguistics needs to respond to a
tremendous diversity in migration patterns, not only in terms of migrants origin
(such as ethnicity, religion and language), but also in terms of the routes and mo-
tives of migration. While the term superdiversity can be seen as a new fashion
term for something old, it draws attention to the magnitude of social changes which
require innovative research approaches and theories. In the study presented here,
the majority of participants are refugees, therefore, for them immigration was
primarily a non-voluntary act. Still, as the coming chapters demonstrate, their jour-
neys have shown a great deal of variation and without understanding their indi-
vidual experiences of the journey, one would lose sight of some of the important
dimensions of this seemingly homogenous community. All these circumstances
must be considered as part of the ecology.
Current population flows paired with processes of globalization have led to
new and more dynamic forms of language ecology which call for reconceptualiz-
ing the unidirectional view of migration which sees migrants movements lineally
from A to B. References to migrants, immigrants, sojourners, global citizens,
global nomads, refugees, asylum seekers and others have become frequent in the
media and their relevant issues do not only interest government departments,
scholars of migration studies or linguists, but they are in the consciousness of the
general public. While globalization has many different meanings and its conse-
quences vary across different speech communities, there is a general agreement
that the term captures the multilayered spatio-temporal dynamics of contempo-
rary speech communities. As Held et al put it:
Globalization can be taken to refer to those spatio-temporal processes of change
which underpin a transformation in the organization of human affairs by link-
ing together and expanding human activity across regions and continents. (Held
et. al. 1999: 15 cited in Block, 2004, p. 15)

Forces of globalization can mean complex changes with some leading to positive
and others to negative outcomes. All communities experience globalization in dif-
ferent ways, therefore, its processes cannot be generalized across immigrant com-
munities. It is not my aim here to conduct an evaluative analysis of these forces,
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

but to emphasise that processes of immigrant adjustment need to be considered

within the context of these broader forces, as Block states:
Whether Globalization means homogenisation or not, or Americanisation or not,
or a dystopic future for the world or not, it remains the dominant framework for
current discussions and analyses of social phenomena (Block, 2004, p. 17)

As Blommaert (2010b) argues, sociolinguistics needs to respond to the challenges

of globalization not only in terms of descriptive goals and new methodologies, but
by developing new theories through revisiting, questioning and critiquing well-
established sociolinguistic concepts. In other words he calls for an ontological and
epistemological shift in examining sociolinguistics phenomena within the context
of globalization.
Blommaert (2010) contrasts two sociolinguistic paradigms, one being the
established paradigm of distribution, the other the emerging paradigm of socio-
linguistics of mobility. The former sees the movement of language resources
(e.g. through migration) in a horizontal space, therefore its object of study is lan-
guage-in-place, while the second is concerned with language-in-space: that is the
spatio-temporal frames interacting with one another. Blommaert calls these
frames scales (Blommaert, 2010, p. 5).
Space, here, is metaphorically seen as vertical space, as layered and stratified
space. Every horizontal space (e.g. a neighbourhood, a region, or a country) is also
a vertical space, in which all sorts of socially, culturally and politically salient dis-
tinctions occur. Such distinctions are indexical distinctions, which project minute
linguistic differences onto stratified patterns of social, cultural and political value-
attribution (Blommaert, 2010, p. 5)

According to Blommaert, scales have a normative dimension and govern situated

language use. For example, the social, cultural and identity-related expectations of
how people should be using language or which language or code they should be
using are governed by multiple layers of scales which exert their influence at di-
verse rates governed by the orders of indexicality. This means that language use
is governed by multilayered norms and expectations. This is relevant in the current
study from two perspectives: firstly, in the context of language planning people
make choices as to whether to invest efforts into intergenerational maintenance of
an ancestry language. These choices are governed by the multiple layers of family,
peer, community, church-group expectations by in-group members, but also by
the expectations of the broader Australian host community (with its own multiple
layers of interactions).
Secondly, the right way to use bits of language in certain contexts is gov-
erned by the participants in the discourse. In this study, for example, Sudanese
youth who regularly engage in code-switching and use Australian slang in their
Introduction: Communities in transition

peer-to-peer conversations talked about their careful language choices in front of

the elders and explained how they needed to conform to certain unwritten rules
and norms of sociolinguistic behaviour including body language and metadiscur-
sive qualities of their speech. Orders of indexicalities offer useful tools for explor-
ing these language rules and norms both in the spatio-temporal framework of
conversations with Australians and ethnic-group members, as well as in the con-
text of the imagined pressures of language use upon return to their home country,
South Sudan. In summary, the concepts of scales and orders of indexicality have
an important explanatory value in the study of language choices in real sociolin-
guistic interactions. They also offer insights into the power-relations within speech
communities which, on the one hand, shape language choices, on the other hand,
are shaped and reshaped by these choices.

Transition from indigeneity to minority

Questions of language cannot be separated from questions of power. As immi-

grants transition involves a territorial dislocation from the original residence, this
dislocation is paralleled with a dislocation from power structures. The usual di-
chotomous classification concerning languages in immigrant contexts is the
majority-minority division. This dichotomy, however, is misleading as it is often
thought of as referring to the size of the respective ethnolinguistic communities.
Instead, a minority language (irrespective of its number of speakers) is a language
spoken by an ethnolinguistic community which has limited access to social, eco-
nomic, and political power.1.. 2..3
Another common distinction is made between autochthonous and alloch-
thonous languages. The term autochthonous means found in the locality in

1. In South Africa speakers of native African languages such as Zulu, 10.3 million native speak-
ers, and Xhosa, 7.8 million, outnumber native speakers of English, 3.7 million, or Afrikaans, 4.9
million, and yet they are minority languages (, accessed 31/03/2011)
2. In the Australian context indigenous (Aboriginal) languages are minority languages and
they are numerically small. Australias population is approximately 20,310,000, but only 170,000
are of Aboriginal descent, and only 47,000 have some knowledge of an Aboriginal language
( Australia has approximately twenty-five Indigenous languages that are
still being passed on to children and have any hope of survival (Dixon, 1997).
3. According to Ethnologue 473 languages are classified as nearly extinct worldwide. The
Pacific has 152 of these languages and more than half of these (97) are Australian Indigenous
languages. In comparison Africa has 46 nearly extinct languages ( While
Africa has approximately 2000 living languages, according to Mous (2003) most African lan-
guages are quite stable and do not show reduction in number of speakers (Mous, 2003, p. 157).
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

which it originates; therefore, it can refer to indigenous or aboriginal languag-

es which are found in the geographical location where they originated. This
term is the antonym of allochthonous which means not found in the place
where it originated, originating from another place, non-aboriginal or
foreign. On this analogy, one can think of immigrant languages as being carried
away to new places by the people who speak them, therefore allochthonous,
while some other languages, such as Indigenous languages of Australia, as
autochthonous as they have remained in their place of origin. English in
Australia, therefore, can be seen as an immigrant (the colonial) language, or
allochthonous. However, in contrast with the more recently established and less
powerful immigrant languages such as Italian, Greek, Chinese and others,
English is often regarded as an autochthonous language in Australia. In the Eu-
ropean context immigrant languages are classified as allochthonous or ethnic
minority languages, while indigenous minorities are referred to as autochtho-
nous or regional minority languages. 4
The concept of autochthony, therefore, must be approached with caution.
Autochthony underlines the dichotomous divisions between insiders and outsid-
ers and distorts a long history of population flows and territorial re-divisions
(Ceuppens & Geschiere, 2005). The question is further complicated by the local vs.
global dynamics. While autochthony seems to defend the return to the local by
accentuating territorial definitions of belonging, in reality such concerns are more
about the exclusion of outsiders from new avenues to riches and power as
Ceuppens and Geschiere state:
[N]otions such as autochthony or indigenous appear to defend a return to the
local, but in practice are more about access to the global. It may seem logical
to equate autochthony with a celebration of the local and of closure against
global flows; yet, in practice it is often directly linked to processes of globaliza-
tion (Ceuppens & Geschiere, 2005, p. 387).

Nevertheless, these concepts are useful in articulating language rights (Skutnabb-

Kangas & Keith, 2006; Skutnabb-Kangas, 2008). Minorities who have not left their
homeland, but represent an indigenous or autochthonous minority subjected to
colonization or territorial and political domination, can claim linguistic human
rights within the broader framework of promotion-oriented rights. In contrast,
the language rights of those minorities constituted by immigrant groups can only
claim tolerance-oriented rights (May, 2000, 2001).

4. See Council of Europe, Charter of Regional or Minority Languages, http://conventions.
Introduction: Communities in transition

Transition from traditionalism to late-modernity

Western communities live in the era of late modernity which Giddens (2000) has
described as a runaway world with new forms of interactions pushing upwards
from the local to the global scene. At the same time, according to Giddens, global-
ization has the opposite force of pushing downwards and creating new pressures
for local autonomy (p. 13). I will return to these concepts when I discuss the ecol-
ogy of language planning and contrast top-down versus bottom-up approaches in
Chapter 9.
Sudanese immigrants settling in western democracies, such as Australia, are
in transition from traditionalism to late-modernity. Sudan has had a long history
of colonization and has been torn by the longest civil war in Africa and it has
largely remained in a pre-modern state. In South Sudan, where most refugees to
Australia arrived from, traditionalism governs most actions in society. South
Sudanese ethnic groups living in rural areas have an agricultural society where
growing cattle is central to every aspect of life5. The rules of right and wrong in
such communities are governed by kinship and extremely complex ethnic and
family traditions. In their newly adopted country, the conditions are changed and
playing by the rules becomes even more complex. However, as Giddens states to
know a rule is to know what one is supposed to do, and others are supposed to do,
in all situations to which that rule applies (Giddens, 1977, p. 131). 6 But, how do
newly arrived immigrants make sense of the new rules that surround them? How
do they maintain their traditional rules where the traditional families are frag-
mented, separated or shifting to the western ways of doing things? Structure and
agency govern new forms of behaviour and this includes language use. As Giddens
argues, while rules govern general interactions, their interpretation and relative
influence on people is not part of the structure, but part of agency:
(mutual knowledge) of rules is the condition of the production of interaction, [but]
it is not in and of itself a condition of how those rules are interpreted or are made
to count. These latter depend upon the relative influence that those who partici-
pate in the interaction bring to bear upon its course (Giddens, 1977, p. 132)

Such conjectures of rules, their interpretations and effects shape the everyday
communication practices of immigrant communities. Community members are

5. Most respondents in this study came from rural areas. I do not want to draw simplistic
sharp dichotomies between urban and rural settlements here. It is important to recognise that
aspects of modernity are entering all areas and spheres of life across Sudan and South Sudan.
6. Giddens also states that what happens in any given situation of the application of rules to
generate social interaction depends on the resources that those who are party to that interaction
are able to mobilize in the encounter (Giddens, 1977, p. 131).
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

driven by the structural expectations imposed by their heritage culture as well as

their host communities, but they exercise agency to shape these structures and by
doing so contribute to processes of structuration (Giddens, 1977). Such process-
es are of prime interest in migration contexts as often there are internal commu-
nity tensions between those who follow more traditional rules and those who
adhere to the rules of the new linguistic, cultural and economic space and modify
their language behaviour accordingly. These tensions are explored in Chapter 8 of
this volume.

From ethnicity to multiple layers of identification

African diaspora can be defined on multiple levels including the local ethnic group
level, the regional territorial level within Sudan, the national level as Sudanese and
the supranational level associated with a pan-African identity. The concept of a
pan-African diaspora emerged in the 1950s and 1960s and during the times when
African countries were establishing their independence from the European em-
pires and entering their post-colonial era (Shepperson, 1993, p. 41). The term
African diaspora was used originally by writers and thinkers who were concerned
with the status and prospects of persons of African descent around the world as
well as at home (Shepperson, 1993, p. 41). In the diasporic context the multiple
layers of identity, social connectedness (and lack of it) continue to give new mean-
ings to diaspora as a group of people. Refugees arriving from Sudan, for example,
belong to diverse ethnic groups and some of these groups are hostile to each other.
Belonging and connectedness in these groups, however, is not only shaped by their
homeland, but by the multiple spaces during dislocation. As stated previously,
some Sudanese youth in Australia were born outside Sudan in a refugee camp,
spent most of their life in Kenya and Australia. Assigning identity labels to them is
highly problematic. Identity under such circumstances becomes situated and flex-
ible and best explored through discursive data. I will turn to questions of identity
in Chapter 7.

Transition and temporality

The concept of diaspora derived from the historic experience of the Jewish people
refers to a relatively stable community in exile (Harris, 1993, p. 11). However, in
our late-modern era this stability has become a relative term. Perhaps, the term
transition rather than migration is more adequate to describe current trends in
population flows, especially in contexts of displacement. Migration trends vary
Introduction: Communities in transition

greatly according to cause, duration and settlement trends. Some leave their coun-
try for a short time and return to their country of origin (usually referred to as
sojourners), others move from country to country in search of economic advance-
ment or due to extreme circumstances. Of course, the question to return or not to
return is far from being a free choice and repatriation of ex-refugees is a political
decision which is often based on false judgments of what constitutes a safe home
for returnees (Black, 2002). Refugees and asylum seekers leave their countries be-
hind due to extreme forms of political oppression and violence, but their journey
does not always end in their country of resettlement.
While it is true that the majority of diaspora-like populations tend to stay in
their country of migration, and large scale return movements are not realistic
(Skinner, 1993, p. 19), many people aspire to move back to their homeland after
the oppressing regimes have fallen and democracy makes its way to their new
country of development.7 For some this becomes a reality. Harris (1993) provides
examples from the contexts of Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Freretown8 where the
significant physical return of people from the diaspora to Africa, has had a great
influence not only on their immediate settlements, but the surrounding societies
as well. These repatriates served as teachers or civil servants, doctors or trade
unionists, journalists or politicians, but most importantly they were conveyors of
ideas and skills necessary to modernize Africa (Harris, 1993, p. 53).
Such return movements are highly relevant and likely in the context of the
Sudanese diaspora. Between 915 January 2011 Australian Sudanese, along with
numerous Sudanese from around the world including Southern Sudan, partici-
pated in a referendum and cast their vote for a new independent Southern Sudan.
The prospect of a new Southern Sudan as an independent state along with the
major political changes and the hope for the economic advancement contribute to
the transitional nature of their migration and create incentives for possible return
movements. These movements, even if they remain aspirations only, form an
important part of the ecology.
Research has shown that displaced diaspora communities engage in the po-
litical affairs of their homeland and support their relatives left behind through
remittance. In other words, even though they do not physically move back, they
engage with their homeland in a multitude of ways. These engagements and
aspirations have a significant impact on immigrants daily lives (Akuei, 2005),

7. Political factors in the homeland have a strong impact on attitudes and vitality (Clyne,
1991, p. 88).
8. Freretown is a settlement in Kenya which was established for freed slaves and it is known to
be inhabited by Freretowners who are descendents of freed slaves. Therefore, it is said that
Freretowners do not have a tribe as they represent many different ethnic groups. The settlement
is named after Sir Bartle Frere, who played a significant role in ending the slave trade.
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

which includes challenges as well as opportunities. Whether immigrants return or

not, as Clyne (1991) has asserted, attitudes to language maintenance should be
seen in relation to self-identification and political factors in the homeland. Future
aspirations, wants, goals and desires form an important part of the affective and
motivational domain of the here-and-now of the ecology.
In summary, studying language maintenance in displaced communities re-
quires grappling with the complexity of late-modern speech communities where
territoriality, space, time, and cultural factors all play a role in the dynamic process
of migration. These dimensions of transition challenge traditional language mainte-
nance and shift models and theories. In the following sections I will give a review of
the fundamental concepts relevant to language maintenance and shift in immigrant
contexts and following the language ecology framework in the broader sense I will
incorporate social-psychological dimensions such as attitudes and motivations.
The community in this study is a complex discursive community with past,
present and future interconnected in multiple ways. This temporal and spatial in-
terconnectedness is of central interest in this volume as I aim to demonstrate how
the here-and-now is simultaneously shaped by the memories and experiences of
the lived past, on the one hand, and the imagined future on the other hand.
The participants of this study arrived in Australia as refugees and spent many
years in transition in Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Egypt. After many years
in transition and many years living in Australia, they still keep in close contact
with relatives back home and aspire to return to a new Sudan one day.
Sudanese immigrants in Australia represent a highly visible community with
clear physiological features which make them stand out in the largely white-
populated Australian landscape. The challenges of building a new life under these
circumstances, therefore, are also closely linked to identity positioning shaped by
experiences of past and present. Language choice becomes a site of identity con-
struction in relation to past, present and future. At the beginning of the project it
became obvious that members of the community bring with them an enormous
amount of pride and resilience feeding from their rich cultural traditions and their
diverse linguistic repertoire in Sudan. It was these human qualities that attracted
me to the community. The research, therefore, aimed to explore the dynamism of
multilingualism drawing on constructions of new and multidimensional identities
such as being a refugee, being Sudanese, being African and being Australian. I
sought to see what values the community attaches to their linguistic human capital
and whether (and how) they build their social capital through mobilizing their
linguistic resources in multilingual and translocal spaces.
After five years of research and engagement with the community, I am not
confident that I found the answer to the question. Rather, I found many answers;
a multitude of interconnected threads of their multilingualism which weave
Introduction: Communities in transition

through their everyday lives, connecting past, present and future, reaching across
many boundaries, real and imagined (Anderson, 2006).
In this monograph I hope to achieve three main aims. My first aim is to intro-
duce an ecological perspective to the study of language maintenance in immigrant
contexts which incorporates past, present and future and treats spatial and tempo-
ral dimensions as the main organizing frames in which everyday language use and
identity development can be explored. Secondly, my methodological aim is to ex-
pand a quantitative domain-based sociolinguistic survey method with discourse
analytic approaches. I attempt to make methodological observations which are of
value to fellow researchers working in this highly interdisciplinary field requiring
multiple viewpoints and techniques. Thirdly, by drawing on different datasets, I
intend to demonstrate that ethnolinguistic communities are dynamic and diverse
entities with multiple experiences, attitudes, proficiencies, viewpoints and aspira-
tions. They have contrasting positionings to their everyday reality, their present,
past and the future. These positionings illuminate the need to move away from a
monolithic view of immigrant groups.

The ecological framework

Multilingualism in immigrant communities has attracted extensive research inter-

est from diverse disciplinary backgrounds. The main sociolinguistic research
agenda has addressed the extent to which certain immigrant communities main-
tain, disseminate and make use of their linguistic repertoire and mobilise their
ethnolinguistic identity. Most studies, however, have addressed a particular speech
community in a particular time and space without due regard for the historicities
of the past and the possible motivational and vitality effects of an imagined or
projected future. The approach taken here is conceptualised within an ecological
framework which, as I will demonstrate, is more suitable for capturing linguistic
and cultural aspects of displacement in the context of shifting spatio-temporal
dimensions such as in the here-and-now of the host society, the there-and-then
rooted in their homeland and in-between in a state of transition. While the eco-
logical paradigm does not claim to be a novelty, it is used in this monograph as a
dynamic concept to draw attention to the complex processes of mobility in our
post-modern world.
The term ecology was originally used in the context of biodiversity
describing the adaptations made by living phenomena9. Since its introduction to

9. The term ecology is much more broadly used now in the social and political sciences
(Garner, 2004, p. 189).
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

sociolinguistics (Haugen, 1972), it has been subject to criticism and debate

(Edwards, 2008; Fill & Mhlhusler, 2001; Kaplan & Baldauf, 2008; Maffi, 2005;
Mhlhusler, 2006; Pennycook, 2004). Haugen originally called the study of any
given language and its environment the ecology of the language. This environment
can partly be described by using demographic tools (socio-demographic ecology),
and partly by describing the environment as it exists in and is shaped by the minds
of its users (social-affective ecology) (Fill & Mhlhusler, 2001). For some
sociolinguists, however, the term evokes a dangerous parallel between linguistic
diversity and biodiversity. As they claim, languages are not organic (Edwards,
2010, p. 52), they are not things (Mackey, 2001, p. 67) and they are living only
in the sense that people use them; therefore, it is incorrect to compare sustainabil-
ity of biodiversity to that of linguistic diversity.
Ecology in this volume refers to the demographic, social, political and affec-
tive environment which impacts on whether (and in what ways) speakers develop,
maintain, nurture their linguistic repertoire and make use of this capacity in con-
stantly shifting social and political spaces of multilingualism. Migrants shape the
ecology of their new environment by bringing with them their traditional cultural
practices, languages and their social networks. Simultaneously they are shaped by
this new environment socially, psychologically, culturally and, last but not least,
In this volume, I will argue that immigrants cultural, social and linguistic ad-
aptation is best understood as co-constructed, dynamic and reciprocal. Therefore,
it is unfruitful to use the linear cause-and-effect relationships which have for long
been central to language maintenance research. In addition, I will draw on subjec-
tive ethnolinguistic identity theories to stress that the focus of language mainte-
nance research should be redirected from purely objective factors such as
demographic and numerical strength. In addition to these objective factors, it is
necessary to consider affective factors such as the immigrant communitys attitudes,
motivations, and their subjective vitality perceptions; as well as the host commu-
nitys expectations towards immigrants in terms of their cultural adjustment. I will
return to these later, but for now suffice it to say that both objective and subjective
elements form part of the ecology. Kipp (2008) identified three main areas which
interact to shape the language ecology of immigrants in Australia. These are:
1. Backgrounds and pre-migration experiences of a wide range of different
groups and individuals;
2. The overarching effect of the dominant language of the receiving community
(in this case English) on all of the incoming language users; and
3. The policies (either implicit or explicit) in place in the country of immigration
towards the use of languages other than English (LOTEs). (Kipp, 2008, p. 69)
Introduction: Communities in transition

Kipps summary highlights the need to incorporate individual experiences as well

as policies and to link past and present. In addition, in my view, the communitys
orientation towards the future needs to be added to the ecology model. Therefore,
in the context of the current study, dimensions of language ecology can be sum-
marised under the following headings:
Pre-migration language experiences and language planning in the country of
origin (Sudan and South Sudan);
The effect of transition from country and origin; local language experiences in
the transition localities (mainly in Kenya, Egypt, Uganda and Ethiopia);
Language policies and language practices in Australia;
Interethnic connectedness within the community and with the broader
Australian community through language;
Future aspirations and opportunities to return to the homeland;
Intergenerational connections and cultural adjustment.
There and now connectedness with relatives in South Sudan and across
various diasporic communities.
In this volume, I will explore these dimensions in the context of the Sudanese
community in Australia with the intention of providing a holistic picture of the
factors which have played (and continue to play) a role in the development of mul-
tilingualism in this community. In this specific sociolinguistic ecology, locality is
linked with three main spatio-temporal contexts. Locality incorporates the pre-
migration place of settlement, which for most but not all participants represents
the place of birth, South Sudan10. Secondly, locality incorporates the spatio-
temporal dimensions during-migration in various transition countries (e.g. Egypt,
or Kenya along with other countries in East Africa) and refugee camps. Thirdly,
locality is the post-migration here-and-now of Australia. Therefore, there are at
least three main spatio-temporal dimensions of the ecology that need consider-
ation. An additional spatio-locality is the imagined future as some migrants
aspire to return to their homeland, and others stay in their country of settlement.
These dimensions challenge traditional approaches in the study of language
maintenance and shift and call for dynamic approaches which move beyond a

10. South Sudan became an independent country on 9 July 2011 after a referendum held in
January 2011. This was part of the 2005 Naivasha Agreement between the Khartoum central
government and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M). Overall 3,837,406
valid votes were cast with an overwhelming 98.83% for secession. (accessed 10 Nov 2011 from Southern Sudanese living in Australia participated in the ref-
erendum with good numbers (approx. 9000 registered). There were voting centres in five major
Australian cities. The community took an active role in preparing voters through Facebook and
various community and church events.
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

diachronic mindset and research design and which traditionally map out the
sociolinguistic ecology onto a linear, one-dimensional and unidirectional para-
digm. Instead, it is the interaction and the back and forth movements across these
spatio-temporal dimensions that form the everyday reality and the core of the so-
ciolinguistic ecology of migrant communities.
The definition of ecology includes a social aspect. As Mhlhusler puts it,
the true environment of a language is the society that uses it as one of its codes
(Mhlhusler, 2006, p. 203). While African immigrant languages are not used in
the broader society in Australia, they play an important role in the local speech
communities of African immigrant groups. Due to the circumstances of displace-
ment and traumas of the longest Civil War in Sudan the Sudanese community is
comprised of fractured families. Hence, it is important to explore what aspects of
family connectedness or disconnectedness have impacted on language use and
abilities. Also, through acculturation and social network patterns strategies of ad-
justment shape the language ecology, which I will discuss in the coming chapters.
Ecology also has a psychological aspect as it is influenced by in-group as well
as out-group members attitudes. The interrelationships between multilingualism,
minority and prior refugee status, ethnicity11, self-concept and identity are central
to this aspect of the ecology. In addition, it is also important to explore the impact
of the broader Australian social milieu on the immigrant community. That is, what
attitudes do members of the mainstream Australian community exhibit towards
the newly settled Sudanese immigrant community? How do they perceive the
newcomers presence, their integration, their use of languages other than English
in shared social spaces? What types of social connectedness characterise the
broader and the local ethnolinguistic speech community? Do Sudanese immi-
grants establish positive social contacts with the host community (and are they
encouraged to do so)? What roles does multilingualism play in social connected-
ness from within and from without?
This volume aims to move away from static and monolithic approaches to the
study of language maintenance. Researchers exploring immigrant communities
have often sought to classify ethnolinguistic communities (based on sociolinguis-
tic surveys) as tending towards either additive or subtractive bilingualism. Re-
search indicates that in Australia, the Dutch (Pauwels, 1985, 1988) and the
Germans (Clyne, 1968, 1988a, 1994, 1997, 2003; Clyne & Kipp, 1997) were in-
clined to shift rapidly to English, while some other communities such as the

11. The term ethnicity has been critiqued as a surrogate for race. In social psychology ethnic-
ity is defined as a group-based identity based on ancestry/heritage (Hecht, Jackson II, Lindsey,
Staruss, & Johnson, 2001, p. 430). Also as Miller argues it is now a well established fact that
ethnic groups or tribes are fluid social constructs that evolve according to the historical and
political context as well as to the interactional settings(Miller, 2005, p. 2).
Introduction: Communities in transition

Chinese and Vietnamese tended to maintain their heritage language into the next
generation. Smolicz (1981, 1999b) theorised that communities which consider
language to be a core value of their culture tend to keep their immigrant lan-
guage, their cultural distance and religion. Language as core cultural value plays an
essential role in such linguistic outcomes over generations.
Understanding core values is essential for comparing language maintenance
patterns of various ethnic groups, since different groups attach different significance
to language in their culture. For language-centred groups the loss of their ethno-
linguistic tongue means more than the loss of an avenue of communication. For
them, the value of their first language transcends any instrumental consideration,
and represents a striving for self-fulfilment that makes the language a symbol of
survival, and hence of autotelic significance (Smolicz, 1999b, p. 29). This means
that keeping cultural values is an aim in itself and all other motivations or functions
of symbolic communication are extrinsic or secondary (Kloskowska, 1988, cited in
Smolicz, 1999b, p. 29). These theories resonate with the concepts of instrumental
versus integrative motivation and add to the socio-affective and socio-cultural di-
mensions of language ecology. However, rigid classifications of communities as
language-centred ignore the variability within. In contrast, the reality is that mod-
ern immigrant communities are varied and heterogeneous. Also, theories of core
values have been critiqued for lacking historical sensitivity and neglecting the prior
socio-political circumstances of the minority status (Edwards, 2010, p. 94).
In this volume I argue that rather than assigning certain traits to ethnolinguis-
tic communities, sociolinguistic studies should seek to identify ways in which
members of communities of practice make use of their multilingualism in dynamic
contexts and explore differences across various segments of the community. Also,
there is a need to reverse questions of language shift and move away from purely
causative and language-centred approaches to new research questions which posi-
tion minority communities as active agents of their linguistic circumstances.
Language maintenance requires a bilingual and multilingual paradigm, rather
than an ironically monolingual mindset, where the focus is solely on the minority
language ignoring the benefits of learning and using other languages. These issues
will be discussed in the coming chapters, but next I will give an overview of the
methodological approach which was designed to match the overriding ecological
paradigm as outlined in the previous sections.

Approach and method

I have designed the study to incorporate diverse sociolinguistic approaches

which is consistent with the underlying ontology of looking at immigrant
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

communities as dynamic entities with complex social, cultural, cross-cultural,

interethnic, transnational and global connectedness. I seek to address a set of
research agendas related to language contact and multilingualism in immigrant
communities within the boarder theoretical context of the sociolinguistics of
globalization (Blommaert, 2010). I draw on the interdisciplinary fields of the
sociology of language, language contact, discourse studies (Fairclough, 2006),
social psychology and critical applied linguistics (Pennycook, 2001). I hope this
volume will make a useful contribution here as the context of this research is a
highly distinctive language contact setting with a unique combination of social,
cultural and demographic factors. Several authors (see e.g. Clyne, 2001) have
called for a shift in research to explore different types of language contact phe-
nomena arising from the setting and for using disinvention strategies (Makoni,
Kamwangamalu, & Keith, 2006) where the traditional ideological sociolinguistic
constructs are challenged and reformulated to respond to processes and theories
of globalization.
Sociolinguistic studies of language shift have used varied approaches incorpo-
rating a range of interdisciplinary angles and a wide range of methods: e.g. macro-
sociolinguistic census-based studies, ethnolinguistic fieldwork, conversation
analysis and discourse analysis. Several models (Conklin & Lourie, 1983; De Klerk,
2001; Edwards, 1992; Fishman, 1991; Giles & Johnson, 1987; Kloss, 1966; Milroy
& Wei, 1995) theorise why language shift occurs in some communities and why
some others are able to maintain their mother tongue over several generations.
Since the factors impacting language maintenance and shift are numerous and
each community is different in its demography, history of immigration, attitudes
and acculturation strategy, it is impossible to address all aspects in one study. The
traditional accountability of describing shift patterns in immigrant groups, which
Makoni and Pennycook call a census ideology in sociolinguistics (Makoni &
Pennycook, 2005, p. 143) needs to be replaced with an accountability of a different
nature. This new approach is based on the principle that language use and its mo-
tives are not uniform; rather they differ on the individual level and across various
groups. The tensions between a communitys desired images (Ager, 2001), and
individual motives, actions and attitudes need to be documented and explored.
Also, this approach moves away from the Herderian ideology of seeing languages
as separate, autonomous objects (Makoni & Pennycook, 2005, p. 143)). Instead, it
is important to explore every aspect of language use and identify where diversity
lies. Therefore, it is my hope that this volume will be a valuable addition to the field
by using strategies of disinvention (Makoni & Pennycook, 2005) and exploring a
unique linguistic, social and cultural setting and by voicing multiple perspectives
from the community.
Introduction: Communities in transition

The data informing the research were collected over a 3-year period and con-
tains semi-structured interviews about language use, construction of new identi-
ties, settlement in Australia, the refugee journey, language attitudes including
attitudes to African community languages, Arabic, Swahili and English as linguae
francae. Over 100 interviews were conducted with parents, community leaders
and youth. Personal accounts about the refugee journey, language use, language
maintenance, ethnolinguistic vitality and future goals were explored through
semi-structured interviews and analysed through thematic coding with the NVivo
9 software as well as various discourse analytical approaches. This qualitative anal-
ysis is complemented by quantitative data collected through a sociolinguistic
survey which included demographics, history and route of transition, educational
background, language use during transition and in the Australian speech com-
munity, self-assessed language abilities, participation in the English language
support program in Australia, identity, acculturation strategies and future goals.
The interview data was also enhanced through ethnographic observations in vari-
ous community events.

Outline of the book

Following the spatio-temporal scale the book is divided into three parts reflective
of the three major phases (ecologies): pre- during- and post-migration. Part I of
the volume prepares the ground for the research and introduces the social, theo-
retical, methodological and policy contexts.
Chapter 1 provides the theoretical framework for the study. In Section 1.1 I
give a short review of language maintenance and shift theories, vitality mea-
sures including objective and subjective ethnolinguistic vitality factors. In
Section 1.2 I consider attitudinal, motivational and ideological dimensions of
the ecology. I will discuss issues of defining and measuring language attitudes,
highlight the relevance of Drnyeis concepts of the Ideal self and Ought-to
self in immigrant language maintenance contexts, and flag some of the poten-
tial ideologies which shape immigrants attitudes and language choices. I review
theories of identity with a focus on the language-identity nexus in immigrant
In Chapter 2 I introduce the ethnolinguistic study and its various stages and
elements. I firstly introduce the locality in which the study was conducted with
demographic data on ethnic and linguistic diversity in the boarder Australian
community. Next I outline the research aims and describe the data collection in-
struments (sociolinguistic survey and semi-structured interview schedule) and
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

methods. Finally, I describe the demographic profile of the research participants

(sociolinguistic survey). This chapter offers methodological insights into studying
language maintenance and shift in refugee communities.
In Chapter 3 I provide the policy context of the ecology. First, the chapter
begins with an overview of linguistic diversity in Sudan and an overview of rel-
evant language-in-education policy. Here the chapter is concerned with the his-
torical aspects that have shaped the current linguistic landscapes and language
policy agendas of contemporary Sudan. Namely two main periods: (I) Condo-
minium or Anglo-Egyptian rule (18981956) and (II) Post-colonial era (after
1956 to present). Therefore, my discussion here does not pretend to be a com-
prehensive account and it is restricted to a summary of the political moves, mo-
tives and ideologies which have shaped the linguistic ecology of South Sudan
as it is today. I also focus on the historical events which have influenced the
educational policy decisions instrumental in language planning (and policy) in
Sudan. My main focus of interest here can be summarised in the following three
What roles did African vernaculars, Arabic and English play during these two
periods: (I) Anglo-Egyptian rule/Condominium, and (II) Post-colonial era?
Who were the main actors in the language planning scene? What ideological
and political aims were the driving forces behind language planning decisions?
What political factors impact on the current developments of language policy
in Sudan (in light of the establishment of South Sudan as an independent State
in June 2011)?
In the next section (3.3) I provide the ecology of multiculturalism in Australia by
reviewing the relevant policies which were the key policies developed from the
1970s onwards to support immigrants languages and cultures in Australia. I give
a brief overview of current Australian refugee settlement policies particularly re-
garding the provision of English language education services for ESL learners in
schools and for adults (Adult Migrant Education Program). Finally, I highlight the
current government support for the establishment and maintenance of ethnic
language schools.
Part II explores the ecology of multilingualism prior to migration to Australia
(Chapter 4 and Chapter 5). Most Sudanese refugees who participated in the re-
search spent an extended number of years in displacement either internally within
Sudan or in other African countries or both. These years of transition had a sig-
nificant impact on the language ecology of the families and individuals. Some
gained new language skills, while others lost their ethnic languages. Language
competence became a precious tool for connections with the ethnic group as well
as connections with the new host communities either within the confines of
Introduction: Communities in transition

refugee camps or outside the camps. The dataset informing the discussion include
the story of the Sudanese Lost Boys and semi-structured interviews with fami-
lies and youth.
In Chapter 4, after a brief overview of the respondents displacement and
transition history (4.1), I provide a brief review of narrative modes of discourse
(4.2) and apply discourse analysis techniques to explore narratives of displace-
ment (4.3) which serves as a backdrop to understanding the social and psycho-
logical ecology of language use under these extreme circumstances. This section
also has a focus on narrative structure and the spatio-temporal expressions in
the stories. In Chapter 5 I present stories of languages learnt and languages lost
in transition. In section (5.1) I discuss language use in transition and perceived
loss of the African vernaculars during this time. In the second section (5.2) I
present stories of interethnic communication. Such stories demonstrate that
multilingual skills were essential for survival and refugees gained various ben-
efits through knowing the language of the enemy. Finally in the third section
(5.3) I discuss the educational opportunities that Sudanese refugees had during
transition times. I draw on the survey data to summarise participants educa-
tional profiles. The findings demonstrate that poor or interrupted schooling had
a major impact on literacy development. Also, depending on which migration
route they took, some became literate in Arabic, some in English, while others
did not develop any literacy skills. These diverse routes had significant conse-
quences for their educational and employment opportunities in Australia. Based
on the interview data I highlight participants perceptions of schooling during
Part III explores the dynamics of language ecology post-migration, after the
refugees arrival in Australia to the present. In Chapter 6 I draw on the sociolin-
guistic survey and semi-structured interviews to discuss space as a useful con-
cept to replace domain (6.1), then explore language use in translocal spaces (6.2.1),
bridging spaces and language as a barrier (6.2.2), bonding spaces and
language as a resource (6.2.3), and language use in the home (6.2.4) and the mul-
tilingual competencies of the community based on their self-reported data. Fi-
nally, in (6.3) I draw on surveys with Sudanese multilingual youth and explore
their attitudes to their languages (African vernacular, English, Arabic and
Kiswahili)12 and argue that language attitudes are best explored through the con-
cepts of scales. Through the data provided I also demonstrate that the ecology of
multilingualism in the community is largely compromised by external pressures
such as the need to acquire English for work and study purposes. Also,
Australian attitudes towards other languages and cultures also put pressure on the

12. Kiswahili and Swahili refer to the same language.

Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

community to conform and use English. Still, Sudanese youth contest the homog-
enizing forces of the host society and continue to build their multilingual habitus
in Australia. Through the use of African languages they maintain social connect-
edness within their own ethnolinguistic community, the pan-ethnic Sudanese
community and with other African communities.
In Chapter 7 I focus on the social ecology of acculturation into the Australian
community. I explore how Sudanese refugees construct new identities in the new
community and how they perceive the attitudes Australians exhibit towards them.
First in section (7.1) I will give a brief overview of identity in discourse and advo-
cate a discursive approach to the study of shifting identities in diasporic contexts.
In section (7.2) I discuss the complexities of racial boundaries and otherness faced
by Sudanese refugees and their discursive construction of their resilience to such
everyday racism. I focus on identity labelling as performed by in-group and out-
group members and discuss the connections between identity and language under
the concept of ethnolinguistic identity. [In section (7.3)] I use the concept of mul-
tilingual self to explore participants views on the role multilingualism plays in
their identity development
Chapter 8 is focused on envisioning the future as evidenced from the inter-
view data with parents and youth. Combining survey data with interview data
from families and the youth, the chapter (8.1.3) presents the summary of the main
motivation factors in the maintenance of African languages in Australia. In section
(8.2.1) I report the survey data which asked participants about their views on the
future survival of their ethnic languages in Australia and in Africa. This is followed
by a discussion of the motivations for returning to Sudan (8.2.2). By analysing
their discursive expressions of future goals, I focus on aspirations and agency.
Under the title of language regimes (8.2.3), I explore the language expectations
that govern the language behaviour in the spaces of the here-and-now as well as
in the imagined return to Sudan. Parents views about language rules and expec-
tations are contrasted with those from the youth.
Finally, Chapter 9 discusses community initiatives in language planning
including an online Dinka literacy class. I call for a cosmopolitan outlook in lan-
guage planning research which embraces post-modern spaces of linguistic ecolo-
gies; I aim to demonstrate that the traditional micro, meso and macro distinctions
are not always clear-cut as planning takes place in diverse multilayered and trans-
national contexts. I draw on ethnographic and discourse data to stress the role of
the church, the motivation and agency of volunteers. I also showcase micro plan-
ning with transnational characteristics such as the Agola Kapuk community and
Cyberspora, an online learning community. Finally, I present a model for micro-
planning informed by theories of community development.
Introduction: Communities in transition

Challenges of setting up and maintaining community-based language classes

are explored.
The conclusion provides a summary of the ecology of language and migration
in the context of Sudanese community in Australia. I will also discuss theoretical
and methodological implications and suggest further interdisciplinary research.
In summary, this is the first study which examines the patterns of language use
and motivation in mother tongue maintenance in an African diaspora in Australia
using poststructuralist approaches in sociolinguistics. It addresses a unique
sociolinguistic context and explores multiple dimensions of multilingualism con-
trasting language use across time (past, present, future), across generations (grand-
parents, parents, youth), and across space (in Sudan, in displacement in Africa and
in their country of resettlement, Australia).
This volume is intended for researchers and academics working in the field of
sociolinguistics, applied linguistics, literacy, discourse studies and linguistic an-
thropology. The book can be used as recommended reading material for students
at advanced levels.
chapter 1

The ecology of immigrant languages


I devote this chapter to the theoretical background to the research, but it is impor-
tant to note that this does not aim to do a full literature review of the field. Within
the scope of this chapter, what I aim to achieve is to contextualise the ecological
framework and provide a brief description of the main theories which have con-
tributed to the project. First, I will give a brief overview of language maintenance
and shift theories (1.1), then I move on to language attitudes and language ideolo-
gies (1.2), and finally, to the questions of the relationship between language and
identity (1.3).

1.1 Theories of language maintenance and shift

Language shift has multiple meanings and can refer to the language behaviour of a
community as a whole, a sub-group within it, or an individual community mem-
ber (Clyne, 2003). In the global ecology, language shift is part of the broader pro-
cess of language endangerment or language death (Crystal, 2000; Dorian, 1989;
Janse & Tol, 2003). Shift may refer to a process, such as a gradual shift from the use
of a mother tongue to the dominant language in certain domains (Clyne, 2003;
Gal, 1979). There are two main types of language shift: intra-generational shift
which refers to the structural attrition or functional reduction in the use of the
mother tongue by the immigrant generation; and (2) intergenerational shift, which
is the focus of this study, refers to the structural or functional reduction in the use
of the immigrant language in the second or third generations.
In the literature language loss, attrition, and shift are often used interchange-
ably and there is an overlap between the definitions. In order to assign precise and
clear definitions to the phenomena, Clyne (1988b) was the first scholar who called
for the distinction between language loss and attrition and suggested that language
loss should be interpreted as a total while language attrition as a partial loss of
skills. He also emphasised that language attrition is a psycholinguistic concept,
which implies that language shift is a sociolinguistic one. However, contemporary
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

theories of bilingualism (Hamers & Blanc, 2000) challenge this sharp dichotomy
and recognise that socio- and psychological factors can impact both language
attrition and shift. Another differentiation is made based on whether language loss
occurs within the first generation or in the second. Following Andersen (1982),
the term language attrition has been used to describe the former (intra-genera-
tional), while language shift the latter (intergenerational).
For the purpose of the current research language attrition will refer to the
deterioration of communicative competence in a language. On the other hand,
language shift will refer to the functional reduction of a language either within one
generation or inter-generationally. Language maintenance, because it entails stasis
rather than reduction, is located at the opposite end of the continuum (Clyne,
2003), referring to the successful continuation in the use of an immigrant language
over generations.1
While the concept of language shift can only be interpreted in a diachronic
sense, early studies have described the language behaviour of a chosen speech
community in a particular locality at a particular time. Sociolinguists have also
used apparent time techniques where data from different age groups or genera-
tions were compared. Based on these quantitative datasets trends of language
shift were diagnosed. The conclusions from these quantitative cross-sectional
studies have been that community A tends to maintain their mother tongue
better than B. Such sweeping conclusions, however, tell us little about dimen-
sions within the community. In this volume, I call on sociolinguistic research-
ers to replace a monolithic thinking about immigrant speech communities, and
develop research strategies which capture the variation within communities as
well as over time. Treating speech communities as homogenous leads to stereo-
typical views and reinforces the false idea that communities are static. First,
however, lets take a look at the objective demographic factors which have been
measured for causative explanatory purposes in language maintenance and
shift studies.

1.1.1 Objective measures of ethnolinguistic vitality

A number of authors (Bourhis, 2001; Clyne, 1988b, 1992; Edwards, 1992; Gal,
1979; Grenoble & Whaley, 1998; Jaspaert & Kroon, 1988; Jaspaert & Van, 1986;
Kloss, 1966) have studied factors affecting language maintenance/shift. Kloss
(1966) identified two groups of factors that promote language maintenance. Group

1. It is important to note that the terms maintenance and shift are not black and white
dichotomies: rather they are two ends of the continuum with various degrees of shift and main-
tenance in between.
Chapter 1. The ecology of immigrant languages

1: These are clear-cut, as they clearly have a positive effect on language mainte-
nance. They include an early point of migration, Sprachinseln, membership of a
denomination with parochial schools and pre-immigration experience with lan-
guage maintenance (Clyne, 1991). Group 2: These are ambiguous factors, as they
can either promote maintenance or shift. These include the education level of the
migrant, numerical strength, linguistic and cultural similarity with the dominant
group, attitude of the majority group to the minority language or group and inter-
ethnic differences.
According to Giles, Bourhis and Taylor (1977), there are three main groups of
factors which impact the ethnolinguistic vitality of immigrant language commu-
nities: (1) demographic characteristics of the immigrant community, (2)
institutional control by the host country2 and (3) status factors, such as the use of
the immigrant language in public domains (Clyne, 2003; Fishman, 1991; Giles
& Johnson, 1987). While this model was later revised to include subjective mea-
sures, I will first review the three main groups of objective measures as originally
proposed and later I will focus on subjective vitality including attitudes and

1.1.2 Demographic variables

Most of the early work in language maintenance focused on demographic factors.

Demographic variables are those related to the absolute number of members com-
posing the language group and their distribution throughout the urban, regional,
or national territory. Number factors refer to the language communitys absolute
number of members, their demographic characteristics such as birth and mortal-
ity rates, age pyramid, endogamy/exogamy, and their patterns of immigration and
emigration in and out of the ancestral territory (Bourhis, et al., 2006). In addition
to absolute numbers, it is important to consider the distribution of the immigrant
groups population as the concentration of speakers according to regions may vary
to a large extent. In the Australian context due to the large geographical distances
between major settlements, this is a significant factor in the demographics of im-
migrant communities. There is also a sharp geographical and to some extent
social and cultural division between major urban settlements and regional or
rural settlements. While urban transport facilitates easy travel, the distances be-
tween outer suburbs of large metropolitan cities such as Sydney, Melbourne and

2. Institutional control is defined as the degree of control one group has over its own fate and
that of outgroups, and can be seen as the degree of social power enjoyed by one language group
relative to salient outgroups (Bourhis, Barrette, & Keith, 2006, p. 246). Bourhis et al. argue that
institutional control is the dimension of vitality par excellence, needed by language groups to
maintain and assert their ascendancy relative to competing language groups (p. 246).
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

Brisbane can be as large as between European cities. In addition, one needs to take
into account the relative proportion of the immigrant group to outgroup mem-
bers, or speakers of the dominant language. In indigenous contexts it is also
important to consider whether or not the language community still occupies its
ancestral territory (Bourhis, et al., 2006).
Obtaining demographic data about an immigrant community is not an easy
exercise and most researchers have relied on the use of national census results.
Several authors, however, have warned that census-based language data can be
inaccurate and cause distortions for several reasons. For example, in the
Australian census first language was not included in the census survey questions
until 2006. Before 2006, the Australian census was based on a monolingual and
mono-ethnic language ideology which identified immigrants ethnolinguistic
background based on country of birth (see e.g. Clyne, 2003; Clyne, Grey, & Kipp,
2004; Clyne & Kipp, 1997, 1998). However, this did not necessarily reflect a
persons ethnicity or first language. Extra (see e.g. 2005; Extra & Gorter 2001;
Extra & Yagmur 2010) discusses similar issues with categorizing immigrants in
the European context.3
Fishman (1985, 1991) argued that the number of community language claim-
ants adjusted for average age, the institutional resources for language maintenance,
and other factors such as religious and racial distance from the mainstream popula-
tion are some of the key factors in language maintenance and shift. In the Australian
context, Clyne (1991) identified three main factors: (1) age distribution of speakers
of the language, (2) tendencies in the inter-marriage rate and (3) language mainte-
nance resources. Some studies (Pauwels, 1985, 1991, 2004, 2006, 2005) have found
that exogamy had a negative effect on Dutch language use patterns, while other
authors (e.g. Saunders, 1982; Saunders, 1988) have found that children can become
bilingual if parents use the one-parent-one language strategy consistently.4
Fishman suggested that minorities who are more concentrated within a certain
geographical area are more likely to keep their first language than those which are
more scattered. However, Clyne and Kipp (1998) found that there is no necessary
connection between the degree of social contact with the community and the rates
of language maintenance: e.g. Macedonian and Maltese in Melbourne are character-
ised by high language maintenance and low concentration, on the other hand, Dutch
is more concentrated than German, but it is subject to a much higher degree of loss.

3. Numerical strength and its measurement are important for immigrant communities as
larger communities have better chances of attracting government support for their activities or
obtaining institutional control they need to ensure their sustainability (Bourhis, et al., 2006;
Clyne, et al., 2004). These issues will be dealt with in Chapter 9.
4. See discussions of parenting and bilingualism in Baker (1995), Grosjean (1982) and
Harding-Esch & Riley (2003).
Chapter 1. The ecology of immigrant languages

Some of the unexpected findings were later taken up by Smoliczs (Smolicz, 1981,
1999b; Smolicz & Secombe, 2009) theory of core values as mentioned in the
In summary, pure numerical strength is not sufficient to predict the vitality
index of a language community. Researchers also need to consider the social net-
works that provide the necessary basis for the use of community languages. Milroy
(1987) has studied social networks to see how language varieties are used and
spread within such networks. Social networks were described according to their
density and multiplexity. Density characterises the degree of closeness in relation-
ships between members of the network, and multiplexity refers to multiple
relations among members. Now let us examine the concept of domains as social
spaces of language use defined by Fishman.

1.1.3 Domain-based sociolinguistic approaches

Fishman stressed that a clear functional separation between two languages or va-
rieties in clearly distinguishable social domains is a necessary prerequisite for lan-
guage maintenance in minority contexts (1989, 1991, 2001). Fishman adopted and
redefined Fergusons (1959) diglossia to include the functional separation of differ-
ent languages, not only varieties of the same language. This extension of the defini-
tion allowed the concept to be used for describing language use in bilingual and
multilingual contexts. According to Fishman, this compartmentalization of two
languages in a diglossic situation is a necessary ingredient for successful mother
language maintenance. Social boundaries such as the family, the neighbourhood
and the community contribute to the formation of distinct roles that minority
languages play, and by these roles their survival is more conceivable.
Fishman introduced the concept of domain to contextualise language use in
bilingual contexts. In the broader sense the concept aims to capture the key char-
acteristics of the sociolinguistic situation in which language choices are made. His
often cited question: Who speaks which language to whom? is a neat summary of
these characteristics. Domain in this sense is a tool for the classification of typical
social settings which are unambiguously related to major institutions in society
(Fishman, 1991, p. 44) (e.g. school, home, church, workplace, and media). The
second element of the sociolinguistic domain concerns the participants with their
social roles and relations (e.g. mother and child, employer to employee). Fishman
recognises that individuals typically fulfil multiple roles and relations in certain
sociolinguistic settings, but he maintains that it is these multiple roles and situa-
tions which must be sketched out in sociolinguistic studies of language use5. In the

5. In a narrower sense, domain also incorporates conversational topic as another element in

sociolinguistic interaction.
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

context of modernity and the era of the Internet, domains also need to be ex-
panded to include new modes of communication through modern technologies
such as cartoons, television, news, media, texting and email, as they complement
or replace traditional modes of communication (e.g. storytelling and songs).
The Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale (GIDS) (Fishman, 1991, 2001)
is a useful indicator for the severity of language shift in ethnolinguistic communi-
ties. The scale includes eight main stages of ethnolinguistic vitality starting from
the stage of strong language maintenance (Stage 1) and moving towards the last
stage (Stage 8) where only a limited number of isolated speakers use the language.
The grid has a corresponding typology of reversing language shift (RLS). Fishman
emphasises the importance of domains, particularly the home, in a physical, social
and cultural context where the attitude, competence and performance of minority
language speakers require understanding if reversal of language shift is to take
place. The family domain has been shown to be fundamental space for childrens
language socialization, and a domain where researchers are able to study face-to-
face interaction in the most intimate social space (Boxer, 2002, p. 4). In addition,
within Fishmans domain analysis, there is an emphasis on how the situation and
the topic play a role in language choice (Fishman, 2010a).
Spolsky (2004b, pp. 189190) notes that Fishmans GIDS is not without criticism
regarding its status as a true scale and its comprehensiveness. Nonetheless, he recog-
nises that the scale is generally regarded as a major step forward in the analysis of
language shift. GIDS has been criticised for being static and not capturing the dy-
namics of bidirectional language development in minority groups (Lewis & Simons,
2009). Lewis & Simons proposed an Expanded GIDS (EGIDS) including 13 levels of
disruption based on five key questions addressing (1) the identity function, (2) ve-
hicularity, (3) state of intergenerational language transmission, (4) literacy acquisition
status, and (5), which enable the creation of a societal profile of generational lan-
guage use. Domains continue to play an important part in language maintenance
studies (Boxer, 2002) as they allow researchers to identify trends and patterns. How-
ever, variability within domains based on situational, attitudinal and motivational
factors should also be considered. Such subjective factors have been central to vital-
ity studies in social psychology, which I will briefly review in the next section.

1.1.4 Social psychological approaches to vitality

In social psychology, drawing on Tajfels (1974) social identity theory, Giles et al

(1977, p. 308) defined vitality as that which makes a group likely to behave as a
distinctive and collective entity within the intergroup setting. Giles & Johnson
(1987) used the state that there are five main conditions under which ethnic group
members operate in striving for a positive ethnic identity. These include that they:
Chapter 1. The ecology of immigrant languages

1. identify themselves subjectively and strongly as members of a group which

considers language an important symbol of their identity;
2. make insecure social comparisons with the outgroup (e.g. regard their groups
status as potentially changeable;
3. perceive their own group vitality to be high;
4. perceive their ingroup boundaries to be hard and closed; and
5. identify strongly with few other social categories
 (Giles & Johnson, 1987, p. 72).
Allard and Landry (1986, 1994) developed a subjective ethnolinguistic vitality
measurement tool to include broader attitudinal and belief factors which came to
be known as the Beliefs on Ethnolinguistic Vitality Questionnaire (BEVQ). This
measurement incorporated four major types of capital, adopted from Prujiner
(1984 cited in Allard & Landry, 1994), as indices of vitality: demographic, politi-
cal, economic and cultural capital. This model had become known as the model of
additive and subtractive bilingualism. Allard and Landry (1994) argued that the
ethnolinguistic vitality of a group is highly dependent on the individuals networks
of linguistic contacts (INLC). As they state, the model includes individuals per-
sonal experiences in their social networks as these led to the development of be-
liefs about ethnolinguistic vitality. Beliefs, on the other hand, shape individuals
personal self-efficacy in attaining personal objectives, goals and their desires of
ethnolinguistic nature (Allard & Landry, 1994, p. 123). The theory differentiates
between general, normative, personal and goal beliefs and incorporates a focus on
present as well as future vitality, social models, valorisation, belongingness and
personal efficacy.
In summary, ethnolinguistic vitality is not a construct measurable with the aid
of simple methods. In fact, the numerous approaches to its measurement and the
diverse contexts of its use such as vitality perceptions in the home country and in
diasporic context are testimony to its complexity. The ecological orientation pro-
posed in this volume offers the opportunity to explore multiple dimensions
through qualitative measures. As Bourhis & Barrette (2006) argue, a combination
of objective and subjective vitality information is more effective in predicting the
language behaviour. One central concept used in second language acquisition is
motivation, which has been largely neglected in language maintenance studies. In
the next section, I will review this concept and discuss its applicability for language
maintenance and shift studies.

1.1.5 Motivation

Motivation is a well established affective dimension in second language learning,

but there has been relatively little attention devoted to this construct in studies of
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

language maintenance. Motivation as a concept is also highly ambiguous and some

theorists have argued that desire, even though not an action, is a form of motiva-
tional state (Mele, 2003). Language learning motivation research originates from
social psychologists working in Canada (Gardner & Lambert, 1972). The major
tenet of this motivation theory is that language learners attitudes towards the tar-
get language group will have a strong impact on learners success at second lan-
guage acquisition. An integrative attitude to a particular language concerns attach-
ment to and identification with a language group and their cultural activities, and/
or the need for an affiliation with a particular group. An instrumentally motivated
attitude, on the other hand, is induced by a desire to gain social recognition
or economic advantages through knowledge of a foreign language (Gardner &
Lambert, 1972: 14).
Given the immediate and clear relevance to immigration contexts, it is curious
that little research has been conducted on motivation vis--vis the maintenance of
immigrant languages. In her markedness framework, Myers-Scotton (1997) the-
orises social motivations for language choice in the context of code-switching in
interaction, rather than that of long-term language shift. Walters (2001) theoreti-
cal model includes two components: language choice, arising from social and mo-
tivational factors, and affective information motivation, wants and needs linked
to the speakers multiple identities (Clyne, 2003, p. 210). This model offers useful
concepts, but it is focused on micro-level bilingual language processing and lan-
guage choices in talk-in-interaction rather than the macro-processes of longer-
term vitality. Karans (2000) model explicitly defines vitality as having more to do
with motivation and opportunity the motivation to use the language along with
the opportunity to learn it (Karan, 2000, p. 71).
Another distinction is made in psychology between intrinsic and extrinsic
motivation. The former is understood to be an inherent quality linked to self-
determination, but this motivation is subject to the encroachment of environmen-
tal forces that are [...] often socially sanctioned (Deci & Ryan, 1985, p. 43). For
example, research has shown that external pressure or negative feedback can actu-
ally reduce intrinsic motivation (Deci & Ryan, 1985, p. 43). As intrinsic motivation
is derived from a need to be competent and self-determined (Deci & Ryan, 1985
p. 43), it is potentially a strong factor in the social practices of refugee groups who
need to build their lives from a new beginning. Maintaining their heritage lan-
guage and learning new languages offer new opportunities for self-determination
and self-worth. On the other hand, if this motivation is absent, external pressures
exerted by parents or guardians may lead to the opposite direction.
Three motivation theories have influenced the approach taken in this re-
search: (1) Agers (2001) motivation in language planning model; (2) Perceived
Benefit Model (PBM) of language shift by Karan (2000); and (3) Ideal L2 Self
model by Drnyei et al. (2006). Drawing on examples from Spain and Japan and
Chapter 1. The ecology of immigrant languages

other contexts, Ager (2001) identified seven major motivational factors in lan-
guage policy, including identity, ideology, image, insecurity, inequality, integration
and instrumentality. While these are discussed in the context of top-down macro-
level planning (Kaplan & Baldauf, 1997), these concepts have relevance to grass-
root level (Hornberger, 1996) or community-based planning.
According to the Perceived Benefit Model theory, language shift occurs be-
cause individuals, consciously or subconsciously, make decisions to use certain
languages in certain situations and these individual decisions are motivated by
what people consider to be their personal good (Karan, 2000, p. 68). These
language choice/language use motivational factors, according to Karan, can be
classified as communicative, economic, social, and religious. The communicative
motivation, that is to make code-choices to benefit communication, fits in with
various other theories of code-alternation, such as the markedness theory and the
rational choice models of code-switching by Myers-Scotton (1997). Economic mo-
tivation can be associated with the wider concept of instrumental motivation as
proposed by Gardner & Lambert (1972) in the field of second language learning.
While these theories of motivation offer useful starting positions, they need to be
grounded in ecology perspectives drawn from a strong empirical basis informed
by ethnography.
According to Drnyei, recent dynamic representations of the self-system
place the self right at the heart of motivation and action, creating an intriguing
interface between personality and motivational psychology (Drnyei, 2005,
p. 170). Drnyei et al. (2006) have adopted the concept of possible selves 6 as the
most powerful, and, at the same time, the most versatile, motivational self-
mechanism, representing the individuals ideas of what they might become, what
they would like to become, and what they are afraid of becoming. A type of possi-
ble self is the ideal self which refers to the representation of the attributes that
someone would ideally like to possess (i.e., representation of hopes, aspirations, or
wishes). These concepts are highly relevant to immigrant groups as they are in the
process of becoming.

1.2 Language attitudes and identity

1.2.1 Language attitudes

Language attitudes (Baker, 1992; Collins, 1988; Drnyei, et al., 2006; Edwards,
1999; Edwards, 2006; Gardner & Lambert, 1972; Garrett, 2010; Garrett, Coupland,

6. See Markus, H.R. & Nurius, P. (1986) Possible selves. American Psychologist, 41, 954969.
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

& Williams, 2003; Giles & Billings, 2004) have a long history of research in socio-
linguistics and other areas of applied linguistics. The classic sociolinguistic study
of New York City dialects conducted by Labov (1966) used subjective judgements
based on elicited language production. Labov investigated the connection between
language variation and social attitudes and for this he used a range of elicitation
As attitudes are cognitive, affective and behavioural (Fazio & Olson, 2003),
and these three dimensions are the key means of attitude formation (Eagly
& Chaiken, 1993, 1998) social psychologists have had a major role in language
attitude research. Social psychologists (Bourhis, et al., 2006; Giles & Billings, 2004)
tended to work on attitudes to whole languages as opposed to varieties or single
linguistic items studied by sociolinguists and they were interested in the social
stereotypes that people attach to certain languages.
In migration contexts language attitude studies range from the study of atti-
tudes towards the mother tongue (or the immigrant language) to the study of at-
titudes towards the language of the host society. Some studies have also focused on
attitudes to accents (Dong & Blommaert, 2009; Lippi-Green, 1997; J. Miller, 2003).
Attitude studies also vary according to whether they focus on immigrants attitudes
or the attitudes of the local community.
Language attitudes studies in migration contexts include the study of immi-
grants attitude towards
their own heritage language and its maintenance
the host communitys dominant language
the host communitys accent
their own proficiency and accent
learning other languages
other immigrants languages or dialects
local indigenous minority languages
global linguae francae
the vitality of their language in the immigrant context or in their home
Host communitys attitudes towards:
the immigrants languages, use/accent/style/ethnolect
the vitality of immigrants language in the host community
other immigrant and indigenous minorities attitudes towards immigrant lan-
guages and their speakers
Chapter 1. The ecology of immigrant languages

In the African context, most studies have examined attitudes of locals towards colo-
nial languages (Letsholo, 2009). A study in Botswana Letsholo (2009) used a survey
with over 200 Bakalanga youth to measure their attitude to their mother tongue,
Ikalanga. The study found that there was a gradual shift from Ikalanga to Setswana
which took hold in domains where youth would traditionally use their mother
tongue. In the European context Ibarraban et al. (2008) studied the language atti-
tudes in the Basque country vis-a-vis three languages: Basque, English and Spanish.
The attitude survey was conducted with local and immigrant students and results
showed that both groups held rather negative attitudes towards Basque, whereas
their attitudes towards Spanish and English were favourable (Ibarraran, et al., 2008).

1.2.2 Measuring language attitudes

It is generally recognised that language attitudes cannot be measured objectively

(Garrett, 2010), and scholars can only gain access to language materials through
the filter of metalinguistic assumptions whether these are the assumptions of
speakers and/or of analysts (Gal, 2006, p. 179). Garrett (2010; Garrett et al. 2003)
have argued that there are numerous issues with direct methods. Direct methods
are defined as the ones where respondents are directly asked about their attitudes
to a language and they are aware of the purpose of the questions. Some of these
relate to the elicitation tool. Other factors include acquiesence bias, when respon-
dents agree with the prompts, the social desirability bias when people tend to give
socially desirable responses and the effects of prior discussion (Garrett, et al., 2003,
pp. 2731). To avoid the bias caused by direct methods, a matched guise technique
(MGT) can be used (Lambert, Hodgson, Gardner, & Fillenbaum, 1960). Through
this technique Lambert and his colleagues identified negative cultural stereotypes
against French speakers in Canada (Hamers & Blanc, 2000, p. 223) and in the
Australian context this technique was used to identify attitudes of Italian and
Greek background Australians towards their own ethnic group and accent (Callan
& Gallois, 1982).
There is a growing body of research using discourse analysis in language atti-
tude studies. Discourse-based studies treat vitality as a social construct. As Giles has
stated vitality is not a static given but, rather, a malleable social construction(Giles,
2001, p. 473). Also, discursive data (as opposed to surveys) better inform language
maintenance studies as ethnolinguistic group members may be biased in their as-
sessments of vitalities (Bourhis, et al., 2006). Giles and Billings (2004) have criti-
cised the matched-guised technique for not being able to move beyond a static
input-output mechanism and argued that discursive approaches offer rich possi-
bilities as social meanings (such as language attitudes) are inferred by means of
constructive interpretative processes drawing upon social actors reservoirs of con-
textual and textual knowledge (Giles & Billings, 2004, p. 200).
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

Liebscher (2009) studied attitudes to German language and dialects by West

Germans who migrated to East Germany (the former Deutsche Demokratische
Republik) after 1989 as well as by the German diaspora living in Canada. She ad-
vocates incorporating interactional analysis into the study of language attitudes,
arguing that it allows the researcher to deal with attitudes as dynamically con-
structed. As attitudes can change from one moment to the next, this approach
caters for this variability (Liebscher & Dailey-OCain, 2009, p. 201).
Another challenge in language attitude research is to establish linkages be-
tween peoples attitudes and their consequent behaviour or linguistic action. As
attitudes are not directly measureable, researchers need to take careful steps to
assess whether specific manifestations or indices of evaluative stances to language
varieties are reliable indicators of underlying social tendencies(Garrett, et al.,
2003, p. 10). While early studies implied a strong connection between attitudes
and social behaviour, this connection cannot be taken for granted (Terry, Hoggs,
& Blackwood, 2001). In fact, a waxing problem in attitude research has been a lack
of empirical evidence supporting the relationship between attitudes and conse-
quent behaviours (Terry, et al., 2001).
To respond to this, psychologists have proposed the theory of reasoned ac-
tion and the theory of planned behaviour. The theory of reasoned action sug-
gests that, in order to understand the connection between attitude and behaviour,
one needs to explore peoples beliefs and evaluations of the projected consequenc-
es of their actions as well as their motivation to comply with certain expected be-
haviour (Fishbein & Aizen, 1975). This theory defines action as an intention to
perform or not to perform a certain behaviour. The most relevant language-
related action is choosing to use one language over another. As Giles and Billings
The persons attitude toward the behaviour is a function of beliefs about the conse-
quences of performing a particular behaviour (e.g. speaking French to a custom-
er) and the persons evaluation of these consequences. The second determinant of
intention, subjective norms, are themselves determined by the persons normative
beliefs regarding the expectations of others, and the persons motivation to com-
ply with these expectations (Giles & Billings, 2004, p. 201).

Therefore, attitudes, beliefs and norms need to be considered in a complex bidirec-

tional interrelationship with each other. Since norms are communal as they refer
to expectations imposed by collective groups rather than individuals, another
challenge in language attitude research is to explore the dynamics between indi-
viduals attitude and collective norms. Social psychologists have argued that
people are more likely to behave in accordance with their attitudes, if the norma-
tive climate supports that attitude (Terry et al., 2001, p. 144).
Chapter 1. The ecology of immigrant languages

Another challenge is the dynamic and changeable nature of attitudes. Several

authors in the field of social psychology (Giles & Billings, 2004; Potter &
Wetherell, 1987, p. 35) have stressed that attitudes are variable, inconsistent and
change over time. According to Potter & Wetherell, the main focus of discourse
analysis is to try and capture this variability in contrast with research epistemolo-
gies which aim to reveal an illuminating consistency in social life (Potter &
Wetherell, 1987, p. 122). Attitudes are appraisal(s) in a particular context (Giles
& Billings, 2004, p. 201). Therefore, to measure them, researchers need to move
beyond the static evaluating scores on decontextualised attitude objects. Instead,
they should focus on contextualised language use and collect evaluative feedback
which applies to the contexts selected. This requires a refocusing of research ques-
tions: On what occasions is attitude x rather than attitude y espoused? How are
these attitude accounts constructed? What functions and purposes do they
achieve? Such questions are best answered by using discourse analysis.
Hyrkstedt & Kalaja (1998) applied a discursive approach to the study of atti-
tudes in the context of English as a foreign language in Finland and demonstrated
that attitudes are not separated from the attitude object, but the very interpreta-
tion of the object is part of attitude formation. In the Australian context of
Chinese and Indian immigrants Lee et al. (1999) concluded that the failure to
know and use a minority ethnic language across the full range of skills may not
reflect the personal wishes of the participants, but the constraints which exist
within their social and cultural contexts (Lee, Murugaian & Secombe, 1999,
p. 220).
In summary, the discursive approach to language attitude study is based
on the fundamental idea that the expression of language attitudes is a social prac-
tice that needs to be seen as embedded within particular contexts (Liebscher
& Dailey-OCain, 2009, p. 201). Sociolinguistic interviews, when audio-recorded,
can provide rich data for exploring attitudinal orientations through discourse ana-
lytical techniques. Some of the key elements of discourse that can reveal covert
attitudes include:
presuppositions (unstated, implied ideas about language)
speech acts refusals, rejections, denials of language behaviour
evaluative statements
framing language use in certain contexts
use of modals and evidentials (to express wishes, possibilities, likelihood of
prosodic features which reveal emotive states
stance (e.g. epistemic stance about language use or status)
intensifiers (adjectives, adverbs, lexical or phrasal repetitions
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

phonological features (heightened stress, vowel lengthening, marked changes

in volume, speech rate and pitch, whispers, non-linguistic noises
register shifts
use of profanities or words with rich connotations
syntactically: marked change in complexity, or use of tense (e.g. shift to his-
torical present in narratives)
flashbacks and flashaheads
explicit metacomments
reported speech or thought (Cortazzi & Jin, 2000, p. 108)
In addition to attitudes, ideologies also need attention in the ecology framework,
as Blommaert (1999, p. 1) argues, there is now a widespread recognition of lan-
guage ideologies as a crucial topic of debate in the study of language and society,
especially when it comes to assessing the relationships between language and
power/social structure.
In the next section I will give a brief overview of the concept with a focus on
its relevance to language planning.

1.2.3 Language ideologies

According to Gal (2006), language ideologies are cultural conceptions about lan-
guage, its nature, structure and use, and about the place of communicative behav-
ior in social life (p. 179). According to Eagleton, ideologies are any set of beliefs
motivated by social interest which diverge from the dominant forms of thought
in society (2007, p. 2). Language ideologies in the current research have two main
dimensions: ideologies of the discipline, as created by linguistics and sociolinguis-
tics, and secondly, ideologies of the participants, that is the speakers and those
who have had a role in shaping the linguistic ecology and power relations such as
policy makers.
Regarding the first dimension, that is the disciplinary dimension of language
ideologies, there is no better context to embark on the discussion of language ide-
ologies than in the context of African languages. Historically, African vernaculars
were codified and labelled by European colonizers who made their decisions about
language classifications and naming these local languages was biased by their ide-
ological beliefs and political agendas (Sinfree Makoni & Pennycook, 2005). For
example, while most local languages in Africa did not have a name for their own
language, colonizers were keen to invent new names and lump small ethnic groups
under one language.
Regarding the second dimension of ideology, that is ideology constructed by
speakers, in the context of Sudanese refugees, sets of beliefs that speakers hold
Chapter 1. The ecology of immigrant languages

about their language or dialect are pertinent to their multiple codes and complex
linguistic repertoires including their African ancestral language, Arabic as a re-
gional lingua franca, and potentially as a language of economic and political dom-
inance, and English as a language of their newly adopted homeland, Australia.
Language ideologies are, therefore, relevant to language choices in interethnic
communication and reflect participants preferences for certain language varieties.
For example, ideologies about what constitutes proper Dinka and which dialect
should be taught in Saturday or Sunday schools can be a major factor in micro-
level language planning decisions. The convenient concept of a language being a
nicely defined entity reflects our ideologies. As Gal asserts:
Speech communities consist of people who can interpret each others pragmatic,
indexical signals to varying degrees. Language communities are groups of people
bearing loyalty to norms of denotational system. Usually the denotational form
receives a name English, Swahili, Taiap and is imagined as bounded and sepa-
rate from other comparable units (Gal, 2006, p. 182)

Similarly, the choice to use Arabic as opposed to an African language is tied with
ideological dilemmas and indexicality. While Arabic may be perceived as the lan-
guage of political oppression by the North and the African languages as symbols
of ethnic identity and in-group solidarity, the picture is not that simple. One has to
look deeper beyond the seemingly homogenous and neat categories of languages
and tap into language variation. For example, Juba Arabic, spoken in the
South is a strong marker of a Southern identity, while Sudanese Spoken Arabic
(or Khartoum Arabic) carries an indexical load of the North7. Language choices,
therefore, are not solely dependent on questions of unified language, but on lan-
guage variation. These variations can have powerful connotations indexing socio-
political positionings. Such ideologies shape the everyday language practices of
African communities and provide insights into the dimensions of language use
and grass-root language planning decisions. By exploring these constructions of
linguistic difference, as seen and deployed by speakers in everyday contexts, I hope
to contribute to deconstruction linguistic boundaries. As Gal & Irvine (1995) ar-
gue for a socially embedded sociolinguistic perspective it is important to explore:
the ideas with which participants frame their understanding of linguistic variet-
ies and the differences among them, and map those understandings onto people,
events, and activities that are significant to them (1995, p. 970).

7. Sudanese Spoken Arabic (or Khartoum Arabic) is spoken in the North, while Juba Arabic,
which is classified as an Arabic-based creole and used widely in the South of Sudan in the Equa-
torial region, into Bahr al Ghazal and Upper Nile regions.
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

Ideologies have also attracted much research in the context of language planning
and policy (Ager, 2003; Flores & Murillo, 2001; Ricento, 2000a, 2000b, 2008; Spol-
sky & Shohamy, 2000; Tollefson, 2007), discourse analysis (Razfar, 2005; van Dijk,
2006), language education (Canagarajah, 2000; Razfar, 2005; Ricento, 2008;
Tollefson, 2007), multilingualism (Blackledge & Creese, 2010), migration (James,
2007; Smolicz & Secombe, 2009; Warriner, 2007a). In the Australian context of
refugee and migration policy, James has criticized the Australian government for
act[ing] on behalf of the nation to keep unwanted strangers out, while facilitating
the open globalization of the Australian economy stressing that ideologies play a
crucial part in the process (James, 2007, p. 169).
Several authors have argued and shown that language ideologies are crucial to
understanding language policy (Ager, 2003; Canagarajah, 2000; Flores & Murillo,
2001; Ricento, 2000b; Silverstein, 1998; Smolicz & Secombe, 2009; Spolsky &
Shohamy, 2000; Tollefson, 2007). As Gal puts it ideologies about language are
never about the language itself, but include other conceptual systems which are
taken to be relevant by speakers and institutions (Gal, 2006, p. 179). Therefore, as
she argues, it is important to combine the explicit propositional content and
implicit ideological patterns inscribed in linguistic, institutional, ritual and other
material practices (Gal, 2006, p. 179). Gal also notes that researchers of ideology
need to apply a perspectival approach as language ideologies are never unitary
(Gal, 2006, p. 179). Such a view fits an ecological approach which combines expe-
riences of past, present and envisions the future through multiple voices for its
empirical basis.
Language ideologies play a crucial part in the context of language mainte-
nance and shift. As Gal asserts change is often the unintended consequence of
people attending to linguistic structures through the prism of their own language
ideologies (Gal, 2006, p. 182). Gal also states that, ironically, the very concepts of
community language, indigenous, minority ethnic tongue suggest an align-
ment to a cultural system where these terms are indexical only by recognizing the
relative status and power of certain codes.
The very notion of ecology can also be regarded as an ideology criticizing
new ecologies for lacking empirical evidence and scientific rigor (Edwards, 2010,
p. 54). The language ecology paradigm, therefore, needs to move away from wish-
ful thinking and replace a predictable ideological stance; that of promoting lin-
guistic diversity and saving endangered languages at all cost, to a perspective,
which takes moral responsibility for supporting sustainable multilingualism, but
through an open-minded view where people come first and languages come sec-
ond. In other words, people practise their agency in their language decisions and
these decisions are driven by their social, cultural and political circumstances of
their present life as well as by the historicities and prior experiences of language
Chapter 1. The ecology of immigrant languages

learning. Such a view is advocated by Makoni & Pennycook (2005) who argue that
while language shift and language endangerment are regarded by linguists as cata-
strophic, this is a language-focused perspective. Instead, the authors suggest that
language shift can be seen as a reflection of a creative adaptation to new contexts
(Makoni & Pennycook, 2005, p. 141). Makoni & Pennycook called for disinven-
tion strategies which treat languages as subordinate to their speakers rather than
as hegemonic over speakers. I share this perspective and hope to demonstrate that
the research approach taken here and the arguments presented keep the speakers
in focus and render languages as resources which can be accessed.

1.2.4 Identity

Identity has been central to Haarmanns typology of language ecology (Garner,

2004, p. 195). Yet traditional acculturation models of immigrants adjustment
has largely ignored identity questions. While the Interactive Acculturation Model
(Bourhis et al. 1997; Bourhis 2001) is better suited a dynamic conception of lan-
guage ecology, it does not capture the variability within communities. This vari-
ability can be explained through theories of ethnic group identification (Edwards,
1984; Fishman, 1985, 1989, 1991; Giles & Johnson, 1987). Immigrants with a
strong ethnic self-concept are more inclined to choose an integration strategy,
while those with a weak ethnic self-concept are more likely to assimilate (Van
Oudenhoven & Eisses, 1998, p. 294). Identity involves multiple layers including:
personal identity or self-concept: what the person thinks that he/she is;
enacted identity, how identity is expressed in language and communication;
relational identity or identities in reference to each other;
communal identity or identities as defined by collectivities (Hecht, et al., 2001,
p. 430).
Social identity theory defines identity as the individuals knowledge that he/she
belongs to certain social groups together with some emotional and value signifi-
cance to him/her of their group membership (Tajfel, 1972, p. 292). This means
that individuals make sense of the social order around them by using social mem-
bership categorizations and by contrasting their self-categorization with the
categorization of others. By doing this they strive for a positive social identity. In
migration contexts, immigrants ability and motivation to achieve a positive social
identity is shaped by the social structures surrounding them as well as the expecta-
tions and value positionings exhibited by members of their newly adopted host
society. Immigrants are usually expected to adopt the cultural and linguistic
practices of their host community and immigrant groups which choose the as-
similationist strategy have often enjoyed better acceptance, while those which as-
pired to integrate (that is to keep their own cultures, traditions and languages)
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

were inclined to be seen with prejudice. For example, Moroccan immigrants in the
Netherlands were found to be singled out and treated less favourably when main-
taining their cultural heritage, while in Israel Moroccans were accepted regardless
of their acculturation strategy (Van Oudenhoven & Eisses, 1998). Therefore,
whether or not immigrants maintain their heritage language and whether they
develop proficiency in the prestige code form part of their language socialization
process and this process is influenced by the attitudes of the dominant group. For
example, monolingual members of host communities often target immigrant
groups for not learning English and for using their heritage language. Such atti-
tudes represent linguicism (Phillipson & Skutnabb-Kangas, 1996) and are often
combined with everyday racism (Wodak & Reisigl, 2003).
It is generally accepted that language is the most ubiquitous human behaviour
and the primary index or symbol of our identity (Crystal, 2000, p. 39). The rela-
tionship between identity and language maintenance or shift, however, is not
straightforward. As Edwards (1984; 1994; 2010) asserts some communities suc-
ceed in maintaining their ethnic identity without keeping their ethnic tongue. A
case in point is the shift to Arabic in Southern Sudan due to the governments as-
similationist policy. While people adopted Arabic as the language of communica-
tion, they did not adopt an Arabic identity (Sharkey, 2008). According to Edwards
(2010), ethnic identity has two main dimensions: objectively it includes linguistic,
racial, religious, geographical, ancestral characteristics. In this sense ethnic iden-
tity is given and non-voluntary. On the other hand, subjectively, ethnic identity
can be seen as a socially constructed belief in common heritage (Edwards, 1994,
p. 127). This echoes the distinction between primordial and situational definitions
of ethnicity. Primordial refers to identity as given and based on cultural character-
istics including language. Situational, on the other hand, following the Barthian8
line of thought, but developing it further, defines ethnicity as relational, proces-
sual and negotiated, giving much more agency to the individual (May, 2001, p. 31).
As May argues, language can be a salient marker of ethnic identity in one in-
stance, but not in another (May, 2001, p. 129).
In addition to mother tongue maintenance, the study of second language de-
velopment is of equal importance and part of the linguistic ecology. The acquisi-
tion of the language of the host community is the key to successful integration into
the social fabric of the broader society. Therefore, an ecological perspective needs
to consider the processes, motivations and challenges of second (third or fourth

8. Barth (1969) was the first who contested the idea that identity can be defined based on
cultural stuff . His notion of ethnicity was based on the idea of boundaries defined from the
inside on the one hand and from the outside (by outsiders) on the other hand. Barth was criti-
cized as he did not addres the dynamic interactional aspect of negotiating ethnicity.
Chapter 1. The ecology of immigrant languages

etc.) language acquisition in immigrant communities. While L1 and L-n profi-

ciency development are often viewed as an either-or-process, the body of research
in psycholinguistics in the past 50 years has clearly proven that the development of
one language does not need to be to the detriment of the other. But this requires
the right level of valorisation of each language across social domains. Again, as I
have previously argued, language development does not happen in a social vacu-
um, but forms part and parcel of a broader acculturation process.
Other influences on language transmission, as part of the acculturation pro-
cess, include those from the environment outside the family, namely work, educa-
tion, the world of administration (e.g. government offices) and the media. While
these are not considered as important as those from within the home (Marti,
2005), they have an important influence on the ecology as low workforce partici-
pation among respected adults who speak the ethnic languages may contribute to
assimilationist strategies among the youth. Similarly, the dominant discourses
represented in the media may harm language maintenance initiatives for similar


This chapter has argued for a dynamic ecological approach to the study of lan-
guage maintenance and shift in immigrant contexts. The various theories present-
ed provide a useful starting point of reference, but sociolinguistic research must
never lose sight of the complexity of language ecology in migration contexts. A
host of factors influence the language behaviour of ethnolinguistic communities.
These communities must not be perceived as static and homogenous entities, but
rather as active, agentive and ever-changing communities of practice crossing tra-
ditional spatio-temporal frames and boundaries. The various objective factors of
ethnolinguistic vitality need to be researched in combination with subjective vital-
ity measures. The ecological approach offered in this volume combines objective
measures (mainly based on survey) with subjective measures (mainly based on
By studying the discourses of individual community members, families and
those of community leaders, one can identify contrasting and shifting views, atti-
tudes and use this information to construct more dynamic theories of LMS. While,
as Garner (2004) has asserted, it is perfectly possible to discuss the complex causal
factors which affect the maintenance of immigrant languages, the ecological
framework offers new directions in research.
chapter 2

The ethnolinguistic study


In this chapter I introduce the ethnolinguistic study and its various stages and ele-
ments. In Section 2.1 I will describe the location of the research, Toowoomba, a
regional South East Queensland settlement and provide demographic data on the
ethnic and linguistic diversity of the broader Australian population in this region-
al community. In Sections 2.22.3 and 2.4 outline the research approach, aims and
introduce the data collection instruments (sociolinguistic survey and semi-struc-
tured interview schedule) and methods. I profile the research participants based
on a sociolinguistic survey. Finally, in Section 2.5 I offer methodological insights
into conducting empirical sociolinguistic research in refugee communities.

2.1 Locality

As stated in the introduction locality in this study can be interpreted on multiple

scales and refers to many spaces including the locality of the country of origin, the
localities of transition and the locality of settlement in a host community. My focus
here, however, is on the last stage of their refugee journey, the Australian community,
whether temporary or not, which will be discussed later. This is where the data were
collected, and the space which represents the present reality for Sudanese refugees.
The research was carried out in a regional settlement in South East Queen-
sland, Toowoomba.1 The regional, rather than urban context is significant from
two perspectives. Firstly, in the policy context, the Australian government has fo-
cused on refugee settlement in regional and rural areas as these localities were
thought to offer the highest degree of community support (DIMIA, 2003 p. 27).
It was recommended that humanitarian entrants settle in regional areas to en-
hance their prospects of early employment and help meet regional economies de-
mand for semi-skilled workers (DIMIA, 2003 p. 27). The regional context is also
important from a sociolinguistic point of view as geographical location has
been shown to be a factor in language shift and maintenance trends. Several studies
(e.g. Clyne, 1994; Chiswick & Miller 1999) have shown that geographical isolation

1. Regional refers to outside major urban settlements.

Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

has a positive impact on language maintenance, while high rates of social mobility
enhance language shift. Regional and rural communities in Australia are relatively
isolated from mainstream urban communities, for example while Toowoomba is
located approximately 200 km from the nearest major urban settlement, socio-
economically disadvantaged communities, such as the Sudanese, have limited ac-
cess to transport and mobility. This potentially has a positive effect on building
stronger social networks in the local community and these social networks can be
expected to have higher rates of density as well as multiplexity (Milroy, 1987).
According to the 2006 Census (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2007a), there
were 19,049 Australian residents born in Sudan and a majority of them settled in
Victoria and New South Wales (see Table 1). Although most Sudan-born residents
live in major urban settlements, they are also strongly represented in regional
and rural areas including Hunter, Maitland, Coffs Harbour, Lismore, Wollongong,
Wagga Wagga and Goulburn in New South Wales; Shepparton in Victoria;
Mandurah in Western Australia; Launceston in Tasmania; and Logan, Beenleigh,
Woodridge, the Darling Downs, Townsville, Cairns, and the Gold Coast in
Queensland (Department of Immigration and Citizenship, 2007).
The Darling Downs is the broader geographical region in which the data were
collected, with Toowoomba as its central regional township. Toowoomba is a me-
dium-sized regional city located two hours west of Brisbane with a population of
approximately 100,000 people (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2007). The majority
of the residents are Australian citizens, with only 9,785 or (9.8% of total popula-
tion) born overseas. Therefore, this city is less ethnically diverse than the overall
Australian population. Most of the overseas-born residents originate from
England and New Zealand (see Table 2). The two largest multilingual communities
in Toowoomba are the South African and the Sudanese. Both ethnic groups arrived
Table 1. Australian residents born in Sudan

State Number Percentage

Victoria 6,205 32.6

New South Wales 5,975 31.4
Queensland 2,399 12.6
Western Australia 2,020 10.6
South Australia 1,478 7.7
Tasmania 534 2.8
Australian Capital Territory 233 1.2
Northern Territory 205 1.1
Total 19,049 100%
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics Census 2006.
Chapter 2. The ethnolinguistic study

relatively recently with significant migration flows in the past 10 years (Australian
Bureau of Statistics, 2007b). Other ethnic communities in Toowoomba include the
Chinese, Dutch, and Germans.
In Toowoomba over 91% of the population are monolingual speakers of
English. The relatively high number of Mandarin (457) and Cantonese (234)
speakers is due to the small local Chinese community supported by the teaching
of Mandarin as a school language in one of the largest local state schools. There is
also a private Buddhist college operating here which attracts migrants from China
and other South East Asian countries. See Table 3 for the top 10 languages spoken
in Toowoomba homes.

Table 2. Top 10 countries of birth in Toowoomba (Census 2006)

Country of Birth Number of Toowoomba residents

1 Australia 84,212
2 England 2,084
3 New Zealand 1,278
4 Sudan 430
5 South Africa 421
6 Scotland 375
7 Zimbabwe 304
8 Netherlands 288
9 China 288
10 Germany 278
*total: 99,482 and 5485 people had COB not stated.

Table 3. Top 10 languages spoken in Toowoomba homes in 2006

Languages spoken at home Males Females Persons

English 43,210 47,651 90,861

Mandarin 246 211 457
Dinka 192 131 323
Arabic 168 98 266
Cantonese 117 117 234
German 93 110 203
Afrikaans 75 78 153
Italian 77 64 141
Hindi 76 47 123
Dutch 48 59 107
Total population 47,614 51,869 99,483
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Census 2006.
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

2.2 Research approach, aims and methods

2.2.1 Approach

The approach taken in this study was interdisciplinary with a strong emphasis on
the social and psychological aspects of language use in a diasporic context as well
as the broader policy implications for successful re-settlement in a new country.
Language is a vital element of successful settlement, and so is an important area of
academic study that can help government formulate policy direction. It is impera-
tive that government efforts are successful in this area as failure can bring about
negative consequences not only for the refugee community in question, but also
for the broader Australian community. This comes principally in the form of refu-
gee disenfranchisement with the host community. If new arrivals experience long-
term unemployment, have poor English language skills, and are forced to rely on
income support this can lead to issues of poor self-esteem, isolation, welfare
dependency and a feeling of exclusion from productive Australian society
(Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, 2003). On
the other hand, loss of the mother tongue in such communities can contribute to
a loss of ethnic identity and the breaking up of social network systems within the
community. The loss of the mother tongue can also deepen the generational gap
between the elders and the youth within the ethnic community. Therefore, the
research explored the roles various languages play in the wellbeing and social ad-
justment of the community with a special focus on attitudes and motivations
which can predict language maintenance and shift patterns.
The approach was to combine qualitative and quantitative methods to explore
the sociolinguistic ecology. The qualitative method was based on the epistemo-
logical stance of grounded theory which is the most common qualitative research
method in the social sciences (Bryant & Charmaz, 2010, p. 47). The fundamental
tenet of this method is to start the analysis from the empirical data without any
pre-set conceptions of what the researcher might expect to find. This allows re-
searchers to keep an open mind and allow the data to inform and shape emerging
new theories and concepts.
The approach of this study also draws on theories and approaches used in lin-
guistic anthropology. Traditionally, sociolinguists take a broad view focussing on
communities, and employing quantificational and ethnographic methods (Clyne,
2001, p. 142). Linguistic anthropology sees language as a cultural resource and
speaking as a cultural practice and it draws its intellectual inspiration from inter-
actionally oriented perspectives on human activity and understanding (Duranti,
1997, p. 3). The study, therefore, adopted the view that communicative practices
are constitutive of the culture of everyday life and that language is a powerful tool
Chapter 2. The ethnolinguistic study

rather than a simple mirror of pre-established social realities (Duranti, 1997, p. 3).
In line with this approach, language domains (Fishman, 1991) were explored not
only through the traditional survey forms, but also through discourse analysis.
Milroy has argued that the study of language live is a challenging exercise for
linguists and sociolinguistics (Milroy, 1987, p. 2). While real speech events would
be preferable to analyse in depth, sociolinguists have applied a range of different
methods for gauging the language use patterns in speech communities. Fieldwork
methods have become diverse and the methodological decisions guiding the
fieldwork are therefore even more important as they determine what kinds of lan-
guage data are collected and what procedures will be suitable for the data analysis
(Milroy, 1987, p. 2). By collecting qualitative and quantitative data, this research
did not aim to triangulate findings, but purposefully collected datasets to repre-
sent diverse, often contrasting, viewpoints, and achieve a perspectival approach
(Gal, 2006). The various data sets, therefore, are meant to complement each other
and ensure a deeper and richer data analysis (see e.g. Holmes, 1997).

2.3 Participants

2.3.1 Selecting participants

The approach to selecting participants was driven by four main considerations:

(1) informant accuracy, (2) data validity (3) a good spread across the community
to ensure varied responses and (4) ethical questions. Since the project did not aim
to draw accurate population parameters, but to collect cultural data, non-
probability purposeful sampling was used (Bernard, 2002). A balance of 50/50 was
sought according to gender and a good spread was ensured according to age. The
minimum age was fourteen for the survey and the interviews. Volunteer partici-
pants were drawn from among Sudanese who settled in Toowoomba and have
lived there for at least two years. The two-year minimum period of settlement is
usually regarded necessary to allow participants to develop settlement experienc-
es, new linguistic practices and social networks (Colic-Peisker & Tilbury, 2003).
Volunteers were sought through the schools, various community events, refugee-
and community-based organizations and church functions. A snowball technique
was used to identify further potential individuals.

2.3.2 The sample

Seventy-five Sudanese families participated in the survey with 291 individuals

(N = 135, 46.4% males and N = 156, 53.6% females). All families were residents in
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

Toowoomba or Gatton, a smaller regional settlement about half an hours distance

by car. See Table 4 for a breakdown of all respondents according to their first lan-
guage. Table 4 also includes the number of speakers for these languages in Sudan
and their classification based on Ethnologue data.
According to age groups, the sample showed a high proportion of young
children, see Table 5.
Altogether there were 124 parents and 167 children in the sample. Fifty-one
(41%) of the parents were fathers and 73 (58.8%) were mothers. According to age
categories, there were 38 (13.1%) children in the Age group 15+, 32 (11%) in Age
group 1214, 52 (17.9%) in Age group 611 and 45 (15.5%) in Age group 25.*2
Families with four members were most common with 17 (22.7%) families, closely
followed by 15 (20%) families with five members. One third (33.3%) of the fami-
lies had six or more members including four families with nine and two families
with ten people living in the same household. Families showed a wide range ac-
cording to the number of children they had, see Table 6.
It is important to note that in some families the terms father or mother
referred to a guardian. In Sudanese culture if a man dies, his brother takes on the
duties of looking after the family left behind. Sudanese do not necessarily distin-
guish between the biological father or mother and a stepmother or stepfather. In a

Table 4. Respondents by first language

Frequency % Number of speakers in Sudan Language classification

Dinka 173 59.5 1,350,000 Nilo-Saharan

Acholi 29 10.0 45,000 Nilo-Saharan
Nuer 5 1.7 740,000 Nilo-Saharan
Kuku 8 2.7 26,400 Nilo-Saharan
Madi 6 2.1 18,000 Nilo-Saharan
Bari* 2 .7 420,000 Nilo-Saharan
Arabic 27 9.3 15,000,000 Semitic
Belanda 4 1.4 16,000 Niger-Congo
Lango 1 .3 38,000 Nilo-Saharan
Moru 2 .7 70,000 Nilo-Saharan
Nubian 5 1.7 295,000 Nilo-Saharan
Juba Arabic 3 1.0 >10,000 Arabic-based Creole
Fur 17 5.8 500,000 Nilo-Saharan
Azande 9 3.1 350,000 Niger-Congo
Total 291 100.
*based on Ethnologue, (Lewis, 2009), Bari includes Kuku and Madi as dialects of Bari.

2. children under the age of 2 were not included, as they were largely in the pre-verbal stage
of language development
Chapter 2. The ethnolinguistic study

Table 5. Sample by age ranges

Age Ranges* Frequency Percent

04 23 7.9
59 50 17.2
1014 56 19.2
1519 35 12.0
2024 10 3.4
2529 22 7.6
3034 32 11.0
3539 35 12.0
4044 17 5.8
4549 4 1.4
5054 4 1.4
5559 1 .3
6064 1 .3
Total 290 99.7
Missing System 1 .3
Total 291 100.0

Table 6. Families by number of children

Number of children Frequency Valid Percent

1 14 18.7
2 16 21.3
3 17 22.7
4 9 12.0
5 7 9.3
6 6 8.0
7 3 4.0
8 3 4.0
Total 75 100.0

few interviews families referred to themselves as father or mother even if they

were not the biological parents. It was only during the interview that some of these
parents turned out to be adoptive parents. These anomalies added another chal-
lenge to the data collection.
The majority of participants (N = 200, 68.7%) were born in Sudan with most
of the 75 interview respondents (N = 33, 44%) born in the Upper Nile region, and
others born in Equitoria (N = 19, 25.3%), Bahr El Ghazal (11, 14.7%), Khartoum
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

(6, 8%), Darfur (5, 6.7%) and Southern Kordofan (1, 1.3%). Several respondents
were born in Kenya (N = 44, 15.1%) and other countries including Uganda,
Australia and Egypt. The majority of children above the age of 6 were born in
Sudan. The ratio of children born in Sudan in the 15+ age group was 84.2%
(N = 32), in the 1214 age group it was 56.3% (N = 18) and in the age group 611
it was 43.4% (N = 23). Kenya and Australia were more frequent birth countries for
younger children with 18 (34%) aged 611 and 13 (29.5%) aged 25 born in Kenya
and 17 (38.6%) aged 25 born in Australia.
Ethnicity was extremely mixed with the major groups being Dinka (N = 178,
61.2%), Acholi with (N = 27, 9.3%) and Fur (N = 17, 5.8%). Other ethnic groups
included Nuer, Kuku, Madi, Bari3, Belanda, Lango, Moru, Nuba, Azande, Jur and
Aranga. The Dinka families represented two major dialect groups: Dinka Bor
(29 families, 38.7%) and Dinka Rek (5 families, 6.7%). The majority of the respon-
dents, 67 (89.3%) were Christians with 26 (34.7%) attending the Catholic Church
and 34 (45.3%) the Anglican Church. Some respondents left Sudan in the 1980s
(N = 15, 20%), a large proportion left in the 1990s (N = 32, 43.2%) and after 2000
(N = 27, 36%). See Table 7.

2.4 Methods of data collection and analysis

2.4.1 Phase I: Sociolinguistic survey

In order to establish a full sociolinguistic profile of the selected Sudanese commu-

nity a sociolinguistic survey was conducted. This survey collected data of sociolin-
guistic interest in four main sections which roughly followed a chronological
order in the refugee journey.

Table 7. Respondents by period of leaving Sudan

Period of leaving Sudan Frequency Percent

19801989 15 20
19901999 32 42.7
2000+ 27 36
Missing 1 1.3
Total 75 100.0

3. Kuku and Madi are dialects of Bari.

Chapter 2. The ethnolinguistic study

Section 1: About respondents background

place and region of birth
community language and dialect
prior education in Africa and in Australia
language use when growing up in home country
age of learning languages
Section 2: About time in transition
year of leaving Sudan
transition locations and years
English learning during transition
community languages used in transition
Section 3: About arrival and present life in Australia
year of arrival in Australia
arrival with family/not
visa category
participation in Adult Migrant English Program
other ways of learning English
satisfaction with English abilities
currently in employment/education
number of relatives in local community and in other parts of Australia
number of people in household
language abilities (self reported)
perceived change in language abilities in transition
perceived change in language abilities since arrival in Australia (including
English and mother tongue)
satisfaction with childrens community language abilities
language use in the family by domains
language rules in the family
communication channels in keeping in touch with friends and relatives in
Australia and in Africa
literacy practices in community languages
ethnic identity statements
Section 4: About the future
future goals
importance of community language in the future
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

importance of literacy skills in community languages in the future

perceived ethnolinguistic vitality in Australia and in Sudan
who should be responsible for language planning?
The survey adopted elements of the social adjustment measurement scale ap-
plied by Tong (Tong, 1997; Tong, Hong, Lee, & Chiu, 1999) and the language
maintenance measurement instrument developed by Tannenbaum (2003). Lan-
guage proficiency was measured by the self-assessment version of the Interna-
tional Second Language Proficiency Ratings (ISLPR) (Ingram & Wylie, 1993)
which is the national standardised test used for evaluating migrants level of
English in Australia. Although the survey was written in English, the data were
collected during a face-to-face interview with the help of a bilingual facilitator
and translator.
Attitudinal dimensions were measured on 5-point Likert-type scales and
through open-ended questions. The pilot test was used for developing and validat-
ing scales by scoring the items; taking the interim correlation; Cronbachs alpha,
and taking the item-total correlation (Bernard, 2002, p. 311). The survey data were
processed using the SPSS statistical package. Descriptive and inferential statistical
analyses were conducted to explore the main trends in the dataset.
All survey-interviews were recorded with a digital recording device and all
were transcribed verbatim. The original non-English scripts were only prepared
for a small number of selected files due to the cost factors and logistical issues
involved in producing the original scripts in various African languages. Code
switching was indicated in brackets with a time tag and a reference to the language
spoken. However, even this was a complex task and required multiple reviews by
multilingual African speakers. Therefore, only the English translated data were
used in the analysis.
In the survey design it was important to collect information about the house-
hold, the family and the main respondent as an individual. This challenge was
significant as most Sudanese families were large and it was common to have many
relatives living in the same household. This meant that it was impractical to inter-
view each family member. Instead, we asked parents to nominate four children
according to four pre-defined age groups. The advantage of this strategy was that
parents were able to relate the questions to individual children (rather than just
refer to a certain age group), and they were more likely to provide accurate re-
sponses. The disadvantage was that we did not collect information about all the
children in the families.
The second challenge was to include questions about all languages (such as
local African languages, Arabic, English, etc.) in the survey, but keep the survey
confined. This required some compromises in terms of the depth of the data
Chapter 2. The ethnolinguistic study

collected. For example, the languages surveyed were grouped into four categories:
(1) Community Language (which covered all African vernaculars); (2) Arabic; (3)
Kiswahili and (4) English. This has caused an inevitable bias as, for example, Arabic
is not a homogenously uniform language spoken in Sudan, but exists in various
varieties ranging from Classical Arabic to Arabic creoles. Miller (2006) noted that
sociolinguistic surveys conducted in Sudan often used similar emblematic cate-
gorizations such as using the generic term Arabic and this implicitly postulated
the unity and uniqueness of Arabic vis--vis other languages which, ultimately
caused a methodological bias (Miller, 2006, p. 7). This generic treatment of Arabic
was counterbalanced by the interviews, as people were encouraged to describe the
variety they spoke in more detail. Still, language variation posed further challeng-
es in the post-interview translation of interviews. For example, it was difficult to
identify the exact dialect spoken (such as Juba Arabic versus Khartoum Arabic),
and, therefore, it was difficult to allocate translators accordingly. Code-switching
and code-mixing was also frequent in the interviews and it was difficult to predict
which languages will be mixed in the texts. Consequently, the translations of non-
English interviews were typically completed by involving several translators across
various States in Australia.

2.4.2 Phase II: In-depth interviews

Fourteen families participated in the follow-up phase where families with teen-
aged children were targeted. The interviews were focused on language use,
motivation of language maintenance, attitudes and cultural gaps both within the
Sudanese community across the younger and older generation as well as across the
Sudanese culture and Australian culture. Interviews were conducted in the par-
ticipants preferred language which, interestingly, was English in all cases. A bilin-
gual research translator, who also had the role of cultural facilitator, was present,
but generally participants were able to express themselves in English. Originally, in
order to minimise any bias (such as individuals being influenced by what others
say), we planned to interview each family member separately. However, due to the
Sudanese families cultural expectations and their collective approach to the proj-
ect, the whole family was engaged at the same time. This approach had the advan-
tage of generating rich dialogic data that allowed for the discursive exploration of
multiple viewpoints and contrasting voices.
The Interview Schedule followed a life story method (Creswell, 1998) as re-
spondents were encouraged to talk about their lived experiences relevant to their
journey of migration and their everyday life in Australia. Life story, therefore, is
defined here in its broader meaning referring to a narrative about a specific
significant aspect of a persons life (Chase, 2005, p. 652). The interviews were
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

designed to be conversational and dialogic as it was not the aim to elicit funda-
mental truths or to come up with generalizations about the migration experi-
ences (etic perspective). Instead, following a poststructuralist interpretative
epistemology, the aim was to capture multiple viewpoints, secure rich data about
the everyday constraints of their multilingualism and settlement. While in the
broad sense, all research is interpretative, as it is guided by the researchers be-
liefs, perceptions and feelings and these influence the researchers judgement in
how the data should be understood and studied (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005, p. 22),
interpretation in this study was not restricted to that made by the researcher.
Instead, it included the use of reflective, evaluative and dialogic data as evidence
of interpretation by participants themselves. In other words, the goal was to ex-
plore how participants made sense of their life experiences and how these expe-
riences contributed to their identity development in their newly adopted coun-
try (emic perspective). In Chapters 49 I will provide examples of how these
dialogic interviews were interpreted.
A free account of stories was elicited around some pre-set themes of the refu-
gee and migration journey. These themes included: migration history, experiences
of resettlement in regional Australia; language use and proficiency; acculturation
strategy; attitudes to Dinka, Arabic and English, motivation to use and maintain
Dinka, social identity, factors influencing language choice, knowledge of home
culture and language, history, participation in community activities. Interviews
were audio-recorded and transcribed.
With every interview design it is necessary to trial the interview questions.
Due to the semi-structured design of the interview, only the lead-in questions
were trialled and the focus was on their effectiveness in eliciting free-flowing talk
and participation from all family members. Due to the exploratory and dialogic
nature of the approach, it would have been erroneous to pin-point the exact inter-
view questions in advance. The free flow was necessary for eliciting emic percep-
tions of linguistic and social behaviour as part of the broader ethnolinguistic pic-
ture. This approach follows Boxer (2002) and Bernard (2002).
Interview questions included themes from Drnyeis (2006) motivation mod-
el, but in essence, the aim was to examine the various motivational dimensions as
they emerged from the respondents accounts. This way the usual observers para-
dox was avoided and a skilful question probing ensured that the interviewers did
not control all content. To capture a deeper level of attitudes, projective elicitation
techniques (Oppenheim, 1992) were used. These techniques are mainly used in
psychology, but they are particularly useful in evoking and outlining self-images
and norm-perceptions such as in accounts of how participants imagine themselves
through the prism of the Ideal Language Self . They helped penetrate some barri-
ers in attitude research, such as the barrier of awareness, barrier of irrationality,
Chapter 2. The ethnolinguistic study

barrier of inadmissibility and the barrier of self-incrimination (Oppenheim, 1992).

It was anticipated that this technique would also yield interesting data vis--vis the
tensions between self- and externally-imposed (e.g. by family members or peers)
attitudes and community expectations.
The challenges of maintaining the heritage language while disciplining chil-
dren (See Chapter 8) can be explained through positioning theory. Harr and
Langenhove (1991) distinguish between first and second order positioning in con-
versation. The first order positioning is e.g. asking someone to perform a certain
action. An example in our context could be when a mother is asking a child to
remove their shoes when entering the house. In this case the expected response is
the action of removing shoes. In another context, the expected response could be
a verbal response, e.g. if the mother asks the child Have you done your home-
work?. In this case, the expected response would be either yes, or no, and if not,
an explanation is to follow. In both cases, however, the mother is positioning her-
self as someone with authority, while the child can position him or herself either
as an obedient child and perform the expected verbal or behavioural response, or
opt to refuse to be positioned as a subordinate or powerless person and, therefore,
refuse to perform the expected or preferred action. His or her choices include the
perform or not perform the action
respond verbally or not
respond in the language in which he or she is addressed OR
respond in a language other than the one in which he or she is addressed
The scenario when the child is not performing the expected response either
through action or verbal response is termed second order positioning. This sec-
ond order positioning is a deviation from the expected behaviour and shifts the
primary topic of conversation (that is removing shoes) to a secondary metaprag-
matic level, where the topic is power and authority and the choice of language
forms an important part of this positioning. The second order positioning is in
which the first order positioning is questioned (Harr & Langenhove, 1991,
p. 396).
Language choice, therefore, is a powerful tool in second order positioning
for three main reasons. Firstly, by choosing to respond in a language other than
in which addressed, the respondent can reinstate his or her own authority. In
families where the children are more proficient in English than their parents, a
childs choice of responding in English has the dual affect of (a) a rejection of
parental authority and (b) establishing ones own autonomy and authority.
Secondly, even if parents are highly proficient in English, opting for a language
other than the one used by the parents can be a rejection of the unwritten norms
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

of communication in the home, therefore, a rejection of authority. Harr and

Langenhove (1991) also distinguish between performative and accountive posi-
tioning. The authors argue that first order positioning is performative, because it
requires an immediate perlocutionary response. On the other hand, in talk-
about-talk, participants are not necessarily the same people as the ones in the
original talk. This is typically the case in sociolinguistic interviews about lan-
guage use. In our research interviews, for example, participants included the
researcher(s) and the respondent(s). The responses, therefore, are secondary ac-
counts of the real everyday talk in the family. Original talk is extremely difficult
to collect and analyse due to several logistical, ethical and technical reasons.
Therefore, sociolinguists need to resort to using secondary reported data, but
these secondary accounts are somewhat compromised as they do not necessarily
reflect real language use. People are often unaware of their language use patterns,
or perhaps for various other reasons, such as social desirability bias (Garrett,
2010; Garrett, Bishop, & Coupland, 2009), they want to depict their language use
in a way that is seen to be the ideal situation or say what (they think) the re-
searcher wants to hear. In any case, this secondary data provides a rich resource
for exploring perceptions of language use. Talk-about-talk involves a reflective
element and this leads to explorations of language attitudes through third order
positioning. Third order positioning takes place when accountive positioning
happens outside the original discussion (Harr & Langenhove, 1991, p. 397). In
other words, it occurs when participants talk about talk which took place in the
past or takes place habitually.

2.4.3 Phase III: Ethnolinguistic observations

While this study does not claim to be an ethnography as defined by linguistic an-
thropology, it is important to note some of the ethnographic considerations in-
forming the research. According to Duranti (1997), ethnography is defined as:
the written description of the social organization, social activities, symbolic and
material resources, and interpretive practices characteristic of a particular group
of people. (Duranti, 1997, p. 85)4

4. Duranti also argues that ethnography typically requires extended and direct participation
in the social life of the chosen community. He also states that ethnographers need to grapple
with two contradictory expectations: On the one hand, they need to be able to step back and
distance themselves from their cultural biases and strive for objectivity. On the other hand,
they need to develop empathy in order to provide an insiders perspective, which is often re-
ferred to as the emic view.
Chapter 2. The ethnolinguistic study

The two balancing acts of building rapport with the community and become a
trusted emphatic insider on the one hand and being an objective outsider on
the other hand were crucial to the approach taken during fieldwork. However,
objectivity was not meant to be conforming to the positivist epistemology of
providing ultimate truth and grand narratives about the community in ques-
tion. Instead, it was more important to maintain an interpretative stance which
fits well with the constructivist research paradigm working with discourse. As
previously stated, conducting direct live observations of language use is a rath-
er time-consuming and costly research exercise, therefore, the method of ran-
dom spot checks was applied at selected community events, such as church and
school gatherings. These events were chosen in consultation with the partici-
pants. These random checks were purposefully conducted to cover a broad range
of language domains and different age groups.
As part of the fieldwork the research team looked into various community
initiatives to maintain the communitys language and identity in Australia. This
involved observing and recording various language planning activities in the com-
munity. The questions of Who does what to whom to plan what language out-
comes? and What motives drive micro-level planning activities? were explored.
Volunteer Dinka language classes were observed in Toowoomba. I also conducted
focus group discussions with key members of the community to further explore
the various motives and obstacles which impact the success of the volunteer lan-
guage maintenance classes. All focus group data were digitally recorded, tran-
scribed and analysed similarly to the interview data using the NVivo 9 software
Research questions guiding the ethnographic observations:
What social networks and community activities do Sudanese Australians
participate in?
What types and levels of bilingualism characterise the community and how
are language skills put to use?
What attitudes do members of the Sudanese diaspora have towards their lan-
guages, English and mother tongue maintenance and transmission?
Do languages represent a barrier or a bridge in their adjustment process?
What are some of the cultural conflicts between the diaspora and the host
community as well as within the diaspora itself?
What initiatives do members of the diaspora take to maintain and develop
their African languages?
As part of the broader ethnolinguistic fieldwork the research team made visits to
various community organisations, community events, church services and refu-
gee support groups to observe processes and ask peoples views on issues of
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

settlement and how languages played a role in this process. These field visits al-
lowed us to engage with people in their everyday environments and observe their
language use practices. We conducted direct observation of various language
learning support systems such as English language support provided through
various refugee support groups (e.g. TRAMS, the Toowoomba Refugee and
Migrant Support) and some language planning initiatives conducted by mem-
bers of the Sudanese community, such as after-school or Saturday Dinka literacy
classes for children.

2.4.4 Phase IV: Data analysis

Data were processed keeping two aims in mind: (1) to retain the vividness of the
varied responses and the culturally rich data on the one hand; and (2) to reduce
and quantify the data to allow broad descriptive quantitative comparisons across
sub-groups: e.g. women compared with men. The textual data was initially coded
by using a thematic coding technique which allowed the identification of inter-
esting narratives and stories. Open coding is a useful technique in grounded
theory where researchers work from the empirical data towards building theories
and hierarchies of relevant concepts. For example, this method was used to ex-
plore the motivational and attitudinal dimensions of using African language,
Arabic, English and Kiswahili in Australia. Data were broken into separate
segments to establish broader ideational categories or thematic units. The com-
mercially available software package NVivo 9 was used to facilitate this coding
process. Building diagrams in Nvivo (models) was essential for creating a visual
representation of the hierarchy of codes. Such visual presentation shows what
researchers do and what they do not know and allows them to gain analytical
distance which enables them to conceptualise the data in more abstract terms
(Lempert, 2010, p. 258).
The interview data were further analysed using techniques adopted from in-
teractional sociolinguistics (Schiffrin, 1994) and, where relevant, narrative analy-
sis (Barkhuizen & de Klerk, 2006; Baynham, 2006; Bruner 1991; Cortazzi & Jin,
2000; De Fina, 2003; De Fina & Georgakopoulou, 2008; Georgakoupolou, 2002;
Labov, 2010; Ochs & Capps, 2001; Schiffrin, 2006).
For this purpose selected segments of interactional interest were finely tran-
scribed using a set of transcription conventions. See Table 8 for a list of these
The method of narrative analysis is described in detail in Chapter 4 which
presents the stories of the Lost Boys.
Chapter 2. The ethnolinguistic study

Table 8. Discourse transcription conventions

falling intonation
rising intonation
(...) a longer pause approx 0.5 seconds or longer
(.) a micro-pause approx. less than 0.1 seconds
: extension or prolongation of a sound
:: longer extension or prolongation of a sound
// overlapping utterances
= continuous utterances (latching)
Underlined text emphasis
CAPITALS stressed pitch or volume
... quoting others words
(()) editorial comments
Akol: speaker turn attribution
Wor- truncated/cut-off word
XXX unintelligible
((x2,3,4)) multiple repetitions of one lexical item
((word?)) best guess of unintelligible word

2.5 Methodological observations concerning ethics

Ethical conduct is a prerequisite for all research, but even more important and
pivotal in the design of socially sensitive research such as working with refugee
communities. As sadly research ethics is often more about institutional and pro-
fessional regulations and codes of conduct than it is about the needs, aspirations,
or worldviews of marginalised and vulnerable communities (Smith, 2005, p. 96),
it is the latter that I want to stress here. The first concern is locating suitable par-
ticipants for the study. This cannot be done without building a good rapport with
the community as a whole, then with individuals. Prior to the commencement of
the project I sought contact with the official community leadership and various
associations. It became clear to me that without the official support of the elders
and various community leaders the project would not succeed. An additional
challenge was to explain to the community that the project was different from
other projects they would have participated in, as it was a research project. As
Sudanese refugees were surveyed several times since their settlement in Australia
and there was a constant taking stock of refugee and humanitarian entrants for
various government funded policy-making and refugee support services, it was
difficult to gain agreement from individuals to devote their time and do another
survey or interview. The moral dilemma for me was that the project aimed to assist
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

their positive integration into the broader Australian community, and yet, inevita-
bly had the impact of reinforcing their ongoing refugee identity as participants
from refugee-background were sought.
Another issue was to work with families where adult participants had very low
or no literacy skills. Under these conditions, it was difficult to ensure that partici-
pants had a clear understanding of the research and provided their written con-
sent. As Smith argues:
it is difficult to determine what it really means to be informed for people who may
not be literate or well-educated, who may not speak the language of the research-
er, and who may not be able to differentiate between the invitation to participate
in research from the enforced compliance in signing official forms for welfare and
social service agencies (Smith, 2005, p. 99)

Participants who had suffered trauma due to the Civil War and during their refu-
gee journey required further special consideration. Some questions brought up
some painful memories so special care was taken to avoid or minimise these.
One of the key challenges to the data collection was building trust with the
community. This can only happen through an extended process of participation in
the community events as presence builds trust, trust lowers reactivity and lower
reactivity means higher validity of the data (Bernard, 2002, p. 334). Reactivity in
this sense is defined as people changing their behaviour because they know that
they are being studied (Bernard, 2002, p. 334). Being a participant observer in some
of the community events allowed me to develop an intuitive understanding of
what was going on in the community and strengthened the external as well as the
internal validity of the data (Bernard, 2002, p. 334). Being an outsider to the com-
munity had some advantages as well as some disadvantages. One advantage was to
have an open attitude to what they had to say. Another advantage was that the par-
ticipants were more likely to regard me as a neutral person (e.g. some were con-
cerned about the Australian governments involvement in the data etc.). The main
disadvantage was not to speak their language and not to understand their cultural
practices. There were other issues, such as getting people involved in the research,
as families were typically busy with seasonal work or with their children. There was
also a sense of burn-out feeling in the community in terms of their loss of faith in
community-led projects. During a community discussion with the local refugee
advocacy groups, one of the Sudanese community leaders expressed this view:
There is a competition with ethnic groups, ideas which come from someone
neutral, they are likely to accept it.
Some people are not interested in working with the Constitution (...) some people
come up with their own ways of doing things.
A lot of Sudanese are working and they couldnt sacrifice their work for whatever
Chapter 2. The ethnolinguistic study

(..) Getting people to meetings has become a major problem.

In the beginning when there was a smaller community, they were more active,
more positive towards settlement issues, but when the community grew bigger
they turned around and its hard to get them engaged (Sudanese Community
leader at a community meeting with refugee advocacy groups, 15 January 2009)

As I was an outsider and a non-participant in most of the community activities,

especially the politically focused ones, I was able to maintain a value-free position
to some extent. Value neutrality, however, should not be confused with objectivity
(Bernard, 2002, p. 348). The researchers aim is to develop a view which is unbi-
ased and objective, but this view will still represent a certain value attachment.
For a sociolinguistic researcher, this attachment may include the perceived value
of mother tongue maintenance and the maintenance of non-conflicting cultural
traditions in the new host country. Also, as the interpretation of qualitative data is
inevitably subjective, the researcher employs his or her personal viewpoints in the
analysis. Strictly speaking, nothing is purely objective in research and objectivity,
therefore, should not be our aim. As Duranti states:
the term objectivity arises from its identification with a form of positivistic writ-
ing that was meant to exclude the observers subjective stance, including emo-
tions, as well as political, moral, and theoretical attitudes. Such an exclusion, in
its more extreme or purest form, is not only impossible to achieve, it is also a
questionable goal (Duranti, 1997, p. 85)

It is important, therefore, for researchers to become aware of their cultural biases

and their values and views which they bring with them to the interpretation of the
data. In addition, various cross-validation techniques can be used such as asking
participants to reflect on the findings, comparing the results of various data sets
(triangulation). In the end, however, the researchers task is to give voice to the
participants in an honest and genuine way.
As stated previously, cultural facilitation by a bilingual interpreter was essen-
tial for the interviews and the surveys. Participants were reassured that the project
was not a government survey checking on their social circumstances, their em-
ployment or access and use of social benefits. Some participants even feared that
their children could be taken away from them as a result of participating in the
project. This was due to the fact that the Department of Child Safety took some
Sudanese children into custody, as their parents were not seen capable of looking
after them. In his field notes one research assistant mentioned:
Sudanese people seemed to be fearful about being interviewed, some say let do the
interview so that our comments we make can carry our opinions to Australians.
But some declined to do interviews on the basis that they will be targeted and
their children will be taken away (Research Assistant Note, November 2008)
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

Gender was another issue as Sudanese women tended to be less outspoken and
men often took the main respondents role. Therefore, it was important to balance
the gender representations and enhance the validity of their voices by employing
male and female facilitators and encourage more female participants.
Finally consideration had to be given to reciprocity and mutual expectations.
The principle of reciprocity means that there is a sense of fair exchange between
the researchers and the participants (Dickson-Swift, James, & Liamputtong, 2008,
p. 40). The exchange from the participants is the sensitive information about their
personal life stories, while in return the researcher promises social change, advice
on raising children bilingually or policy recommendations based on research evi-
dence. Researchers and participants, however, often have a mismatch of expecta-
tions from the research encounter. Therefore, it is essential that the aims of the
project are made clear to all participants. Sometimes participants expectations
and researchers desire to give something back go beyond the research project.
Sometimes friendships are made which are difficult to continue after the comple-
tion of the project. Participants coming from refugee background are vulnerable
due to their social circumstances and their emotional journey of survival, but re-
searchers can also become vulnerable if they take on multiple roles such as coun-
sellors, helping friends or mentors (Dickson-Swift, et al., 2008, p. 49).


The approach taken in this study was driven by the necessity to collect qualitative
and quantitative data and capture the language ecology of diverse family histories,
conditions and relationships and varied future ambitions. The approach was a de-
liberate attempt to incorporate a diachronic and a synchronic element and to move
away from traditional formulaic approaches to societal multilingualism which
generally focussed on developing typologies and drawing comparisons across na-
tions or localities (Fasold, 1984, p. 61). In contrast, by taking an ecological view-
point, the current study explored the unique features of a specific sociolinguistic
context to map the multidimensional social, attitudinal and motivational factors
which shape multilingualism and language use in the diaspora. These factors are
linked to the past, the present and the future and collectively inform our theoreti-
cal understanding of language maintenance and identity.
chapter 3

Language policy context


Language planning involves deliberate actions aimed to change language behaviour

in a particular locality or polity. In the context of examining language maintenance
in immigrant communities, locality needs to combine both the country of origin as
well as the country of settlement. This chapter provides a brief overview of language
planning in Sudan as relevant to language and refugee settlement policy in Australia.
This chapter was written at the time of significant political changes when South Su-
dan became an independent republic (9 July 2011).1 These changes have added to
the complexity of how one can define locality in contemporary language planning
and the fact that the socio-political context of language planning is undergoing con-
stant change. For a holistic ecological perspective, a view that combines historical
and current perspectives is necessary. Therefore, after a brief account of the linguistic
demography (3.1), I will give an overview of the major historical events in the devel-
opment of Sudan as a modern state (3.2). Here, my focus is restricted to the colonial
and the post-colonial period as these are the relevant eras for the discussion of lan-
guage planning of the increasingly divided identity of the South and the North of
Sudan. The historical overview will be followed by a discussion of the current devel-
opments of education and literacy rates in light of South Sudans newly gained inde-
pendence and new language policy. Finally, I will provide a short overview of rele-
vant refugee settlement, language policy and planning in Australia (3.3).

3.1 Languages of Sudan

Sudan is a country with a rich cultural and linguistic heritage with four main
language families and numerous sub-branches (Greenberg, 1966). Greenberg
identified Sudan as the central home of the Nilo-Saharan language family which
included six sub-branches. As Greenberg noted languages in Africa were the fun-
damental identification tools as the tribe or the social grouping to which the vast

1. In this chapter Sudan refers to the country prior to the separation of South Sudan as an
independent state.
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

majority of Africans give their primary allegiance, is defined mainly on linguistic

lines and that a linguistic map of Africa would hardly differ from a tribal map
(Greenberg, 1966, p. 242). This tribal identity and linguistic identity equivalence,
however, was changed with the increased spread of Arabic as a lingua franca.
There are 134 living languages in Sudan (Gordon, 2005). The principal lan-
guages however are Arabic with 15 million speakers, Dinka 1.3 million speakers,
Bedawi 951,000, Nuer 740,000, Fur 500,000, Hausa 489,000, Bari 420,000, Zande
350,000 and Nobiin 295,000 (Gordon, 2005). As the official language of the North,
Arabic is most commonly used in schools and for government and business
interactions (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2008). This dominance of Arabic is
principally in the North of Sudan with English being the principal language in
Southern Sudan since 1972 (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2008). There are three
main families of African languages in Sudan, including, Afro-Asiatic (Arabic,
Bedawi), Nilo-Saharan (Dinka, Nube, Nuer, Shilluk) and Niger-Congo (Banda,
Sere, Zande) (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2008).

3.2 Historical overview of language planning in Sudan

3.2.1 Languages of education in Sudan

The introduction of Arabic in Sudan was the result of at least a millennium and a
half of tribal migration from the Arabian Peninsula across the Red Sea or through
the Sinai Peninsula and Egypt (Voll & Voll, 1985, p. 8). Contrary to the belief that
Arabic appeared in Southern Sudan as a result of the Egyptian conquest, Arabic
had a long standing presence in Southern Sudan as a language of trade before the
Egyptian rule (Nyombe, 1997). Through the free migrations of Arab tribes and
Muslim merchants the northern parts of Sudan had undergone the process of Is-
lamization by the beginning of the nineteenth century. This process brought
Arabization, so that despite the great linguistic and ethnic diversity in the north-
ern Sudan, an Arabic-Islamic society emerged especially among the educated por-
tions of the population (Voll & Voll, 1985, p. 33).
The first significant external force which changed the relative isolation of Su-
dan (and especially Southern Sudan) was the Turco-Egyptian invasion and subse-
quent conquest of the Sudan in 18201821 (Nyombe, 1997). The Egyptian admin-
istrative system represented the first centralised government of the Sudan, but the
construction of a Sudanese national identity took much longer. In fact at this time
few if any of the people identified themselves as Sudanese (Voll & Voll, 1985). The
Egyptian rule came to an end in the 1880s as a result of the local Islamic move-
ment, called Madhist movement. While this movement was a rebellion against
Chapter 3. Language policy context

Egyptian control, it also represented a strict adherence to the fundamental prin-

ciples of Islam (Voll & Voll, 1985). In 1898 the Anglo-Egyptian army defeated the
Mahdist state and established a new political regime for the Sudan (Voll & Voll,
1985). This marked the beginning of the Condominium, an era when Sudan was
jointly ruled by Britain and Egypt.

3.2.2 Condominium (18981956)

Under the newly established Condominium Sudan was governed by the partner-
ship of the Egypt and Britain with the latter taking most of the power. While the
tribal system was severely suppressed by both the Mahdist movement and the
Egyptian rule, the tribes maintained their power and cohesion especially in
the southern parts of Sudan (Voll & Voll, 1985, p. 53). The British approach to
administration in Sudan was instrumental in shaping a divided southern and
northern identity as various policies were implemented specifically in the south
with the practical effect of separating the south from the north. One of these poli-
cies introduced by the British was the use of English as the official language in
Southern Sudan (Voll & Voll, 1985, p. 57).
In 1928 a Conference was held in Rejaf (Central Equatoria, South Sudan) which
was an important language planning event. The conference advocated for the intro-
duction of vernacular languages in elementary schools, and identified selected lan-
guages in which textbooks were to be developed, while smaller vernaculars, which
did not have orthography, were meant to use colloquial Arabic in Roman script:
The conference is of the opinion that the following group languages are suitable
for development and that the preparation of the textbooks in these languages
for use in the elementary vernacular schools of the southern Sudan is a matter of
urgency: Dinka, Bari, Nuer, Lotuko, Shilluk and Zande. Acholi and Madi are in
a different category, as only a very small proportion of the people speaking these
languages live in the Sudan (Report of the Rejaf Language Conference, 1928 (cited
in Abdelhay, 2007, p. 125).

The policy proposed a transition-type of bilingual program in the first two years of
schooling, as by grade three English was meant to be the only language of instruc-
tion. The Juba Arabic that had been the lingua franca of the south was rejected and
abandoned (Abdelhay, 2007, p. 127). According to the policy, the languages of
government administration were local vernaculars or English, but not Arabic
(Abdelhay, 2007, p. 127). In 1941, in the south of Sudan local vernaculars were
taught at the village centres and a Group language, one of the six major Southern
Sudan languages chosen at Rejaf, was taught at the primary school level. Dinka
was taught in the Dinka areas (Sanderson, 1976).
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

During the Condominium years there was no official language-in-education

policy as the British policy in the African colonies was characterised by a
laissezfaire attitude to education (Abdelhay, 2007, p. 118). The British were
mainly concerned with the training of officials who could support the British
administration, but they largely left the education issue in the hands of the mis-
sionaries who established their own schools. The fate of the African vernaculars
was, therefore, relegated to the missionaries who became active in the 1930s and
the decades that followed. The missionaries focus, however, was primarily on the
conversion of the indigenous tribes. They established vernacular schools not for
maintaining these languages, but because this was a government-imposed condi-
tion for the permission of missionary work (Sanderson, 1976). This was, there-
fore, primarily a faith mission to attract converts (Bokamba, 1995).
Being above all a faith Mission the first priority of Sudan Interior missionaries
was to seek first the kingdom of God, to evangelise, to establish churches, and
then in the fullness of time to let schools develop after the establishment of
the Church, and under the auspices of the newly established native church
(Sanderson, 1976, p. 14). The Missionaries activities were restricted to the teach-
ing of non-Muslims and the Government was restricting their activities to the
South. They established primary schooling with the first schools providing ver-
nacular education. All elementary instruction was to be in the vernacular. The
primary role of the missionaries therefore was to form co-operative human rela-
tionships with the Southern Sudanese in the course of providing simple instruc-
tion. Provided that they fulfilled these obligations, missionaries could, in time,
introduce the Bible to non-Muslim peoples (Sanderson, 1980, p. 160).
The missionaries involvement in establishing the village schools in the South
was significant, but the development of these schools was hindered by the shortage
of trained teachers, a shortage of resources and a constant battle between the mis-
sionaries and the government. Some of the difficulties were attributable to the
conflicting aims of secular and spiritual education and there were constant nego-
tiations on which areas the missionaries would be allowed to go into and how
much funding the government should provide (Sanderson, 1976). The govern-
ment was unwilling to provide much funding especially when there was dissatis-
faction with the achievements of the relevant missionaries work. It was only in the
1940s when the government started to establish more centralised schools with
more substantial funding that there was a period of increased missionary-
Government cooperation in school work (Sanderson, 1976, p. 33).
In 1946 the government took a political decision to unite the south of Sudan with
the North in preparation for making Sudan an independent state. Language plan-
ning was a key to this political exercise. Arabic was to become the language of educa-
tion in the south in view of the coming independent status of the Sudan (Sanderson,
Chapter 3. Language policy context

1976, p. 34). This decision impacted the smaller tribal languages most, as the larger
languages, including Dinka, had sufficient speakers to continue with the education in
Dinka (Sanderson, 1976). By the end of the 1940s the Government planned kuttabs
(elementary schools of the Northern type) in some parts of the South and teachers
for these schools had to be native speakers of Arabic (Sanderson, 1976).
In 1949 The Governor-General proposed that Arabic should become the com-
mon language of the south (Siddiek, 2010, p. 83) and this proposal was endorsed in
November of the same year by the Minister of Education with the following words:
[...] as the Sudan is one country sharing the one set of political institutions, it is
of great importance that there should be one language which is understood by all
citizens. The language can only be Arabic, and Arabic must therefore be taught in
all our schools. ibid (cited in Siddiek 2010, p. 83.)

Arabic was first introduced in 1950 as an academic subject in all schools above the
primary level, and in 1957 it became the language of instruction. Christian schools
in the south came under the control of the central government (Abdelhay, 2007,
p. 133) and the centralization of the education system (across the south and the north)
continued on in the 1950s and 1956 marking the end of the British-Egyptian rule.

3.2.3 The Post-colonial era (after 1956)

In 1956 the British left Sudan and handed over the power to the North under the
Islamic Constitution of 1956 (Nyombe 1997 cited in Abdelhay, 2007, p. 136). The
goal was to establish a Sudan with one language, one religion, and one culture
(Abdelhay, 2007, p. 136). This linguistic nationalism continued for decades and
had a significant impact on the linguistic ecology of Southern Sudan. African ver-
naculars and English became marginalised and Arabic was given power (Miller,
2006). English became to be seen as the language of the elite in the South, the
language of colonialism and the language of a stolen identity of non-Arabized in-
tellectuals, while Arabic was the language of Islam and the language of Arabic
dominance (Elgizouli, 2005).

3.2.4 From Addis Ababa (1972) to Naivasha (2004)

The next significant language policy development happened in 1972 when a peace
agreement between the north and the south was signed in Addis Ababa. This
agreement recognised southern Sudans right to self-government and declared that
Arabic was the official language of Sudan and English was the principal language
used in Southern Sudan (Siddiek 2010). As a result, English became the language
of instruction in southern schools.
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

Local languages were encouraged for day-to-day business and for the
promotion of patterns of culture of the people of the region (Siddiek, 2010,
p. 84). In the same year (1972) the first educational conference in Juba decided
that in rural areas, the first two years of education should be in local languages
(Siddiek, 2010, p. 84) after which children should be taught mostly in Arabic,
and English should be taught as a subject (Siddiek, 2010, p. 84). But in 1974
English was proposed to be re-introduced as the medium of instruction, but this
resolution was rejected and replaced by a different policy for rural and urban
According to this policy, in rural schools vernaculars were to be used as me-
dium of instruction from grade 14 while Arabic and English were taught orally
and then gradually extended to teach reading and writing. In grades 56 the lan-
guage of instruction was switched to Arabic, and English continued to be intensi-
fied. On the other hand, in urban schools, Arabic was to be the main language of
instruction in grades 14 and English introduced orally first (grades 12) and in
writing later (grades 34). In grades 56 Arabic was to continue as the language of
instruction with intensified learning of English.
c) In all junior secondary [intermediate] schools Arabic shall be the medium
of instruction while English is intensified. d) and in all senior secondary and
post senior secondary schools, English shall be the medium of instruction and
Arabic is taught as a language with its literature. e) Adult education shall be con-
ducted in local languages and Arabic (Baraka 1984:163 cited in Siddiek, 2010,
pp. 8384).

The Addis Ababa Agreement was abandoned after 1982 and the outbreak of the
second civil war (19822005) was accompanied by a pro-Arabicization policy
from the Northern side. This led finally to the Naivasha Agreement (or Compre-
hensive Peace Agreement (CPA)) on 26 May 2004 in Naivasha (Kenya) which was
a historical event declaring a protocol of power sharing between the Government
of Sudan and the Southern Sudanese People (represented by SPLM/A, Sudan
Peoples Liberation Movement/Army) and incorporated an important language
policy decree, to which I will turn in the next section.

3.2.5 Current state of languages and education in Sudan

The year 2004 marked a new political era and the beginning of a language policy,
which declared Arabic and English to be the official working languages of the gov-
ernment and the official languages of instruction for higher education. In May
2004, in Naivasha, Kenya, as part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA,
2004), five language policy statements were made as follows:
Chapter 3. Language policy context

2.8.1 All the indigenous languages are national languages which shall be re-
spected, developed and promoted.
2.8.2 Arabic language is the widely spoken national language in the Sudan.
2.8.3 Arabic, as a major language at the national level, and English shall be the
official working languages of the National Government business and lan-
guages of instruction for higher education.
2.8.4 In addition to Arabic and English, the legislature of any sub-national level
of government may adopt any other national language(s) as additional of-
ficial working language(s) at its level.
2.8.5 The use of either language at any level of government or education shall
not be discriminated against. (CPA, 2004, pp. 2627)

While these statements were ideological tools for reconstructing the legitimacy of
the independent South, for example, by indigenizing the local languages, the
policy was a significant step forward in terms of giving official recognition to
African vernaculars (Abdelhay, 2007). As Miller (2006, p. 1) notes, this was a land-
mark document giving a legal bases for a multilingual linguistic policy, and a ma-
jor step forward in giving linguistic rights to all Sudanese languages, as for the
first time since Independence, all Sudanese vernaculars (and not only Southern
Sudanese vernaculars, as it was the case in the previous Addis Ababa Agreement)
were recognised as potential national languages (Miller, 2006, p. 1).
In the last decades the division of power between Arabic and English has been
rapidly shifting to the benefit of English and with the declaration of South Sudan as
an independent state (9 July 2011) this process has accelerated even further. Ac-
cording to Miller, this policy shift to English is attributable to three major factors:
(1) a reaction to the strong Arabization of the past 50 years which was associated
with negative experiences and historical sensitivities and Arabic being seen as the
language of Islam (Siddiek, 2010, p. 79); (2) English being seen as the language of
modernity and economic progress; and (3) English being a leading international
lingua franca. Still, Miller has argued that a strong policy emphasis on English does
not necessarily provide the answer to the complexity of Sudans development be-
cause a common language will not necessarily unify people (Miller, 2006). On the
contrary, some scholars (see e.g. Mazrui 2002) have cautioned that the adoption of
English as the official language in developing post-colonial states will result in a
dependency on the west. Similarly, Bokamba (1995) argues that the adoption of
European languages as national or official languages is neither a precondition nor a
guarantee for economic progress. Siddiek (2010) has stressed that Arabic has a cru-
cial role to play as the most important lingua franca in trade and politics with North
Africa. While in his view Arabic should be the language of unity across South and
North, he calls for the Arabic speakers of the North to show positive attitudes to-
wards non-Arabic speaking groups, by respecting their languages and recognizing
their wisdom through their literary creative production (Siddiek, 2010, p. 80).
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

3.2.6 Schooling and literacy

Schooling in Sudan is free and compulsory for children aged 614, and generally
consists of six years at primary level, three years at junior secondary level and then
a further three years of senior secondary schooling (Metz, 1991). Instead of three
years of senior secondary schooling there is also the option of attending a techni-
cal school or a teacher training school (Metz, 1991). However, the reality of educa-
tion in Sudan is quite different due to the extended years of civil war.
The education situation in southern Sudan is especially cause for concern.
This is evidenced by low enrolment rates and even lower completion rates, inade-
quate facilities for functioning schools and a severe lack of adequately trained
teachers. Attendance and completion rates show a poor state of education in
Sudan. In 200304, of 1 575 000 school-aged children, only 400,000 or 25.4% were
enrolled in school (Sudan Open Archive, 2004). More concerning is the Primary
school completion rate, which is only 2.4%. There are also sharp differences across
gender as the completion rate for girls is 1% while for boys it is 3.8% (Sudan Open
Archive, 2004).2 These problems are compounded substantially by the state of the
teaching profession in Southern Sudan. In 2002 49% of teachers were untrained
(Sudan Open Archive, 2004). In 2006 this situation had not improved markedly
with a UNICEF report stating that 60% of teachers have had no teacher training
and many teachers have never attended university (UNICEF, 2006).
The results of this situation are evident in Southern Sudans literacy rate for
youth, adults and women, which rank as the 2nd lowest in the world (Young,
Buscher, & Robinson, 2007). Another challenge for the education system has been
brought by the large numbers of displaced persons returning home from camps in
the north of Sudan. Many of these children have been educated in the camps in
Arabic and must now switch to the southern program which uses English (Young,
et al., 2007). This problem exacerbates the enormous challenge of creating stability
in an education system, which is set in the vast linguistic diversity of South Sudan.
A UNESCOs document titled Education and Culture in Africas Quest for
development (UNESCO, 2009) emphasised the role languages play in peoples
capacity to take an active role in shaping their development:
Languages have complex implications in terms of identity and social integration,
both globally and locally, and thus are of strategic importance. [...] The capacity
of peoples to live in and modify their environment, interact and socialize is heav-
ily dependent on and marked by their language faculty. Thus, marginalization or
integration, exclusion or empowerment, poverty or development, are to a certain
extent determined by linguistic choices and strategies. (UNESCO, 2009, p. 61)

2. For gender-related issues of education for Sudanese students, see Hatoss & Huijser (2010).
Chapter 3. Language policy context

This document (UNESCO, 2009) recognised the importance of African languages

as media of instruction and vehicles of culture for the achievement of African
Renaissance and the conviction of the need to promote cultural literacy among
Africans of all walks of life (Khartoum January 2006Assembly/AU/Dec.96 (VI).
In Addis Ababa (January 2008) the Assembly of the African Union urged
member states to increase mobilization for the promotion and enhancement of
African languages, through various activities at local, national and regional levels,
in order to ensure Africas contribution to the celebration of the International Year
of Languages, as an extension of the Year of African Languages (Assembly of the
African Union, 2008). With effect from the 2010 academic year, African languages
were included in southern Sudans school curricula in years 13.
The Republic of South Sudan gained its independence on 9 July 2011. The
declaration includes the following section on languages:
1. All indigenous languages of South Sudan are national languages and shall be
respected, developed and promoted.
2. English shall be the official working language in the Republic of South Sudan,
as well as the language of instruction at all levels of education.
3. The State shall promote the development of a sign language for the benefit of
people with special needs.
(The Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan, Section 6)

3.2.7 Shift to Arabic in Sudan

During the history of Sudan the major threat to the maintenance of linguistic di-
versity has been the impact of Arabic. During the colonial times when Sudan was
under the dual regime of Britain and Egypt, Arabic was introduced as the language
of education in the north of Sudan. While scholars disagree to the extent the pro-
cesses of Arabization and Islamization went hand in hand, the linguistic impact
was clearly a process of language change with the increased presence of Arabic in
all walks of life. As Miller states:
almost all language surveys undertaken in the Sudan have pointed out to the
increasing dominance and spread of Arabic as the main lingua franca or even
first language (or mother tongue = MT) not only among the non-Arab migrant
population of the northern cities like Khartoum (...), but also among the non Arab
population of Darfur (...) and the Nuba Mountain (...), the Southern Blue Nile (...)
or in the main urban centres of Southern Sudan like Juba (Miller, 2006, p. 3).

However, Miller (2006) cautions against the linear picture of a language shift to-
wards Arabization, which emerges from most language surveys:
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

If it is certainly true that youngsters speak more and more Arabic compared to
the older generation, it is also true that many Sudanese urban centers are now
characterized by the coexistence of various languages. These languages are not
only spoken within the households but can be spoken in public space (particularly
market place) and start to be more and more present in the cultural arena (cf. the
numerous musical tapes in various Sudanese languages which start to be widely
circulated including songs in Dinka (Miller, 2006, p. 6).

3.2.8 Dinka language planning in Sudan

The Dinka language has a long history of development in Sudan, starting

from the early grammar books published in the 18-hundreds by Weger in 1866
and Beltrame in 1870 (DLIA, 2005). The documentation of Dinka dialects was
largely conducted by missionaries, for example Archdeacon Show, an Anglican
missionary documented Bor and Agar dialects, Arthur Nebel, a Catholic mission-
ary documented Rek dialect and Trudinger documented the Pada Dialect (DLIA,
2005). Nebel published the first Dinka grammar book in 1848 and the first Dinka-
English dictionary in 1954. In 1975 the Institute of Regional Languages was estab-
lished and in collaboration with the Summer Institute of Linguistics a new Dinka
orthography was developed in 1978 which expanded the original Latin-based
Dinka orthography by including special diacritic characters for identifying the
breathy vowels. This new orthography was used by the Catholic bible translators
working on the Rek and Agar Old Testaments in the 1980s and 1990s. The orthog-
raphy was later adopted by the Bible Society of Sudan. In 1990 the Dinka Cultural
Society started Dinka literacy classes and adopted the new orthography for its cur-
riculum. In 1991 the University of Khartoum, Faculty of Afro-Asian Studies,
established a Dinka language course. Similarly to the ethnic and cultural mosaic of
Sudan, the countrys history is also a complex story of nation building and devel-
opment. As Elgizouli (DLIA 2005, p. 2) argues, language as a tool and component
of nation building and social integration is a most controversial issue in the
Sudanese setting, and must be considered within a wider socio-economic, socio-
political and cultural context, far beyond its innocent communicative and educa-
tional functions.

3.3 The Australian context

3.3.1 De facto multiculturalism and multilingualism in Australia

Australia has always been a multilingual continent. At the time of the British colo-
nization there were approximately 600 different Indigenous language varieties
Chapter 3. Language policy context

spoken in the continent, including 250 distinctive languages. These languages rep-
resent invaluable encapsulations of diverse cultures. Unfortunately, colonization
had a devastating influence on this linguistic and cultural diversity, and brought a
rapid rate of language shift and language death in numerous indigenous commu-
nities. In the last 200 years 50 languages have become extinct and many other na-
tive languages are under threat of extinction. Today, perhaps 130 languages have
less than 50 speakers and only remain in limited use by older speakers and even
healthy languages are subject to rapid shift (Walsh, 1991, p. 30). Also, ninety per
cent of Aboriginal people do not speak their Indigenous language (Mhlhusler
& Damania, 2004 p. 20). Language death is a worldwide phenomenon. According
to the Ethnologue, 417 languages are classified as nearly extinct in the world which
means that only a few elderly speakers are still alive. The Pacific region is experi-
encing the highest rate of language death; 157 of the 417 listed nearly extinct lan-
guages are in the Pacific, including 138 in Australia (Ethnologue, 2004).
There are numerous factors which contribute to language shift (Chang 1996;
Clyne & Kipp, 1999; Doucet, 1991; Fishman, 1991; Gal, 1979; Hoffman, 1991;
Holmes, 1997; Koen Jaspaert & Kroon, 1988; Pauwels, 1985; Putz, 1991; Spolsky,
2004a; Wei, Housen, & Dewaele, 2003), but this chapter argues that language shift
or death is a symptom of poor policies and uneven power relations in the social
fields where immigrants and indigenous members of the society see the dominant
language (in case of Australia English) as a route to success in the wider society.
See Table 9 for the most common languages spoken in Australian homes as re-
corded in the 2006 Census.
According to the 2006 Census, 2.8 million people reported using a language
other than English in their homes. It is important to recognise that these figures
do not show an accurate picture of multilingualism; as for example, language use
at home does not necessarily reflect language competence. Still, home language
use is the most important factor in intergenerational language maintenance;
therefore these numbers certainly deserve consideration in the context of sustain-
ability. While language loss is most dramatic and visible in the Indigenous con-
text, there is a rapid language shift in numerous migrant communities. Kipp and
Clyne (2003, p. 34) diagnosed the greatest rate of shift among the Dutch (62.6%),
see Table 10.
Other nationalities with high rates of shift included the Germans, Austrians,
French, Maltese and Hungarians. In most of the cases language shift occurs,
because the immigrant group does not see the value of their language in a domi-
nantly English-speaking host society. Also, even if the desire to maintain the lan-
guage is present, there is no, or little, institutional and educational support for the
teaching of these languages. With these factors in mind, it is difficult to argue that
Australia fulfils its premise as a truly multicultural society.
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

Table 9. Languages spoken at home (ABS 2006)

Speaks English only 15,013,965

Chinese Languages 401,357
Italian 353,605
Greek 263,717
Arabic (including Lebanese) 209,372
Vietnamese 174,236
Spanish 93,593
Tagalog 78,878
German 76,443
Macedonian 71,994
Croatian 69,851
Polish 59,056
Australian Indigenous Languages 50,978
Turkish 50,693
Serbian 49,203
Hindi 47,817
Maltese 41,393
Netherlandic 40,188
French 39,643
Korean 39,529
Indonesian 38,724
Other(a) 363,062
Not stated 901,433
Total 18,972,350*
* Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Census 2006. This table has been modified to select the top 30

Sustainability in the long term requires an ecological approach, where all commu-
nities have the right and the opportunity to study their mother tongue. This is far
from a reality in the Australian context. Also, the development of literacy skills in
minorities first languages seems to be even more challenging to achieve. Several
studies in Australia have shown that even if second generation migrants succeed
at least to some degree in maintaining their languages in speech, they usually
fail to do so in literacy. Lee et al (1999), for instance, found that Chinese and In-
dian bilinguals are not necessarily and not typically biliterates. Language policy
intervention is, therefore, necessary to ensure that languages are maintained inter-
Chapter 3. Language policy context

Table 10. Language shift among first generation migrants in Australia

Country Rate of language shift

Netherlands 62.6% (highest shift)

Austria 54.5%
Germany 54.0%
France 36.8%
Hungary 35%
Spain 25.1%
Poland 22.3%
Japan 16.9%
Italy 15.9%
Chile 12.2%
Hong Kong 10.3%
Greece 7.1%
Macedonia 4.7%
China 4.3%
Iraq 3.6%
Vietnam 2.4% (lowest shift)
Source: (Kipp & Clyne, 2003) Note: only selected countries are shown

While a great number of schools offer language learning opportunities, these

schools cannot meet the demands of all ethnolinguistic communities. The main
problems are shortage of teachers and low enrolment numbers. There is much yet
to be achieved within the context of language and language education policy to
ensure the quality and supply of language teachers (Ingram, 2003, p. 17). To cater
for their needs, ethnic communities are, therefore, reliant on their own initiatives
and resources to organise their own Saturday or Sunday schools. These issues of
language education will be discussed in the next section.

3.3.2 Multicultural policies

While contemporary Australia is one of the leading multicultural societies of the

world, multiculturalism and ethnic pluralism have emerged as a result of a long
developmental process based on migration history. Australia started with a strong
assimilationist policy in the eighteenth century, which did not tolerate diversity in
either ethnic or linguistic terms. Australia had a monoculture which was built on
British values paired with white Australian nationalism (Jupp, 1966, 2002). This
broader policy of assimilation had a strong linguistic aspect which Lo Bianco de-
scribed as Comfortably British:
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

Safely ensconced within the political and economic certainties of British impe-
rial loyalty, Australian language norms and styles of English expression, and the
choices and purposes of foreign language teaching reflected essential British pres-
tige choices (Lo Bianco, 2009, p. 15).

However, even as early as the 1800s there were a number of migrants coming from
non-British backgrounds, also of non-white backgrounds. For instance, as a result
of the discovery of gold in Victoria in the 1850s there was an influx of Chinese
migrant miners. In 1852, it was estimated that 2000 Chinese were working on the
Victorian gold-fields, and this number rose to 42,000 by 1859 (Ling, 1988, p. 21).
In Queensland, by 1852, 1000 Chinese migrants settled in the Moreton Bay area
where they worked as shepherds. The sudden increase of the Chinese settlers
caused a stir in the dominantly Anglo-Saxon colonies. The problems culminated
as a result of the white miners resentment towards industrious Chinese miners in
Victoria, which led to the introduction of the first restrictions on Chinese mi-
grants in Victoria and New South Wales. In Queensland, the first racist moves
were directed against the Kanakas who were migrant workers from the Pacific is-
lands and worked on sugarcane plantations. White workers feared losing their jobs
to them, as the islanders accepted lower paid jobs and poorer conditions. In 1901
the Federation was formed and the new Federal Government passed the Immigra-
tion Restriction Act, which became known as the White Australia Policy and
ended the employment of Pacific Islanders. To exclude unwanted immigrants, a
dictation test was introduced which required all migrants to write out at dictation
and sign in the presence of an officer a passage of 50 words in length in a European
language directed by the officer (DIMA, 2001). This was a concrete example of
using language for discriminatory purposes to serve the overarching aims of the
White Australia policy.
After World War I and II Australia received large numbers of refugees mainly
from Eastern and Central Europe. By 1952 some 127,700 refugees from the Baltic
countries and central Europe had arrived, the vast majority arriving during
194950. Between 1945 and 1995 Australia resettled 553,000 refugees (Brndle,
1999, p. 19). During the 1950s these new immigrants were commonly described as
Balts, reffos or New Australians. Even if people learnt English, because of their
strong accent they retained a foreign identity ascribed to them by being born and
bred so called true-blue Australians. Non-British newcomers were singled out and
called derogatory terms such as dago and wog.3

3. These terms went out of use in the 1960s and even if they were used their semantic and
connotative meanings changed reflecting the changes in public attitudes towards non-British
immigrants (Brndle, 1999, p. 16).
Chapter 3. Language policy context

From the early years Australia had a strong and overt assimilationist policy
about immigrants. The expectation was that immigrants would conform to the
norms of a monolingual and monocultural Australia, taking on Australian values
and cultural practices and English as their only language for all their communica-
tion needs.
Between 1947 and 1972 Australia became the home of the largest immigrant
population. At this time Australia welcomed immigrants under the populate or
perish policy, as the government realised that a dramatic increase in population
was needed for economic and industrial growth. As a result, the official White
Australia policy was abandoned and migrants from other ethnic backgrounds
were accepted. However, the attitude towards non-white migrants remained pri-
marily negative and ethnic languages were neglected.
The official policy towards immigrants remained strongly Anglo-conformist
and assimilationist in the 1950s and 1960s. This underlying ideology was expressed
in 1967 by Bill Sneddon, the Minister for Immigration who argued for a mono
culture, with everyone living in the same way (Romaine, 1991, p. 4).
Official policies became more tolerant in the late 1960s and early 1970s and
the policy of assimilation was replaced by the policy of integration. This shift in
the terminology, however, did not live up to its promises and soon became seen to
be a form of disguised assimilation (Bullivant, 1972, p. 73). Diversity was not
encouraged and immigrants were expected to adopt the integrated culture
(DIMA, 2001), which was a slightly modified version of the national Anglo-
Australian culture.
The year 1972 marked a significant change when the newly appointed Minis-
ter for Immigration (Grassby) introduced the term multiculturalism (adopted
from Canada) as the official ideology of dealing with diversity which he described
in a report entitled A Multicultural Society for the Future (Grassby, 1973).4 In
this document Grassby used the family of the nation metaphor to underline the
need to balance individual and cultural differences with the interest of the nation
as the highest priority.
Grassby also emphasised that migrants should be able to maintain their ethnic
languages He stated that maintaining the ethnic tongue has an important role to
play in minimizing cultural and social conflicts, potentially reduce family con-
flicts, and ultimately evoke a new respect by migrants for their adopted countrys
proclaimed belief in freedom and equality (Grassby, 1973, p. 9).

4. The changing demographics brought by migration had put pressure on Australia official
policies vis-a-vis immigrants. The term multiculturalism was adopted from Canada and intro-
duced in 1973 by the Labour Government.
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

It seemed, therefore, that for the first time public discourses reflected an
appreciation of linguistic and cultural diversity represented in the society and mi-
grants became seen as an integral part of the Australian society (Foster & Stockley,
1988, p. 26). Still, in terms of language policies, the focus remained on the problem
of migrants poor levels of English as it was seen as a barrier to integration. How-
ever, teaching English did not solve all problems in migrant education (Bullivant,
1986, p. 114).
The Racial Discrimination Act was passed by the Australian Parliament in
1975, which marked the official end of the White Australia policy. The newly
elected liberal Fraser Government continued its commitment to multiculturalism
and immigration policies became more tolerant towards non-white migrants.
However, this policy shift was mainly motivated by Australias need to increase its
population (Foster & Stockley, 1988, p. 30).
In 1977 the first formal public policy of Australian multiculturalism was de-
fined in the report called Australia as a Multicultural Society prepared by the
Australian Ethnic Affairs Council (Zubrzycki, 1977). This report gave the first
definition of multiculturalism, as resting on three main principles: social cohe-
sion, equality of opportunities and cultural identity. In 1981 Prime Minister
Malcolm Fraser described multiculturalism as about diversity, not division in
which different values are complementary rather than competitive (National
Multicultural Advisory Council, 1999, p. 25).
The official thinking represented by the Fraser government was set by the
Galbally report (1978), which was a milestone document and determined the pol-
icies during the 1980s. It was a significant step forward, but diversity was still seen
as a source of problems. While English language training was central to the policy
and the report proposed a comprehensive initial settlement program including
English classes, the report also acknowledged immigrants rights to maintain their
ethnic identity provided this was not done at the expense of society or nationhood
(Galbally, 1978, p. 104).
In the 1980s language policy discourses shifted towards seeing language as a
resource with a strong focus on economically beneficial languages. This argument
was advocated by the Australian Federation of Modern Language Teachers
Association (AFMLTA) (Ingram, 1986; Stanley, Ingram, & Chittick, 1990) then in
1987 the first explicit national policy highlighted the economic issues (Lo Bianco,
1987) and, by the 1991 policy (Department of Employment Education and Train-
ing (DEET), 1991) economic issues became dominant, perhaps even too domi-
nant (Ingram, 2003, p. 12). In 1994 the economic focus continued through the
acceptance of the Asian Languages and Australias Economic Future Report, known
as the Rudd Report (Rudd, 1994) accepted by the Council of Australian
Governments (COAG). In particular, learning Asian languages and cultures was a
Chapter 3. Language policy context

high priority which was expressed in the desire to develop Asia literacy to better
the economic relationship with Asia. National agenda and productive diversity

In 1989 a new report was published titled National Agenda for Multicultural
Australia (Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, 1989). This was
a landmark policy document triggered by the arrival of large numbers of migrants
from all over the world. The National Agenda accepted some underlying principles
which promote the maintenance of community languages as well as development
of proficiency in English and other languages (Fitzgerald, 1988). The report also
defined three main rights and three main limits i.e. obligations. The rights includ-
ed cultural identity, social justice and economic efficiency (Department of Immi-
gration and Multicultural Affairs, 1989, p. 7). Among the obligations it was stated
that all Australians should have an overriding and unifying commitment to
Australia and accept the basic structures and principles of Australian society
the Constitution and the rule of law, tolerance and equality, Parliamentary democ-
racy, freedom of speech and religion, English as the national language and equality
of the sexes (Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, 1989, p. 7)
In the early 1990s the concept of multiculturalism underwent significant
changes, which were manifested in the report issued by the National Multicultural
Advisory Council (1999). The Council recommended the adoption of a new defi-
nition of multiculturalism, which was not different from the previous emphasis on
celebrating Australias cultural diversity and the right of all Australians to ex-
press and share their individual cultural heritage within an overriding commit-
ment to Australia (National Multicultural Advisory Council, 1999, p. 4). While
the rights and obligations remained, there was a shift in the discourse from seeing
migrants as people in need of assistance, for example in helping them learn
English, to seeing them as an asset to the society. The new slogan of inclusive
multiculturalism (NMAC, 1999) reflected the governments unifying nation
building agenda. From the Lo Bianco report (1987) to present

The first comprehensive national language policy document, and Australias first
language policy to address multilingualism was the Lo Bianco Report (1987),
which was based on the the need for social and national cohesion in Australia
whilst simultaneously recognising the diversity of the society and the inherent
benefits of this diversity(Lo Bianco, 1987, p. 8).
The linguistic pluralism of Australia was regarded as a valuable national re-
source enhancing and enriching cultural and intellectual life and as a valuable
economic resource in its potential for use in international trade. The report also
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

recognised and supported community languages as the main vehicles of commu-

nication for large numbers of Australians and the first languages of many Australian
children. The Report promoted bilingualism as a positive value to individuals as
well as for the whole society. It stressed the role of schools in assisting children in
developing their bilingual potential. The policy stated that bilingualism was for the
benefit of the whole Australian society and identified four goals, which are di-
rectly influenced by language. These are (1) cultural and intellectual enrichment;
(2) economics, including vocational and foreign trade; (3) equality, including so-
cial justice and overcoming disadvantage and (4) external, that is Australias role in
the region and the world.
Following the Lo Bianco report there were various policy initiatives on the
state and federal levels, but the discussion of multilingualism was shifted towards
literacy in English. This shift in policy discourse was reflected in the Australian
Language and Literacy Policy (Department of Employment Education and
Training (DEET), 1991) which emphasised the advantages of first language (that is
heritage language) literacy mainly for the benefits in second language (that is
English) literacy skills.
Nevertheless, the policy (Department of Employment Education and Training
(DEET), 1991) argued for the benefits of keeping community languages based on four
broad strategies; (1) the conservation of Australias linguistic resources; (2) the devel-
opment and expansion of these resources; (3) the integration of Australian language
teaching and language use with national economic, social and cultural policies and;
(4) the provision of information and services in languages understood by clients.
The most recent policy document is the Draft Shape of the Australian
Curriculum (Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2011),
which is the latest attempt to develop a policy on the national level. The draft pol-
icy calls for programs that do justice to the current state of languages and en-
courage their revival and maintenance. This is proposed to be implemented
through four main program types: (1) second language learning; (2) home user
language maintenance and development; (3) language revival (including language
revitalisation, language renewal and language reclamation); and (4) languages
ecology (learning about the target language, learning about the languages in the
region, and learning about Australian Languages) (Australian Curriculum Assess-
ment and Reporting Authority, 2011, p. 23). The policy recommends that all stu-
dents learn languages across the Foundation to Year 8 span and that the curricu-
lum should provide for continuing learning through to the senior secondary years.
The policy is based on the indicative allocation of hours of 300400 from Founda-
tion to Year 6, 130160 hours in Years 78 and another 130160 in Years 910.
Finally students would receive 200240 hours across Years 11 and 12 (Australian
Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2011, p. 23). This policy,
Chapter 3. Language policy context

however, is unlikely to have any major impact on the smaller community lan-
guages, as the focus remains on the numerically strong and economically (and
politically) significant languages.

3.3.3 The Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP)

The Adult Migrant English program (AMEP) is the most significant long-standing
language policy innovation in Australia with a program assisting immigrants in
their English. The program was established in the late 1970s within the framework
of the Galbally report (1978). Depending on immigration department criteria eli-
gible candidates can access varied number of hours of English language instruc-
tion. See Table 11.
To take advantage of the AMEP program migrants must register within three
months of gaining permanent residency or arriving in Australia and they need to
begin classes within one year of registering (Department of Immigration and
Citizenship, 2008). Even though the courses can be undertaken through full time,
part time and distance learning modes, these time restrictions have been shown to
cause difficulties for many, especially for refugee background learners and for
women with young children.
Other language programs are offered to migrants through the Department of
Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR). The first two of
these are employment related and the third is for school-aged migrants. The
Language, Literacy and Numeracy Program (LLNP) program is offered for those
migrants who are having difficulty finding employment because of problems with
literacy or low levels of English language ability. It provides migrants with up to
800 hours of language, literacy and numeracy instruction (Department of Immi-
gration and Citizenship, 2008). To be eligible for entry into this program appli-
cants must register through Centrelink to be a job seeker and have either already
completed the AMEP course or have not been eligible to access AMEP courses
(Department of Immigration and Citizenship, 2008). Free childcare for under
school age children is provided while undertaking AMEP but not for any other
education programs (Department of Immigration and Citizenship, 2008).

Table 11. AMEP number of hours available according to entry type

Category Number of hours

Permanent adult migrants up to 510 hours

Refugee and humanitarian entrants under 25 years of age* up to 910 hours
Refugee and humanitarian entrants over 25 years of age* up to 610 hours
(Adapted from: Department of Immigration and Citizenship, 2008, p. 11)
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

Similar to the LLNP, the Workplace English Language and Literacy (WELL) Pro-
gram seeks to improve workplace literacy and language ability. It does this through
providing funding, rather than courses themselves, to instruct workers in lan-
guage, literacy and numeracy (Department of Immigration and Citizenship, 2008).
A separate program is offered in the school system to support those with limited
English language proficiency. The English as a Second Language for New Arrivals
(ESL-NA) Program was designed to support school-aged migrants under the age
of 18 who need English language support in order to enter mainstream schooling
(Department of Immigration and Citizenship, 2008).

3.3.4 Language learning other than English for immigrants

Migrants have three main avenues for learning languages other than English and
these avenues are important channels for language maintenance. The first avenue
is LOTE, Languages Other Than English, which is available for school-aged chil-
dren through the primary and secondary education system. LOTE programs vary
from state to state as education policy is in the hands of the Commonwealth gov-
ernment, while policy implementation is the responsibility of the individual states.
The presence of a broad range of immigrant languages (over 250) are rather chal-
lenging in the context of LOTE provision and the languages offered in a particular
locality or school are dependent of a number of factors of which the two main ones
are the numerical presence of background speakers and the availability of quali-
fied teachers. In addition, languages offered are not necessarily chosen with the
immigrant communities needs in mind. Other priorities based on language policy
arguments take central stage, such as the dominance of Asian languages after the
implementation of the Asia-Literacy Policy. Other dominant international lan-
guages such as Spanish, Italian, German and French also enjoy a relatively good
coverage. Consequently, the LOTE system does not fulfil the requirements of im-
migrant communities.
The second option for community language development or maintenance is
offered through the Community Languages Schools (formerly Ethnic Schools),
which are government funded. There are 1,000 community language schools op-
erating in Australia, which provide language maintenance in 69 languages to over
100,000 school age children ( ac-
cessed 13 September 2011).
Some Sudanese languages are taught in Australia, but their provision varies
across states. For example, Dinka is taught in New South Wales, South Australia
and Victoria, Bari is taught in NSW and South Australia, and Nuer is taught in
South Australia (Community Languages Australia, 2007b). African communities
are classified as emerging communities, and the language provision and setting
Chapter 3. Language policy context

up new schools for these communities has several obstacles. A report published by
Community Languages Australia (Community Languages Australia, 2007a, p. 11)
identified two main issues as: (1) attracting a regular and wide range of representa-
tion from emerging communities; and (2) a wide range of differing social, educa-
tional and financial needs in some communities.
The third option of community language maintenance is the setting up
Saturday schools which fully operate outside the government-funded education
system. Such initiatives, however, also require resources and significant commit-
ment from community members. These issues will be discussed in Chapter 9.


In summary, language and education policies in Sudan have shown a turbulent

history and a close influence of political, racial and religious agendas. While there
were numerous attempts to introduce no change languages in the education sys-
tem, due to the general state of poverty and political unrest these plans did not
eventuate. Arabic gained more and more space and power through deliberate pro-
cesses and measures of Arabisation and Arabicisation5 initiated by the North.
This (among other factors)6 had led to the longest civil war in Sudans history. On
the other hand, English is gradually gaining more power as a result of overt lan-
guage planning as English was declared to be the official language of the new inde-
pendent state of South Sudan. While Arabic is seen as the language of Islam and
the language of oppression, English is perceived as a global lingua franca, which
represents the future and paves the pathway for national economic development.
Teaching local African languages, however, continues to be a major challenge due
to the linguistic diversity and the severe lack of trained teachers.
In the Australian context, multicultural policies emphasise the benefits of
keeping immigrant cultures and heritage languages, the government funded edu-
cation system falls short of providing adequate support to the broad range of
languages spoken in Australian communities. Immigrant communities are left to
take initiatives into their own hands and organise their Saturday classes if they
were to encourage intergenerational language maintenance and the development
of literacy skills in these languages. These initiatives will form the discussion in
Chapter 9.

5. The term Arabicisation has many meanings, but in Sudan it is most consistently associated
with language ideologies of nationalism (Abdelhay et al. 2011).
6. Miller (2005, p. 20) notes that ethnic conflicts in Sudan have their roots in the unequal
socio-economic structure of the country.
chapter 4



In this chapter, I will explore discourses of displacement as voiced by three Lost

Boys who managed to escape the terrors of the civil war and found resettlement in
Australia after a long period of transition in Sudan and its neighbouring African
countries. Lost Boys of Sudan is a name given to thousands of refugee boys and
girls from Southern Sudan who lost their parents and fled for their lives, with the
majority arriving in Kakuma refugee camp where they lived for over 10 years. It is
estimated that there were 30,000 Lost Boys, but only approximately 12,000 sur-
vived the journey and reached Kakuma camp (Abusharaf, 2002, p. 69). Thousands
of these children were then resettled in Western countries including the U.S.,
Canada and Australia.
As the focus of my analysis is on narratives of displacement, I will begin by
providing a theoretical overview of narrative analysis with a particular focus on
immigration contexts. Then, I will move on to discuss the data elicited through the
interviews with the three Lost Boys. My aim is to provide a background to under-
standing the social and psychological circumstances of the refugee journeys these
boys have taken and seek answers to the following questions:
a. How do participants frame their experiences in the stories they tell?
b. How do they evaluate their past experiences?
c. What identity work is involved in their telling of the stories?
The central concepts for analysis include spatio-temporal references as key fea-
tures of narratives about dislocations and relocations (Baynham, 2009, p. 135) and
positioning as a discourse strategy for identity work. I also seek to provide an
account of how participants position themselves to their stories and what identity
labels they use (e.g. refugee or Lost Boy, etc.) referring to themselves in the past
(the story world) and in the present (the interactional world of the sociolinguistic
interview setting). Finally, what connotations do these identity labels evoke for
them? For this exploration I will draw on the broader concept of agency in narra-
tives. Agency here is defined as the degree of activity and initiative that narrators
attribute to themselves as characters in particular story worlds (Relao Pastor
& De Fina, 2005, p. 41).
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

The discussion draws on structured elicited interviews conducted with Lost

Boys of Sudan. Although there were both boys and girls among the Lost Boys,
the term clearly has a gender bias. When I asked participants to explain why this
term was used as the generic term referring to all the children who travelled
through this journey, the answer was that the majority of children fleeing from
their homes were boys, since the enemy was more likely to target boys rather than
girls. Also, the boys were often out in the fields minding the cattle and the goats
and when they found their villages destroyed they fled straight from the fields
without their families. In any case, this framing of the story was of interest in it-
self for narrative analysis, but due to space limitations I will not explore this
dimension in detail. For the purpose of our discussion it is suffice to note that
both girls and boys were part of this journey, but in this chapter all the Lost
Boys were male.
In the literature there is a differentiation made between canonical and non-
canonical narratives, the former referring to narratives elicited through interviews
and the latter referring to self-initiated narratives (or small stories) typically
occurring through natural conversation (Ochs & Capps, 1996; Relao Pastor & De
Fina, 2005). In this chapter I combine the theoretical and analytical tools of both
types, and I will argue that the division between elicited and non-elicited narra-
tives is not always clear cut, as narrators often digress and initiate their own stories
in elicited interviews. These digressions offer rich data sources for exploring posi-
tionings and identity dimensions.

4.1 Displacement

Displacement for Southern Sudanese refugees was a long, drawn-out process in-
volving multiple relocations in multiple countries. The studys participants had to
run for their lives through numerous dangerous and life-threatening events and
circumstances. In the sample collected for this study, thirty (40%) respondents
transitioned first though Egypt and 28 (37.3%) through Kenya. Ten (13.3) re-
spondents went first to Uganda and eight (10.7%) went through Uganda as a
secondary transition place, while six respondents (8%) went to Kenya and four
(5.3%) temporarily relocated to Sudan in their second phase of dislocation.
Several respondents moved on again to a third relocation place: six respondents
(8%) went to Kenya and one (1.3%) to Uganda. Two respondents had a fourth
relocation place including one (1.3%) in Uganda and one (1.3%) in Kenya.
See Table 12 for details.
Chapter 4. Displacement

Table 12. Number of respondents by transition countries and stages

Countries Transition 1 Transition 2 Transition 3 Transition 4

N % N % N % N %

Egypt 30 40
Ethiopia 7 9.3
Kenya 28 37.3 6 8 6 8 1 1.3
Uganda 10 13.3 8 10.7 1 1.3 1 1.3
Sudan 4 5.3

Cairo in Egypt and Kakuma in Kenya were the most common locations in the first
country of transition with 26 (34.7%) respondents in each. Kakuma (Kenya) with
three (16.7%) respondents and Adjumani (Uganda) with four (22.2%) were the
more common locations as the secondary transition points. Among those who
then transitioned to a third country, Kakuma in Kenya was then again the most
common location place with five (71.4%) participants reporting they had
been through that camp. For the average years spent in various transitions, see
Table 13.
Considering the long refugee journey taken by the Lost Boys, it is obvious that
these individuals would have rich stories to share about their journey and lan-
guage use during this transition time. Therefore, participants were recruited to a
special themed interview focussing on their journey. The interviews were designed
to maximise in-group trust and minimise the outsiders intrusion. Therefore, it
was decided that a peer-group member who was a Lost Boy himself would be best
to carry out the interviewing based on a list of questions prepared in advance in
consultation with the research team. This strategy was chosen with the aim to
encourage co-tellings as much as possible.

Table 13. Average years in transition

N Minimum Maximum Mean SD

Q12.1 Years in country 1 74 1 15 5.62 3.766

Q12.2 Years in country 2 18 1 17 5.56 4.706
Q12.3 Years in country 3 7 2 13 8.43 3.910
Q12.4 Years in country 4 2 1 3 2.00 1.414
Total Years in Transition 74 1 17 7.82
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

4.2 Narrative mode of discourse

The classical minimal requirements for a text to count as a narrative is to have two
sequentially connected events described by sequential organisation of the narra-
tive clause (Labov & Waletzky, 1967). Labov and Waletzky (1967) collected a large
number of oral narratives from a broad range of narrators in order to identify the
structural requirements which fulfil the functional requirement of telling about
past experience. While Labov and Waletzky (1967) distinguished between two
main functions of narratives, (1) the referential function and (2) the evaluative
function, their focus was on the structural and linguistic properties which fulfil
these two functions. Narrative is the encoding of past experiences that took place
at a specific point or during a specific interval in a past time story-world (Polanyi
1985, cited in Georgakoupolou & Goutsos, 1997, p. 42). Narrative modes of
discourse can be distinguished from non-narrative modes by a number of criteria.
Bruner (1986) contrasted narrative mode with paradigmatic or logico-sientific

4.2.1 Sequentiality, temporality and spatiality

Epistemologically, there is a conceptual trend towards drawing out the spatialities

and temporalities of transnational and diasporic experience (Christou & King,
2010, p. 638), and discourses of displacement offer rich analytical opportunities
for such spatial and temporal explorations.
Narratives of displacement are about the narrators journey from the home-
land, and they usually have both physical and emotional aspects. Metaphorically,
there are two landscapes that migrants reconstruct in their memories of the home
they left behind: the geographical landscape of their homeland and the emotional
landscape of the people they left behind as well as the pain and the joy connected
with the journey of escape. In this sense, one can distinguish between territorial,
place-based reality and the psychological, imaginative-based context (Christou
& King, 2010). The place-based reality of the journey can be realised in discourse
through anchoring the stories in the landscape of the geographical points in the
journey, while the psychological and imaginative-based context can be recon-
structed through the evaluative framing of memories of people and the activities
and events that happened on the journey.
Another dimension of the displacement discourse is the contrasting re-
enactment of the there and then spatio-temporal relations with the here and
now of settlement. As Baynham argues, life-stories of migration are particularly
rich in accounts of spatial and temporal orientation (2009, p. 131). The duality
of physical and moral displacement can be studied through the spatialisation
Chapter 4. Displacement

strategies narrators adopt. Such strategies involve the use of deictic devices to refer
to places, spaces and locations, since deictic shifts serve the purpose of positioning
in discourse (De Fina, 2009, p. 119).
While stories are typically told in the chronological order in which the past
events happened, sometimes the order of events is changed for rhetorical pur-
poses by using flashbacks or slow disclosures to enhance the dramatic effect (Ochs
& Capps, 1996). Narrators also often shift from the Past Tense to the Present
(historical present) for evaluation (Georgakoupolou & Goutsos, 1997) and to de-
scribe habitual or typical events (De Fina, 2009). In this sense a deictic shift from
the there and then to the here and now functions as a positioning device and
expresses an evaluative stance (De Fina, 2009).
In addition to these structural properties, it is equally worthwhile to study
identity work and evaluation in narratives, a topic which I will turn to in the next

4.2.2 Narratives, identity and evaluation

Narratives offer a rich ground for exploration into identity and attitude as a
narrative is never only the story of what happened, but also a story that constructs
two landscapes simultaneously: the landscape of action and the landscape of con-
sciousness (Bruner 1986, p. 14). The landscape of action is the story-grammar
including the agent, intention, goal, situation and instrument, while the landscape
of consciousness is what the participants feel, know and think.
Narratives always include evaluation, because without this element they would
only satisfy the genre qualities of reports or summaries (Cortazzi & Jin, 2000,
p. 109). Evaluation is of primary concern for exploring past experiences of the
refugee journey and how individuals relate to these experiences to the present.
As narrators tell the story to an audience (interactional world), the act of telling
is a fertile ground for identity work (Baynham, 2006; De Fina, 2003; De Fina,
Schiffrin, & Bamberg, 2006; Georgakoupolou, 2002; Schiffrin, 2006).
At any point in time, our sense of entities, including ourselves, is an out-
come of our subjective involvement in the world. Narratives mediate this in-
volvement. Personal narratives shape how we attend to and feel about events.
They are partial representations and evocations of the world as we know it.
(Ochs and Capps 1996, p. 21)
Narratives are, therefore, modes of self-expression and tools for impression
management (Cortazzi, 1993). They are not precise representations, but reconsti-
tutions of the past from a certain point of view. As Bruner argues, we see the
world around us from multiple perspectives or stances which reflect alternative
possible worlds (Bruner 1986, p. 109). Goffmans notion of self is useful here as
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

it is defined as a social self which is aimed at performing the best possible and ac-
ceptable self in interaction. Goffman terms this aspect of self as face which be-
comes the motivational basis for the ritual organization of interaction (Cortazzi,
1993, p. 38).
The act of narration is a discourse strategy which offers choices for the narra-
tor. The first choice is to tell or not to tell a story and whether the story is
tellable in a certain setting to certain individuals or audiences. Unsolicited
narratives often referred to as small stories (Bamberg & Georgakopoulou 2008)
which are either fully or partially self-initiated by the narrator reflect the narra-
tors current state of mind and concerns. Narratives mark both mental points of
reference and social and symbolic points of reference (De Fina, 2009, p. 113).
Narrators often nominate topics for their story to solve their current worries,
complaints, and conflicts (Ochs & Capps, 1996). Therefore, these self-initiated
narratives offer an opportunity for rich exploratory analysis in various sociolin-
guistic and other qualitative research contexts. An additional choice is to do
with deciding which parts of the story to tell and which parts not to tell. As Ochs
& Capps (1996) argue there is a paradoxical relationship between remembering
and forgetting, since it is not possible to remember a story without forgetting
some parts (Ochs 1996, p. 21). In other words, narrators select certain aspects,
episodes, characters, places, events, details of circumstances in the story and
never tell the full story. It is interesting to explore, therefore, in sociolinguistic
interviews, what stories and events are told about language and what stories are
missing or expected but not mentioned.
The second choice that narrators make is deciding the way past events are
presented in relation to each other. While most stories follow a straightforward
chronological timeframe of events, narrators have an opportunity to impose or-
der on otherwise disconnected events, and to create continuity between past,
present, and imagined worlds (Ochs & Capps, 1996, p. 19). In this sense, narra-
tives transform lifes journeys into sequences of events and evoke shifting and
enduring perspectives on experience (Ochs & Capps, 1996, p. 20). Since there is
a dialectic relationship between the narrated experience and the narrators shap-
ing of this past experience, narratives are not only about the past, but also tell a
great deal about the present. As Ochs and Capps argue personal narrative simul-
taneously is born out of experience and gives shape to experience (1996, p. 20).
Therefore, narratives are versions of reality and embodiments of one or more
points of view rather than objective, omniscient accounts (Ochs & Capps, 1996,
p. 21). This means that the connection between the narrative and the narrators
identity are inseparable and narratives mirror the narrators reflective awareness
of being-in-the world, including a sense of ones past and future (Ochs & Capps,
1996, p. 21).
Chapter 4. Displacement

De Fina and Georgakopoulou (2008) have suggested approaching narratives

from a social interactional perspective (Social Interactional Approach or SIA) in
order to treat narratives as a social practice. This approach moves away from the
traditional Labovian narrative analysis where the focus was on the tellers story
and its structure to the interactional space of the act of telling where narratives
become a fundamental mode for constructing realities, and so as a privileged
structure/ system/mode for tapping into identities, particularly constructions of
self (De Fina & Georgakopoulou, 2008, p. 380). In this sense narratives are seen
as emergent and co-constructed by the narrator and the audience (De Fina &
Georgakopoulou, 2008, p. 381). The second major point about the SIA to narra-
tives is that narratives are linked to social practices at the macro-level. In other
words the micro level of talk-in-interaction provides the here-and-now which
cannot be separated from the broader social milieu in which the participants of
the interaction operate. Narratives are part of the macro-processes of knowledge
accumulation, transmission, social roles and general communities of practice
(De Fina & Georgakopoulou, 2008).
Narrative analysis, therefore, cannot be just confined to the analysis of the
story told per se, but also needs to link the story to the social practices it is part of.
The SIA approach particularly suits ethnographic approaches and can be applied
to elicited as well as naturally occurring narratives. De Fina & Georgakopoulou
(2008) argue that the dichotomies such as natural and elicited data are fundamen-
tally flawed, because narrative analysis is committed to exploring how any setting
in which narratives occur brings about and is shaped by, different norms and
histories of associations, participant frameworks and relations (De Fina &
Georgakopoulou, 2008, p. 385).
Relao Pastor (2008) studied the narratives of mixed immigrant background
adolescents in multilingual schools in Madrid and identified their narratives to be
of chaotic order displaying a strong moral stance of fitting in where narrators
positioned themselves as moral agents of the process of adjustment to their new
environment (Relao Pastor, 2008; Relao Pastor & De Fina, 2005). Through the
narration process immigrants make sense of past events, encounters and construct
new identities which often involves contesting established roles and claiming
social space (Relao Pastor & De Fina, 2005, p. 37).
For example, in the Australian context, Aidani (2007) studied the narratives of
Iranian refugees who constantly renegotiate their identities in the changing contexts
of historical and political events. Aidani discusses the multiple narratives of Iranian
migrants and refugees living in Melbourne, Australia, who left Iran immediately
after the 1979 revolution; the Iran Iraq war; and Iranians who are recent arrivals in
Australia. Refugee narratives are therefore part of a holistic story and form a con-
tinuum that is influenced by historical events that have caused their displacement.
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

4.3 The journey of the Lost Boys

The story of the Lost Boys is a story of an arduous journey in which they escape
from the terrors of the longest civil war in Sudans history. Sudanese left their home
country when their villages became the targets of the North. Villages were sur-
rounded by the Arab militia, women were raped and men were killed. While some,
especially the elderly, refused to leave, the young ones fled to the neighbouring
countries and started a long journey of survival through the forests and deserts.
This represents the emotional journey of the Lost Boys. They had no water or food
and had difficulty accessing the most basic survival resources. Finally those who
were able to endure the journey arrived in the refugee camps set up by UNHCR.
Most of the studys participants found refuge in the Kakuma refugee camp, which
is located in the Turkana District of the Northwestern region of Kenya, 95 kilome-
tres from the Lokichoggio Kenya-Sudan border (
about-kakuma-refugee-camp). The conditions in the camp were extremely harsh
with approximately 70,000 refugees living in temporary shelter. While the route of
the journey varied across groups and individuals, most Lost Boys followed the
following route:
from Sudan to Ethiopia >
Ethiopian Civil War erupted > fleeing from Ethiopia > back to Sudan
Pachalla (in Sudan, near the Ethiopian border, 3 months waiting for UN to
bring food. This was a southern Christian Sudanese camp where the Lost Boys
were met by hostile ethnic groups and northern soldiers)
Kapoeta (Sudan)
Nairus (last town in Sudan near Kenyan border)
Lokichoggio (in Kenya near the Sudanese border)
Kakuma Refugee Camp (Kenya)

4.3.1 Lost Boy 1 Goy

The first interview I will discuss here was conducted with Goy. At the time of the
interview he was 30 years of age and was relatively new to Australia he arrived
only one year prior after having spent 14 years in refugee camps (mainly in
Kenya). He started his education in Sudan where he completed 3 years, but the war
interrupted his schooling and he was not able to continue his studies until he
reached the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. He managed to complete his grade
412 studies at the camp and at the time of the interview he was studying in an
Australian university seeking a career in the health industry. He identifies himself
as Sudanese (Dinka), however, he also feels that he is Australian and calls Australia
Chapter 4. Displacement

his home. In the interview Goy generally sounds very conscious of what he is say-
ing he speaks very formally, with many pauses and selects his words carefully.
There are hardly any overlaps in the interview. Although this was not the case, due
to the careful way he spoke at times it appears that his answers were written out or
at least thought out beforehand. As explained previously, the interview was con-
ducted by a Lost Boy who was one of his friends.
Goy starts off his account of his journey with an evaluative statement my
story was a dream Excerpt 1, Line 1), which moves the narrative to the world
of irrealis, suggesting he is still struggling to make sense of the events that oc-
curred to him in the past. He refers to Sudan as his homeland and provides the
exact year when he was forced to leave his country. Time and spatial expres-
sions dominate the discourse as the lines that follow give a precise account of
the various locations and the timeframes of his relocations. However, more im-
portantly he makes evaluative remarks such as unfortunate (Line 7), I was
not due to have it (Line 8), and unfortunately (Line 14). His account describes
four main dislocation moves: Move 1 from Sudan to Pallataka (Line 3); Move 2:
Back to Sudan (Kapoeta) (Line 12); Move 3: Kapoeta to border of Kenya (Line
18) and Move 4: to Lokichoggio (Line 22). While he explains little about the
circumstances, he makes references to co-participants in the story-world,
such as the eight boys marching together (Line 11, Line 25) and the reasons for
the movements such as due to the same fear and militia from Arab (Line 15)
which is repeated in Line 24 due to the fear of the Arab militia. While the ques-
tion was generally about the story of escape from Sudan, the topic of schooling
appeared as a recurring theme during the account as Lines 5, 9, 10, 14, 26 and
27 demonstrate. While he introduced his narrative as a story of leaving Sudan,
he completes it as a story of leaving school (Lines 2627). This thematic shift to
a non-canonical narrative indicates that schooling was important to him dur-
ing the dislocation process. The theme of interrupted schooling will be dis-
cussed in depth in Chapter 5.
Excerpt 1
1. My story was a dream
2. that was not known anywhere in Australia today
3. I left Sudan in my homeland in 1989 [[MOVE1]]
4. marching with some of my eight mates
5. to a place named for school known as Pallataka
6. from there a dwelt for three years
7. unfortunate
8. I took an opportunity which I was not due to have it
9. we ((were)) chased by an Arab militia from the schooling
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

10. where I began from class 1 to class 3

11. I made the way with my eight mates
12. to a place one of the districts in Sudan known as Kapoeta [[MOVE 2]]
13. and in Kapoeta we stay for a short while
14. in which we unfortunately could not get a school
15. due to the same fear and militia from Arab as well
16. a:h the second stage of my movement went on
17. Arab continued marching on to the territory of district called Kapoeta
18. which forced us to move nearly to the border of Kenya [[MOVE3]]
19. eastern part of Africa for a while
20. it took us six month
21. then we marched from Nairus
22. hmmm to Lokichoggio[[MOVE 4]]under the care of UNHCR
23. so I left Sudan generally
24. due to the fear of the Arab militia which forced me out
25. with my eight group
26. under the school (....) of preschool
27. this how I left the school
Goys account is also rich in emotive expressions. His discourse reflects the mixed
emotions of fear of the Arab militia (Lines 15, 24), missing his relatives back home
and his desire to return to Sudan. In his response to the facilitators question about
his home he uses some highly emotive expressions. In his first response he talks
about fear (he mentions this word seven times), love and his motivation to return
to Sudan. In this one utterance, although he was asked about the past, his response
relates to the past, present and future at the same time (Excerpt 2, Lines 46).
Contrary to the emotional aspect of the topic and the traumas that the inter-
view may have evoked, Goys account of the journey is rather structured and for-
mal in its presentation suggesting that he has performed various versions of this
story to different audiences. He uses cohesive devices such as enumerators to
organise his points, such as three things come to my mind ... the first...the second...
the third (Excerpt 2, Lines 1, 4, 5 and 6). From the interview it is evident that
Goys reminiscing about his journey is mainly concerned with the people whom
he left behind. He self-nominates this topic for elaboration (Excerpt 2, Line 12)
and refers to them with several referring expressions such as the people whom Im
leaving and part of my relatives. He then elaborates about them by giving a back-
ground statement they live in Sudan and I cant see them anyway (Excerpt 2, Line
16). The discourse marker anyway suggests that he is reprising from a concessive
statement which should have preceded this line. The solution comes later by trying
to keep in contact through chat: we chat and we talk and we love one another
Chapter 4. Displacement

(Excerpt 2, Line 18). His redundant use of the plural personal pronoun we is a
rhetorical device that reflects his strong attachment to his people and his desire to
reconnect with them.
Excerpt 2
Goy 1. Three things came to my mind
2. when I thought of Sudan
3. my journey from Sudan
4. the first thing is the fear
5. the second is how I love the people I have left
6. the third thing is how I will be going back
Facilitator 7. Hmmm can you elaborate any things you have mentioned
8. should be in love the country you know
9. should love the people you have left
10. or should things you have mentioned
11. can you elaborate
Goy 12. Yea:h with the people whom Im leaving
13. are part of my relatives
14. immediate relatives
15. they live in Sudan and
16. I cant see them anyway
17. so I called them beloved people
18. we chat and we talk and we love
19. one another in the same area
20. a:h secondly to the same reason is (...)
21. how fear had inflict- into my feeling is
22. I feel like thieves (...) the Arabic some of (them) might steal
there there I dont think could be there
23. but the fear is still inflicted
When prompted about the identity label Lost Boy (in Excerpt 3, Lines 45)
Goy gives an explanation of the term and does not express any objection to oth-
ers referring him a Lost Boy. Still, his stance reflects a discourse strategy which
distances him from the facilitators question. He starts his response with a repe-
tition of the facilitators question and continues by giving an objective defini-
tion of what the term means (see Lines 919). His explanation reflects his stance
of taking the question as an enquiry about the actual meaning of the term and
whether the term is true in his case, rather than a stance of expressing his emo-
tions about being called a Lost Boy. This discourse strategy serves as a tool to
avoid the facilitators face-threatening act of asking about identity. He only
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

relates the question to himself personally towards the end of the turn as Im the
second one (Excerpt 3, Line 20). This careful treatment of his identity is also
reflected in the way he uses the third person plural pronoun they (Excerpt 3
Lines 1112) to refer to the Lost Boys, and by doing this he positions himself as
an outsider.
Excerpt 3
Facilitator 1. Okay a:h next question asks
2. what does it mean to you
3. that people may refer you as one of the lost boy
4. what does it mean to you when some people
5. you know refer to you as one of the lost boy [[LOST BOY]]
Goy 6. Yeah people call me lost boy and
7. somebody who((x2)) is willing to refer to
8. to me as a lost boy is not anywhere wrong [[EVIDENTIAL]]
9. lost boy in real sense
10. is a names which were given to those of my age
11. whom I have described in the first place as how they left
through transition
12. they left their parents generally
13. or from their homeland
14. marching to different country (.) or displace areas of the dis-
trict within Sudan
15. and hence they end up in a refugees camp
16. which they found an opportunities to go
17. to the Western countries
18. particularly in America
19. whom they were referred the first lost boy
20. and now Im the second one
21. found to be in Australia
22. referred to be a lost boy
23. in a sense that (.) the same transition that made the lost boy
went to America
24. had made me to come to Australia
25. so: wherever (.) at any time (.) to refer me as a lost boy
26. is not wrong in any sense [[EVIDENTIAL]]
In summary, Goys discourse strategies reflect a formal stance and a careful treat-
ment of the identity questions. While on the surface he is happy to be referred to
as a Lost Boy, he uses a discourse strategy to distance himself from this identity
Chapter 4. Displacement

which links him to the past. He wants to identify with Australians, but he does not
use a direct I statement when he is given the opportunity. Instead, he talks about
how other people refer to him. These discourse strategies are used to mitigate the
sensitive identity positioning in front of a fellow Sudanese Lost Boy and poten-
tially in front of those who listen to his recorded interview.

4.3.2 Lost Boy 2 Deu

Deu is 31 and he has been in Australia for six years. He had spent 15 years in refu-
gee camps over 4 years in Ethiopia and 10 years in Kenya. He had recently
finished his Masters degree in Finance. He was considering doing a PhD in
the future.
Deu frames the story of his journey by using his age as a spatio-temporal
reference point when I was just eleven (Excerpt 4, Line 4) which creates the
personal voice of his account, but he soon combines this personal voice with a
more formal account by giving the reason for his departure(Excerpt 4, Lines
67). In Line 8 he switches to the plural personal pronoun we which intro-
duces his account as a collective story of the people in his village. He uses ge-
neric terms to refer to the spaces of his departure such as my country (instead
of Sudan), our village (instead of the name of the village), then he uses exact
place names as references when constructing the spatio-temporal reference
points of the transition: a small town in Ethiopia called Panyodu (Excerpt 4,
Line 13); a town at the Sudan Ethiopia border .. called Pachalla (Excerpt 4,
Lines 2223); a town called Nairus (Excerpt 4, Line 27); a nearly town
called Kapoeta (Excerpt 4, Line 30); and Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya
(Excerpt 4, Line 33).
Excerpt 4
1. Thank you very much for the question
2. uhh my story the story of the journey
3. from my country to other countries
4. started in 1987 when I was just eleven
5. I left in December
6. and the reason of my departure was
7. due to the invasion of the village by the Arab militia
8. so we were actually displaced
9. and I had to run for my life
10. so: we ran out of from our village
11. and found ourselves on our way ah to Ethiopia
12. so: it took us three months
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

13. to arrive at a small town in Ethiopia called Panyodu

14. so: we were about 300 unaccompanied minors at the time
15. ah in Panyodu we actually stayed there for nearly three years
16. I went to school there
17. I went to grade one and two and
18. because of other civil wars in North African country
19. there was still another one in Ethiopia
20. ah we had to flee again and
21. I left Ethiopia back to Sudan in 1992
22. we: first arrive at a town at Sudan Ethiopia border
23. that town is called Pachalla
24. we were there for a while and then
25. we left again our way to eastern Sudan
26. I meant within eastern Sudan and
27. then to a town called Nairus and
28. then again due to security and
29. also conflicts in Sudan
30. the nearby town called Kapoeta was captured
31. so we had to flee for our lives so we head to Kenya
32. and finally 1992 93
33. actually we arrive at Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya

4.3.3 Lost Boy 3 Keer

Keer is 32, a Dinka speaker who has lived in Australia since 2003. He left Sudan
in 1989 and first went to Ethiopia, but then subsequently fled to Kenya in 1992.
Like all members of the Lost Boys group, he lost his family and travelled with-
out them. Keer did not go to school in Sudan because his family needed him
around the house while his brother was in school. He started schooling in
Ethiopia, where he finished two grades, and, then a year later he continued his
education in Kenya. There he finished primary and secondary school and started
working as a teacher. Meanwhile, he also continued his studies and completed
several courses in education and counselling. His present aim is to finish his
studies and to find a job.
He has positive memories of his homeland, even though he has been away
from Sudan for a long time and his escape brought him much suffering. He con-
siders it attractive, and wants to go back to visit long lost relatives or even to live
there. Keer identifies himself as Dinka and Australian at the same time. He feels
that as he was born in Sudan and as he speaks Dinka as his mother tongue, he is
Dinka. His Australian identity is rooted in being an Australian citizen and in being
Chapter 4. Displacement

an equal member of Australian society. He finds the people in Australia generally

tolerant of each other, but he mentions that sometimes his racial identity is a source
of problems.
Keer started describing his refugee journey in a report style, which is charac-
terised by short move statements between various localities in Sudan, Ethiopia and
Kenya (Excerpt 5). The beginning section of his account is factual and only con-
tains a small amount of background statements or qualifying statements. The first
qualifying statement occurs in Line 4, which is an identity statement as a refugee,
then he makes an evaluative statement about the war which was continuous by
then (Excerpt 5, Line 14). Similarly to Deu he uses deictic shifts and starts off his
account in the first person singular (Excerpt 5, Lines 17), then, switches to the
first person plural in Line 8 and continues switching back and forth between the
individual personal frame and the collective frame signalled with the use of
the plural personal pronoun we.
Excerpt 5
1. Yeah the journey begin ah in (...) 1989
2. I left my: home Sudan
3. and went to Ethiopia
4. as a refugee in Ethiopia
5. Pinyudo refugee camp
6. in 1991 the civil war break out in Ethiopia
7. then I left from Ethiopia (.) in May back to Sudan
8. a:nd we stay in Sudan border between Sudan border of Sudan and Ethiopia and
9. then from there we move across the border
10. to: to: to Nairus
11. at the border of Kenya and Sudan
12. that was in ah 1992 a:h we left Sudan or
13. I left Sudan and moved to Kenya
14. ah because of war which was continuous by then
15. So I arrive in Kenya in 1992 in June 1992
16. then we move (.) a:h we move at the border of Kenya which was Lokichoggio
which was the first place we settled
17. we move from Lokichoggio to Kakuma refugee camp
18. where I stay a:h in Kakuma
19. for about nearly thirtee:n thirtee:n years
20. from 1992 up to 2003 when I left Kenya
21. to Australia
22. I arrive in Australia in 13 October 2003 (...)
23. I think thats all about //the journey//
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

While his account does not offer details about the various places where he found
refuge, the spatio-temporal references dominate his account. He is careful in
providing exact references to time to validate his story. For example, he men-
tions the year 1992 four times in a short segment (Excerpt 5, Lines 12, 15, 20),
which signifies the year of his departure from Sudan and the year when he first
settled in a new country. His references to time often include the month and
even the date, for example in Line 28 he provides the exact date in 13 October
2003 of arriving in Australia and by doing so he attaches particular significance
to this turning point in his journey. He also puts emphasis on the duration of his
refugee journey, which is evident in the repetition thirtee:n thirtee:n years in
Line 19 of (Excerpt 5).
In the next section (see Excerpt 6), he was asked about the difficulties he ex-
perienced during his journey in transition. His response is a mini-narrative
which has structural similarities with the typical narratives as identified by Labov
(1972). Labovs narrative structure starts with an abstract which is a short state-
ment introducing the topic and the telling. This is usually followed by some
orientation statements which introduce the place, setting, characters and time.
Then comes a complicating action which is the backbone of the narrative
(Georgakoupolou & Goutsos, 1997, p. 60). The evaluation reveals the tellers point
about the story which is most relevant to narratives because they are self-initiated
by the teller and not elicited directly as, for example, through a sociolinguistic
interview. The resolution provides a solution to the problem and finally the coda
links the narrative to the present time (Georgakoupolou & Goutsos, 1997).
Keers account has several elements of this classic Labovian narrative struc-
ture. In Excerpt 6, he provides an orientation to the story (Lines 13) that consists
of a chain of connected events or moves. However, some utterances have ambigu-
ous narrative functions and they are difficult to categorise according to the
Labovian narrative structure. For example, Line 4 so we escaped from our village
could be equally seen as a resolution to the previous story as well as orientation or
complication in the current story. In Line 5 he introduces the main characters as
a group of young boys and portrays them as a courageous and heroic band who
travelled by themselves under extremely difficult circumstances. While there is no
clear complication line, Line 9 functions as the introduction of the difficulties on
the journey. These difficulties included starvation, lack of water, fear from wild
animals, the enemy and other strangers. The account continues with the descrip-
tion of the dangers and difficulties on the way during at least four physical or
geographical moves or dislocations: Move 1 (Lines 120) is the journey from
Sudan to Ethiopia. Move 2 (Lines 2129) describes the journey from Ethiopia back
to Sudan. Move 3 (Lines 3035) is the move from Kapoeta to Nairus in Sudan near
the Ethiopian border and Move 4 (Line 3642) is the transition from Sudan to the
Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.
Chapter 4. Displacement

In Excerpt 6, Keer starts his story by reiterating the reasons why he left his
home. In Lines 14 he frames his experience through the eyes of the village as a
community in which his family was just one group of many. In Line 5 his story
continues with a shift to the group of boys who are portrayed as independent we
travelled by ourself (Line 7) and this journey is portrayed as a heroic escape
throughout the jungle and in the forests (Line 8).
Excerpt 6
1. Yes I ((x2)) left my mother home [[ORIENTATION>]] [[MOVE1]]
2. because of some difficulties
3. as war break out in Sudan in year 1983 ((slow)) war affect most families in-
cluding our family
4. so we escaped from our village
5. and we were a group of young boys [[INTRODUCING MAIN CHARAC-
6. *we travel with few with few older people with us
7. and we travelled by ourself ((sic))
8. a:: throughout the jungle or in the forest up to Ethiopia
9. So on the way we have experienced a lot of difficulties [[EVALUATION]]
10. like there were no: enough food or theres no food at all
11. we were just eating some fruit from the trees or
12. maybe eating the killing ani- animals and
13. *then we eat the meat of the animal [[HIST PRES]]
14. *sometimes we dont ((x4)) get water and
15. *sometimes we might find some water
16. maybe dirty water then we drink those dirty water [[HIST PRES]]
17. also on our way to Ethiopia we were fearing some wild animal in the forest
18. *it gives us a lot of stress [[HIST PRES]]
19. so we experienced those situations
20. when we leave from our own home to Ethiopia [[END OF MOVE 1]]
21. and again when we move back to Sudan from Ethiopia the same things hap-
pened [[MOVE 2]]
22. civil war in Ethiopia affect us and had the result that most of our colleague
who were with us has been shooted ((sic))
23. some lost in the forest some of them some of us were been eaten by wild animal
24. *we dont know where they are [[HIST PRES]]
25. some of us were drown in the river
26. because we dont know how to swim
27. then we came back to Sudan and
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

28. the border of Sudan and a:nd Ethiopia we experienced a lot of hunger there
were no proper food
29. until Red Cross came and rescued us in that situation [[END OF MOVE 2]]
30. again when we moved from Pachalla to a place called Nairus [[MOVE 3]]
31. it was a long way there
32. there were no: cars we were just travel by ourself ((sic)) and
33. we were just walking
34. maybe the journey took 27 (days?) nearly as-((same?)) months to Ethiopia and
35. then from Ethiopia to Sudan and [[REFERRING BACK TO MOVE 2]] [[END
36. then we moved from there to Kenya [[MOVE 4]]
37. so we were facing some difficulties [[DIFFICULTIES]]
38. like thirsty there were no water no proper food
39. we were fearing wild animal [[FEAR>ANIMALS]]
40. *we are fearing other strangers [[FEAR> STRANGERS]] [[HIST PRES]]
41. enemies who were after us [[FEAR>ENEMIES]]
42. so from there until we came to Kenya in a refugees camp [[ARRIVAL IN
43. it was quite sad in the first place
44. but as we stayed there in the camp
45. there were a lot of difficulties we faced [[CAMP>ATTACKS BY LOCALS]]
46. a:h we were being attacked by local people
47. who are surrounded Kakuma refugee camp ((softly spoken from here))
48. they are called Turkana a certain tribe in Kenya
49. and the other people
50. they came at night and loot our properties and
51. *shoot [[HIST PRESENT]] our people ((spoken quietly until here))
52. some of our colleague has been shooted ((sic)) dead by local people
53. so those are the hardships I have been through [[SUMMARY]]


In summary, the stories of the three Lost Boys demonstrate their journeys of dis-
placement with several relocations across three countries. The stories provide a
backdrop to understanding the processes that shape Sudanese Australians identi-
ties and inform the language ecology. The stories were interesting from narrative
analytical points of view as they had very similar properties not only in terms of
their physical journey, but also in terms of how they presented it. In some sense,
the individual stories were part of a larger shared story, even though the co-telling
Chapter 4. Displacement

did not seem to occur with the interlocutor to a great extent. Participants seemed
to give their story as part of the research project and focussed on those aspects
which were tellable. As Ochs & Capps (1996, p. 32) argue:
Adherence to a dominant narrative is also community-building in that it
presumes that each member ascribes to a common story. Reliance solely on a
dominant narrative, however, may lead to oversimplification, stasis, and irrecon-
cilable discrepancies between the story one has inculcated and ones encounters
in the world.

The individual narratives presented here serve the function of collective identifica-
tion through the telling of the shared past events; on the other hand, they also
serve the purpose of creating a new social space, that of the hero and the resilient
individual who has endured extreme circumstances.
Spatio-temporal references were used frequently in the accounts of the
journey. These references form the main themes of the accounts. Participants
attempted to give accurate locations of their whereabouts seemingly trying to
be cooperative and give truthful and accurate responses to the questions. These
spatio-temporal themes, however, also acted as a scaffolding strategy and an
avoidance strategy. As the interlocutor asking the questions was also one of the
lost boys, there was a great deal of shared knowledge and experience which
rendered implicit modes of telling. This shared knowledge is termed the inner-
horizon of the text which is the knowledge that the speaker (or writer) assumes
consciously or unconsciously that the hearer or reader shares with him or
her (Agar & Hobbs, 1982, p. 9). Retrospectively, having a trusted outsider as
an interviewer would have elicited quite different, potentially more evaluative,
accounts. Our participants were rather formal in their discourse, and this sug-
gests that they have developed a certain form of canonical narrative showing
characteristics of hegemonic discourses (Baynham, 2005). It seemed that a
canonical refugee story was produced in response to the objectified role of par-
ticipants as Lost Boys, and that of refugees. Participants co-operated well by
performing, at least to some extent, the refugee story that they imagined the
researchers expected from them.
An additional aspect of the narrative was the use of tenses. While some of the
grammatical tenses were realised incorrectly due to English proficiency issues, as
the data suggests, the historical present was also occasionally used to refer to the
experiences as frequent and typical occurrences which happened not just once,
but many times. This is consistent with findings in other narrative studies (De Fina,
2009). The present tense also served the purpose of a deictic temporal shift which
had an evaluative discursive function and reflects the tellers attitude towards the
past event. See Table 14 for examples of historical present.
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

Table 14. Historical present in narratives

6. *we travel with few with few older people with us

13. *then we eat the meat of the animal [[HIST PRES]]
14. *sometimes we dont ((x4)) get water and
15. *sometimes we might find some water
18. *it gives us a lot of stress
24. *we dont know where they are
40. *we are fearing other strangers
50. *loot our properties and
*shoot [[HIST PRESENT]] our people

Respondents were not only comfortable with, but also proud of the identity label
Lost Boys. They demonstrated agency in how the past events unfolded and,
therefore, their narrative became a tool for expressing their agency and heroism.
The term Lost Boy had connotations with recognition of the past sufferings and
heroic survival skills. The term refugee however, was largely avoided and only oc-
casionally used. This term was associated with being weak and helpless. Survival
was dependent on their physical endurance and stamina, but social skills and lan-
guages also played a part. In the next section I will explore the role various lan-
guages played during the transition times in Africa.
chapter 5

Languages lost and gained in transition


In this chapter, I will explore language use during transition from Sudan to mul-
tiple locations of refugee camps and villages in Africa. This period was significant
in families lives not only as they had to endure some of the harshest conditions of
human survival, but also from the sociolinguistic point of view. Firstly, they had to
relocate several times and be part of new sociolinguistic spaces. These multiple
transitions, as this chapter will demonstrate, have had a profound effect on fami-
lies language choices and language development. First I will outline their typical
transitions and discuss the use of mother tongue (5.1), then in 5.2 I will highlight
the benefits of multilingualism during transition times, and finally I will provide
an insight into the educational opportunities, and their lack of, that refugees had
in Africa during their transition years.

5.1 Transitions and the use of mother tongue

None of the 75 families we interviewed arrived in Australia directly from Sudan.

Typically, transition was an extended period of time during which children were
born, participated in their first years of formal education, and grew up. On aver-
age, across all transition locations, families spent close to eight years (M = 7.82) in
transition, with one year being the shortest and 17 years being the longest time.
For some, this was the only home that they knew and where they made their first
friendships. While fifteen (20%) of the respondents in the parents cohort left
Sudan in the 1980s, a large proportion (N = 32; 43.2%) left their home country in
the 1990s and 27 (36%) left after 2000. The majority (N = 45; 60%) of these adults
left Sudan with their family members while a significant number (N = 30; 40%)
were separated from their family and had to flee, often not knowing if their loved
ones were alive, and if so where they were located.
They took diverse routes to Australia with some (N = 30; 29.4%) of the families
transitioning through Egypt, some others (N = 41; 40.2%) through Kenya, Uganda
(N = 20; 19.6%) and Ethiopia (N = 7; 6.9%). The route of transition had a profound
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

effect on family members language use, their educational opportunities and their
exposure to other languages, most importantly English. While most families
(N = 57; 76%) had only one transition country, others had two (N = 11; 14.7%),
three (N = 5; 6.7%) or even more (N = 2; 2.7%) transition locations across more
than three different countries prior to arriving in Australia. On average, families
spent five and a half years (M = 5.62; SD = 3.766) years in their first and second
(M = 5.56; SD = 4.706) transition locations, while this period was over eight years
(M = 8.43; 3.91) in their third transition country. These frequent relocations had a
detrimental effect on the educational progression and literacy development of the
children involved.
While most of parents (N = 33, 44%) came from the Upper Nile region, there
were some respondents from Equitoria (19; 25.3%), Bahr El Ghazal (N = 11;
14.7%), Khartoum (N = 6;8%), Darfur, 5 (6.7%) and Southern Kordofan, (N = 1;
1.3%). The majority used an African language as their main community language
during their childhood (N = 64; 85.3%), while Arabic was used by over half
(N = 43; 57.3%) of participants as an additional language.
During transition times, language use showed a somewhat different picture.
Still over half of the parents (N = 57; 76%) continued to use their African language
as the main language of communication, while nineteen (25.3%) used Arabic as
the main language. Arabic was also frequently used as an additional language with
forty-three (57.3%) respondents, which was exactly reflective of the use of Arabic
prior to their escape from Sudan. Twenty-two (29.3%) respondents also had
English and sixteen (21.3%) had Swahili as an additional language. In order to
diagnose a shift in community language use, we conducted a paired samples t-test
for differences in the use of African languages (a) prior to transition and then (b)
in transition. Based on the test (p = 0.015) we concluded that the differences were
statistically significant, between the use of African languages (a) prior to transition
and (b) during transition: African languages were reported to be used more prior
to transition.
In order to gain an insight into language shift patterns during this time, par-
ents were also asked (Q30 of survey) whether their childrens African language
skills have changed during the transition. While more than half (N = 39; 52.7%)
indicated that their childrens skills remained the same, almost a third (N = 20;
27%) respondents reported a reduction in childrens language abilities. On the
other hand, fifteen respondents reported an improvement in childrens skills, but
this result was later validated as referring to the natural language development
through childhood.
We also tried to identify whether the transition country (especially Arabic
speaking versus English speaking) had a significant effect on childrens continued
Chapter 5. Languages lost and gained in transition

use of their African languages or not. We used a Chi-Square test to compare fami-
lies with different transition routes, with the null hypothesis that there was no
difference between English-speaking transition countries (Kenya/Uganda)1 and
Arabic speaking transition countries (Egypt), at a 5% level of significance. The test
confirmed that there was a significant difference (p = 0.049) in childrens language
attrition, depending on which migration route they took. From this dataset, how-
ever, we were not able to establish a causative relationship, as it may have been that
some families in fact chose a migration route through Arabic speaking countries,
because they already used Arabic to a greater extent in their homes, prior to their
dislocation. Therefore, we explored this question further through collecting quali-
tative data, which I will return to in Chapter 6.

5.2 Stories of survival and interethnic contact

Languages played a central role in establishing interethnic contact. While in the

refugee camps, people were mostly located according to their ethnic group, multi-
lingualism was part of everyday life and an important tool for establishing con-
tacts outside ones own ethnic group. In an interview Keer, who spent fifteen years
in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, talked about his journey through Ethiopia and
explained that in the refugee camps people used Dinka to communicate with oth-
ers of their own ethnic background, but when the groups were larger and mixed,
they used mainly Arabic and sometimes some English. When I asked him about
the advantages of knowing different languages, Keer explained that there were
many situations where they were able to get support from the local ethnic groups
in other parts of Sudan and in Kenya, provided they were able to speak their lan-
guage. Language skills, in this sense, gave them safety and more opportunities. In
Excerpt 7 he explains that knowing Anyuak, the language of the Anyuak people
(a Nilotic ethnic group living near the Ethiopian border in Sudan as well as in
Ethiopia), was an advantage as they were able to get food (See Lines 116). Then,
in Excerpt 7 (Lines 173) he talks about the advantages of knowing Turkana lan-
guage in Kenya. As he explains knowing the local language of the Turkana district
near the Kakuma refugee camp was advantageous not only in terms of getting food
and information, but also for avoiding conflicts, as sometimes there was war
(Line 26) between the refugee groups and the local people. Those who spoke the
language at least on a basic conversational level, were able to explain themselves
and this made their everyday living safer.

1. The official languages of Kenya are English and Swahili, while the official language of
Uganda is English.
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

Excerpt 7
Keer: 1. Yeah(.) when when we go out from Ethiopia
2. you know(.)we were forced
3. and that was(.)you know(.)and that was because of war
4. we were forced to move there
5. and we came to part of Sudan
6. where there is a there is a a community called Anyuak ((x2))
7. those who usually speak the language
8. they get an advantage because there were no not enough food
9. and when they go outside (.)they can get food
10. whereby they speak confidential-
11. that (.) you know(.)they can speak freely that
12. so (.) you know(.)they can give them food
13. and those who do NOT(.)
14. they really suffer a lot because
14 they (.) you know(.)they cant communicate
15 So that was advantage
16 And the same things (.)too
17 when we came to Kenya
18 some of them quickly(.)you know(.)they came and they
learn Turkana language
19 theres another community in Kenya(.) Turkana
20 and this is where Kakuma based
21 so those who learn that(.)
22 you know(.)they got that advantage
23 because (.) you know(.)they use to get some food
24 getting information and all those
25 and when if it happened maybe there is a war with the Dinka
26 or the refugee camp
27 with the local
28 those who know the language(.)
29 you know(.)they get the advantage
30 bcause (.) you know(.)they wont be hurt
31 but those who DO NOT(.)you know
32 they cant get the same sort of an advantage
Learning new languages was, therefore, a natural part of their everyday existence
and a necessary prerequisite for their academic progress. Swahili, for example, was
useful for informal purposes, such as making friends and social interaction
Chapter 5. Languages lost and gained in transition

outside the school. Keer talked about the fact that even though Kenyans all spoke
English; they preferred to use their own language, as Keer puts it they all enjoy
Excerpt 8 (Line 23) and they really love to talk to you Excerpt 8 (Line 26) . When
Sudanese boys were meeting people in town they used Swahili with them to show
their respect and friendship. In fact, as Keer explained, many of the Sudanese boys
met Kenyan girls who later became their wives (Excerpt 8, Lines 2932). Lan-
guage, therefore, had a crucial part to play in such interethnic relations, which
lasted longer than the refugee years. See Excerpt 8.
Excerpt 8
Facilitator: 1. But was Kiswahili useful outside of the school
Keer: 2. Yes
3. like(.)when ((x2)) we travel
4. because(.)you know(.)some of the boys like me
5. me in particular
6. I used to come from Kakuma(.)coming to Nai- Nairobi
7. and along ((x2)) the way there(.)
8. you know ((x2)) you can speak
9. Kenyans they know English
10. but(.)you know(.)they like more to speak on the ((x3))
Kiswahili than they like speaking in English
11. so when you are lucky to be there
12. you can speak to them in Kiswahili
13. and if you go to the city like this
14. all of them ((x2)) they speak in Kiswahili
15. so if you dont know Kiswahili
16. you are less ((x2)) an advantage
Facilitator: 17. Hmm ^
Keer: 18. So (.)that was good
19. when we (.)you know(.)Kiswahili was really very useful to us
20. when we were in Kenya
21. So (.) you know (.) when youve found some Kenyans (.)stu-
dent or the other people
22. and you talk to them
23. they all enjoy
24. because they know you(.)you are from Sudan
25. and you can speak Kiswahili
26. you know(.)they really love to talk to you
27. so that was a very great sort of advantage
28. that we get ((x3)) from Kenya
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

29. and then some of the boys from us

30. you know they married Kenyans girl
31. and that was(.)you know ((x2))
32. because they know Kiswahili

5.2.1 Language as an advantage: Wimpy Markets in Nairobi

In Excerpt 9 Keer talked about the times when they were allowed to leave the refu-
gee camp for a short period of time, mainly for the purpose of arranging official
documents in Nairobi. He remembered these times as the lucky times when they
were able to feel free again. Leaving the refugee camp, and walking around Nairobi,
however, was not easy and sometimes even though they had the official documents
issued by UNHCR which allowed them to leave the camp verifying their refugee
status and their intention to return to the camp, the Kenyan police on the other side
were less sympathetic to their cause and unless they were offered some money, they
did not allow them to walk freely in Nairobi. His report echoes some of the human
rights issues faced by refugees living in Nairobi highlighted by Verdirame (1999)
including police harassment, arbitrary arrest and detention without trial. Keer ex-
plained that in those situations knowing the language of the police, that is Swahili,
did not make a great deal of difference, as they demanded money from them.
Excerpt 9
Facilitator: 1. Yeah(.)
2. so do you remember going to the markets
3. or where did you go in Nairobi
4. where did go
5. to the markets or shops
Keer: 6. We used to go to Wimpy
7. theres a place
8. if you ask any Sudanese about(.)
9. you know (.) what is Wimpy in Nairobi
10. there whereby we used to gather
11. and people talk socially or whatever =
Facilitator: 12. Really
Keer: 13. = And the market is there
14. you buy ((x2)) food(.)
15. you buy clothes and you talk to your friends
16. so Nairobi is good
17. It's really good
18. so that way we used to go Wimpy
19. we call it Wimpy
Chapter 5. Languages lost and gained in transition

Facilitator: 20. Wimpy

21. and you were allowed to leave the refugee camp freely
22. or how did //you//
Keer: 23. //Umm(.)// that was hard
24. you have to have the document
25. (a short section is deleted from here)
Keer: 26. if you come from Kakuma Refugees Camp
27. want to come to Nairobi or you come to Nakuru or down the
28. if you are given by the UNHCR
29. given you document(.) travelling document
30. the Kenyan police
31. they (.) you know(.)they can SEE thats a true ((x2)) docu-
32. but they (.) you know
33. they can still ask you SUPPORT this document
34. and what I will do is support document
35. that is to pay money
36. (short section is deleted from here)
Facilitator: 37. How did you communicate with the police in Kenya
38. in which language
Keer: 39. Both language (.) we use English and Kiswahili
40. so (.) but it doesnt help at all
In this respect knowing another language did not help their situation, as the lan-
guage skills they had were not appreciated. The officers sought bribes by using an
indirect speech act: Support the document was euphemism for give me the
money. For Sudanese, however, language skills were still very important, as they
became the tool to reinstate their dignity and basic human rights, such as being
treated as a genuine person who has a right to seek refuge and exercise basic free-
dom while in transit. At least they understood the language game surrounding
them and they were able to make a judgement about the other parties communi-
cative intentions. This was in important survival tool in terms of making sense of
their environment and the things happening around them, even though they had
limited or no control of their circumstances.

5.2.2 Language as a matter of life and death

Some talked about life threatening experiences where the knowledge of another
language made all the difference, and in some cases became a survival tool. The
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

following story is from Aleu (J-03) who during a life story interview talked about
the story of his journey from Sudan. He told the story of his survival when he
managed to escape from death because he was able to speak with one of the people
who kept him captive in a secret shared local language. As he explains:
Excerpt 10
1. [...] To begin with my life history (...)
2. I was working as a primary teacher when I was accused of collaborating with
the SPLA by the Sudanese Government security personnel
3. I was called out from my home at night (.) taken to a secret location where I
was interrogated (.) tortured
4. In the secret location I found other people there who had been accused of the
same collaboration with the rebel
5. It was because we are from the same origin of southern Sudanese
6. We were really in a bad situation and it was a matter of waiting death to all of
us who were there (...)
7. Fortunately on the second day one of my school mates during my primary
school days arrived there (.) and he was among the security personnel who
were working there
8. He did not have a way to assist me as he came in
9. He seemed as he ignored as he didnt know me before
10. He talked with his own language because he has got different language than
mine and he is from different section of the Sudanese community (.) which
11. he knew that I do speak the same language and he was saying that NO WAY
out from this place (.) only DEATH is awaiting you on the door
12. except if you are strong enough to escape to the bush
13. if you get a chance of escaping (...) I heard his advice
14. At a different time (.) when we were taken out and he helped me to escape (.)
15. and thats how I escaped death and I survived from that time until now
16. I did not hear about him whether he is (.) still alive or not
Language knowledge was crucial in getting medical services also. One respondent
(Duom, Survey 61) talked about his refugee years in Kenya and the difficulties his
wife had when she gave birth to four children in Kenya during the refugee years.
Duom left Sudan in 1992 and three years later Amer, his wife, followed him with one
child. They stayed in Kakuma refugee camp for almost ten years. He talked about
the years in the Kakuma refugee camp and the fear of being attacked. Even when he
arrived in Australia he continued to live in fear for some time. He also talked about
the children being sick all the time, but he tried to support the family by sending
money back to Kenya. He talked about Kenyans being hostile to refugees.
Chapter 5. Languages lost and gained in transition

If you wake up in the morning alive... then you are happy.

When in the Kakuma refugee camp, people didnt go outside the camp, so they
lived in a confined space because they were afraid of being killed or raped. Amer,
who was bilingual in Dinka and Sudanese Arabic did not have enough Swahili or
English to communicate with the midwives. She only started learning English in
Australia, and as she did not attend school in Kenya she could not speak Swahili.
Amer was not Duoms wife at the time though. She was married to Duoms brother.
Duom became a caretaker for her when her husband was killed by the Arab mili-
tia. According to Sudanese traditions, the brother of the deceased husband takes
on the husbands duties. Since Duom was trilingual, as he learnt Dinka from birth,
Arabic from around the age of ten and English from the age of eight, he was able
to help those who needed translation in English or in Swahili. His language skills
were particularly useful when Amer was in hospital in Kenya. After Amers hus-
bands death, Duom and Amer had four common children who were born in
Kenya and in Australia. None of these children speak Arabic, but one speaks some
Swahili which she learnt during the Kenyan refugee years.
Duom attended school in Kenya where he learnt English for ten years. The
Sudanese refugee community in the camp used mainly Dinka and Sudanese
Arabic. They never used Swahili among themselves, but this language was essen-
tial for school and in all communication with Kenyan officials and in hospitals. In
Excerpt 11 Duom talks about his wifes experiences in the Kenyan hospitals where
she gave birth to four children. He escorted her to the hospital outside the refugee
camps, as two of the births were caesarean and needed special attention.
Excerpt 11
Facilitator: 1. So which languages did you use in the camp
Duom: 2. (...) [18:40] We used Swahili at the school (.) and (.) in hos-
pital because most of doctors [?] are Kenyan and they used
Facilitator: 3. So (.) Amer gave birth to what (.) four children in Kenya
Duom: 4. Four
5. (short section cut from here)
Duom: 6. = She even had a complication
Facilitator: 7. What happened (.) what did you do (.) were there some
women there who knew about that kind of thing
Duom: 8. Yes (.) there were some midwives (.) but they spoke only
Swahili (...) local ones I had to translate for her (..) thats the
time her husband was killed (...)
This excerpt exemplified how important multilingualism was in the daily life of
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

All of Duoms children spoke Dinka as their first language, some spoke Arabic
and Swahili, which they learnt in the refugee years. Interesting to note that Duom
was 28 years of age at the time and his oldest adopted child was 18, the youngest
child was only eight months. With such a diverse linguistic repertoire in the fam-
ily and such age differences, it was obvious that language use and language abilities
varied greatly across all family members.

5.2.3 Picking up languages

Among the parents, only less than half (N = 31; 41.3%) had the opportunity to
learn English during transition. Participants who indicated learning English,
had, on average, just under eight years (M = 7.87; SD = 3.8) in some form of
English language education. Most of them (N = 28; 90.3%) learnt English through
school, while some others reported learning English through work (N = 2; 6.5%)
and everyday communication in the street. Typically, those who transitioned
through Kenya learnt English and Swahili and those who transitioned through
Egypt learnt Arabic. So when they arrived in Australia, Sudanese refugees were
not just Sudanese who spoke their African vernaculars and a Sudanese variety
of Arabic: they had developed a rich repertoire with diverse linguistic and cul-
tural skill-sets which they were able to put to use in diverse context, as the next
section will illustrate.
Parents reported learning African languages from birth, while Arabic was
picked up mainly at around the age of 68, typically through schooling. Arabic
was followed by Swahili, which many of them acquired, typically around the age of
1820 during the refugee years in Kenya. While most of the language learning
experiences of parents were limited to informal domains as they typically had very
poor educational opportunities, their children learnt English and Swahili through
formal schooling in the refugee camps, typically starting between the ages of 57.
I will discuss education in more detail in Section 5.3.

Table 15. Average age for starting languages by family members

Languages Fathers Mothers Child 15+

N Mean N Mean N Mean

CL 49 0.2 69 .43 36 .19

Arabic 44 7.89 61 5.9 17 2.53
Swahili 19 20 26 18.04 17 8.53
English 47 18.51 68 20.82 37 8.76
Chapter 5. Languages lost and gained in transition

Table 16. Average age for starting languages by family members (2)

Languages Child 1214 Child 611 Child 25

N Mean N Mean N Mean

CL 30 .33 48 .29 41 .27

Arabic 7 1 20 1.3 15 .87
Swahili 9 6.11 10 4.3 4 1.75
English 31 7.35 51 5.24 43 2.02

The diverse spatio-temporal aspects of the transition meant that families and indi-
viduals had a varied history of every-day multilingualism during this time. Most
respondents talked about gaining languages even if they did not reach more than
a basic conversational fluency.
The first story is from Bimbi (pseudonym, Youth 04) who was born in Kenya
in 1985. He is an interesting example of someone who grew up outside his place of
birth and never learnt his ethnic language. To the time of the interview he had
never been in Sudan, but he considers himself to be Sudanese. The reason why he
did not learn Dinka was that his parents used Arabic with him from the time he
was born and because he was growing up in Zambia and Kenya, he was never
around other Dinka-speaking children. While he never learnt his own ethnic lan-
guage, he has a complex story of language learning during his transition time. Not
long after his birth he transitioned from Kenya to Zambia, where he picked up the
local Bantu language, Bemba. Then he left Zambia and returned to Kenya where
he picked up Swahili. He arrived in Australia in 2003. His self-nominated best-
spoken language is English, followed by Swahili and Bemba. In the interview he
takes a positive and casual stance towards learning new languages during the
time of transition. He talks about picking up languages easy (Excerpt 12 Lines
17, 21,). He demonstrates a strong awareness of how various languages were re-
lated as he used this to explain why some languages are easier to learn than others
(Excerpt 12 Lines 1822).
Excerpt 12
Bimbi 1. Well (.) I was born in Kenya (.) in 1985
2. and then I left Kenya
3. and grew up in (.) Southern Africa
4. in a landlocked country called (.) Zambia
5. and I picked up Bemba
6. Bemba (.) is a Bantu language
7. and its a language Ive spoken almo- almo- almost all my life
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

8. And I can (.) I can speak the Arabic too

9. thats the language I (.) I started speaking first (.)
10. and then Bemba and then I left (.) Zambia
11. and went to (...) Kenya
12. and when I went to Kenya
13. I picked up Kiswahili so easily (...)
14. cause Kiswahili is better =
Facilitator 15. Okay
Bimbi 16. = to learn((ed)) Kiswahili
17. and Kiswahili was easy for me (.)
18. because the fact (.) the fact that I could speak (.) Bemba
19. you slightly bits (...) easier (.) cause the fact that (.) you know
Kiswahili is made up of (.) Bantu as a little bit of some Arabic
in it
20. the fact that I could speak Arabic and a Bantu language Bemba
21. I picked it up so easy
22. in (.) in TWO years I could speak Kiswahili fluently
In the next section (see Excerpt 13) Jok tells an interesting story about a goat. I
chose this story to illustrate how languages played a role in making sense of the
everyday happenings. Jok is a 17 year old boy who lives with his uncle Wal (43),
who is his guardian, as he lost his father in the war. Jok recalls a particular time
when he was in Kenya and he was interacting with the local people in Turkana, the
local African language. He makes several evaluative statements about the Tur-
kana and describes them as not that nice, brutal sort of people who come
looking for trouble (Line 1315). Still, he learnt their language to be able to ask
for things that he needed and he achieved a level of proficiency good enough to
ask for directions or get himself out of trouble. When the facilitator, who was a
white Australian male in his thirties, asked him for a story about a time when it
was useful to know the Turkana language, he gave a short account of a story
about a goat. He starts this story with some orientation statements in which he
describes the Turkana people and the setting there is this dry river bank (Line
16). The use of the present expresses the historical past which describes habitual
typical events such as we just like to hang around (Line 16), we go there every
day and they come looking for trouble (Line 18). The complicating action start-
ed when one of the goat ran into the house (Line 19) and the following action
was that he decided to kick it (Line 20). As it happened the goat belonged to the
Turkana people and the boy who was minding the goat ran to his people and
came back with his uncles who were very angry with Jok. Jok decided to hide,
Chapter 5. Languages lost and gained in transition

but the next day they caught him and this was the crucial time for Jok when he
was glad he was able to talk to them in the Turkana language. He expressed the
advantage of knowing the Turkana language with the rhetorical repetitive I was
able to say back (Line 43), I was able to answer (Line 44). His account empha-
sized his freedom of action through the learnt language as he didnt have to get
somebody else to explain it (Line 47) and he had an idea what happened (Line
50). His disposition to the problem situation was that he was able to manage the
situation through another language and this was a triumph over the other ethnic
group members. Most importantly, he was able to make sense of the situation
and interpret other peoples reactions. See Excerpt 13.
Excerpt 13
Jok 1. and also there was a little bit of (.) language called (.)
2. its a different tribe which lived in Kenya region =
Facilitator 1 3. Hmm
Jok 4. = called Turkana
Facilitator 1 5. Hmm
Jok 6. Yeah
Facilitator 1 7. Did you speak the actually local Turkana (.) dialect or
Facilitator 1 8. Did you ever have to get (.) have to use that language to get
yourself out of trouble in Kenya
Jok 9. You bet a lot of times
Facilitator 1 10. Yeah
11. can you (.) pick maybe ONE good example
12. you could tell me like what happened
Jok 13. Oh well you see the Turkana people theyre not that nice
14. they sort of brutal sort of people [ORIENTATION TO
15. they like((x2)) things their way and
16. say theres this dry river bank where we just like to hang
Facilitator 1 17. Hmm
Jok 18. They sort of own the whole country so: (.) pretty much we go
there every afternoon or every day to play and they sort of
like come looking for trouble [[END OF ORIENTATION]]
19. well (.) one time one of the GOAT ran into the house
20. and uhh I decided to kicked it
21. which(.) well I thought it was funny
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

Facilitator 1 22. Wait ((x2)) one of their goats ran into your house
Jok 23. Yep
Facilitator 1 24. Yeah
Jok 25. I decided to kicked it so:
26. but what I didnt knew was
27. that this kid who was looking after that goat ran back home
and came with a couple of his(.) couple his uncles I reckon
Facilitator 1 28. Uncles yeah
Jok 29. Probably I dont know what the story was but
30. came back pretty angry (.) and tried explaining it
31. but since they were too brutal they just like punishment in
wrong ways
32. I just(.) guess I hide
Facilitator 1 33. Hmm
Jok 34. = and they hanged around the house all day =
Facilitator 1 35. Yeah
36. = till they left =
Facilitator 1 37. Oh (.) okay
38. so did you //actually//
Jok 39. // = And then// the next day they caught me (.) which pretty
much I ((x2)) explained what happened and
40. sort of understand but wasnt (.) understandable
Facilitator 1 41. So do you think it helped that you could actually speak their
language to explain it to them
Jok 42. Yeah because (.) I couldnt ((x2)) [[*have]] understand
[[*understood]] what they saying a:nd what they asking
43. I was able to say back
44. I was able to answer every question they asked why I kicked
the goat(.) why I had to do it
45. so was pretty good knowing their language cause I didnt
have to guess =
Facilitator 1 46. Yeah^
Jok 47. = or get somebody else to come explain it
Facilitator 1 48. Yeah^
Jok 49. OR just like (.) sort of sitting there going I have no idea what
50. cause I HAD an idea what happened
51. the guy just keep going on about kicking the goat and Im
thinking theres no big deal to it
Chapter 5. Languages lost and gained in transition

Jok talked about the fact that he has lost most of his Turkana since he left Africa,
as there are not many people who speak Turkana in Australia. Still, his story dem-
onstrated that it was an advantage to be able to speak the language of his enemies.
He also picked up Arabic and he used it for communicating with other Africans
from the north. As he explained, however, he forgot most of it as there is no need
to use it in Australia.

5.3 Education during transition in Africa

5.3.1 Educational profile of participants

Participants in this study have shown a diverse picture of educational backgrounds.

The level of education they brought with them was dependent on a range of factors
including their gender, their age at leaving Sudan, the time and space of their refu-
gee transition, whether they originally came from rural settlements in Sudan or
from urban areas. In the survey respondents were asked to indicate how many
years of schooling they completed prior to arriving in Australia. Overall, respon-
dents completed 5.2 years on average in formal education. See Table 18. Parents on
average had 7.15 (SD = 5.199) years of education prior to arrival in Australia. A
child 15+ on average had 4.62 (SD = 3.076) years of education, a child 1215 had
on average 1.97 (SD = 1.602) years and a child aged 611 had 1.14 (SD = 1.113)
years of education on average prior to Australia. The database was screened and
only those children who were five years of age or older at arrival in Australia were
included in the dataset. T-tests were conducted based on gender. In the sub-sam-
ple of the children 15+ (those who were over 15 at the time of the interview) there
was no significant difference in their pre-migration education across gender in any
language or in the total years of education. However, the t-test conducted on the
sample comparing male and female adult respondents showed significant differ-
ences in the educational opportunities generally across gender, and this was in line
with previous studies (Hatoss, ONeill, & Eacersall, 2012). See Table 17.

Table 17. Education in community language prior to arrival in Australia by gender

of adult respondents

Sex N Mean SD t df Sig

Q6.1 Years of Male 33 1.70 2.417 2.550 73 0.013*

education in Female 42 .52 1.550 2.424 51.793
language before
arriving in
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

Table 18. Educational experience prior to arrival in Australia

Total years education for range of languages (N = 218*) all valid participants

N Minimum** Maximum Mean SD

Q6.1 Years of education in 218 0 9 .56 1.640

community language before
arriving in Australia
Q6.2 Years of education in 218 0 16 2.69 4.362
Arabic before arriving in
Q6.3 Years of education in 218 0 16 3.03 3.836
English before arriving in
Q6.4 Years of education in 218 0 12 .97 2.122
Swahili before arriving in
Q6.5 Total years of 218 0 18 5.22 4.806
education before arriving in
* N = 218, N does not = 291 because and a large number of younger family members were not of school age
or not born before arriving in Australia and three respondents were not able to answer the question for fam-
ily members.
** The minimum figures of 0 show that there were some participants who did not have any formal education.

While there was no statistically significant difference in the sample in terms of

their education prior to arrival in Australia according to age groups, respondents
showed differences in language specific educational experiences based on their
transition country.
Parents on average had 7.15 (SD = 5.199) years of education prior to arrival in
Australia. A child 15+ on average had 4.62 (SD = 3.076) years of education, child
1215 had on average 1.97 (SD = 1.602) years and a child aged 611 had 1.14
(SD = 1.113) years of education on average prior to Australia. See Table 19.

5.3.2 Education in Sudan

As one of the Lost Boys (LB 4, Jok) explained in the interviews, education was
not valued in Sudan. As he explained in the interview he was illiterate
(See Excerpt 14).
Chapter 5. Languages lost and gained in transition

Table 19. Average years of education pre-migration to Australia by language and family

Community Arabic English Swahili Total



Respon- 75 1.04 2.050 75 4.52 5.346 75 4.05 4.484 75 1.04 2.533 75 7.63 5.255
Spouse 48 1.15 2.760 48 3.71 4.744 48 3.50 4.631 48 .46 1.529 48 6.60 5.039
Child 37 .08 .493 37 1.16 2.478 37 3.22 2.869 37 2.16 2.977 37 4.62 3.076
Child 31 .00 .000 31 .52 1.208 31 1.42 1.587 31 .81 1.400 31 1.97 1.602
Child 28 .00 .000 28 .25 .594 28 .96 1.170 28 .57 1.103 28 1.14 1.113

Excerpt 14
Jok: 1. //I never been in school// in Sudan
2. because (.) I was in a cattle camp
3. cause a::ll (.) most of our people in Sudan do not value school as a (.)
significant thing (.)
4. as a significant factor (.)
5. so: (.) I want to tell you
6. I was (.) not educated I was illiterate
This was typical for boys and girls who grew up in the rural areas of Southern
Sudan. Another explanation came from an interview with one of the community
leaders who did not have a chance to attend school in Sudan and only started his
education in Ethiopia and later in Kenya. He later became a teacher in the refugee
camp in Kakuma. He talks about the cultural traditions based on cattle and agri-
culture and the fact that children had to help their parents look after the animals
and work in the fields. The boys typically went out to the fields to watch the cattle
or the goats, while the girls helped around the house and in the preparation of
food. This meant that families could not send their children to school as they
needed them at home and in the fields. As he explains being a good cattle keeper
was more valuable than being educated. See Excerpt 15.
Excerpt 15
Respondent: 1. Yeah, you know, life of Dinka was based on the cultural life
(.) like, you know (x2) traditional way of life, like farming,
keeping of cattles (.) the cultivation of the crops
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

2. So (.) you know (.) the school was not really (.) you know (.)
3. meant for all of us (.) you know
4. Young children (.) you know (x2) were taught on how to keep
this sort (x2) of cattle, goat and sheep and how to cultivate.
5. This is how we were taught when we were young.
6. (section deleted from here)
7. But still there was some school in Sudan,
8. but there were few people.
9. It happened to the parents, you know,
10. to have three children or maybe five of them.
11. You know, they can only send one to the school
12. and keep the four
13. You know (.) for keeping this sort of cattle (.)
14. keeping goats (.) keeping cows and all this.
Facilitator: 15. So how did they choose which child would go to school
Respondent: 16. Yeah, you know (x3) they choose based on their talents.
17. If you are good on keeping the cattle and all this,
18. they keep you there.
19. If one is careless or cannot keep the cattle
20. when they go and lots of cattle lost (.) you know
21. they send this sort of child (.) you know (.) they send him or
her to the school
22. So (.) you know (.) thats how they used to select children
23. who will go to school and who will remain with them
(Note: this excerpt was edited to ease reading ability, some
repeated words were deleted)
This story explains the low levels of literacy among participants in this study. While
the majority of rural communities did not access or have an opportunity to attend
school, religion played an important role in developing literacy skills in the local
African languages. For example, he did not go to school because he had to herd the
cattle around his village at home, but he was very active in the church. Therefore,
he learnt how to write Dinka, but he did not learn how to write Arabic. He learnt
how to read and write Dinka during his time in the Kakuma refugee camp when
he was engaged in the youth activities such as dance and other activities mainly
organised by the church. The young man explained (see Excerpt 16) that typically
in Sudan, those adults who went to church and attended Dinka reading classes
learnt how to read and write, while those who followed more traditional religion
stayed illiterate. At church the Dinka language was taught so that people can read
the Bible and do the church services in their mother tongue.
Chapter 5. Languages lost and gained in transition

Excerpt 16
1. Dinka has never been taught in the school but it was taught in the church.
2. So, you know, those who go to the church are getting, you know they used to get
this sort of advantage from going to the church and they get learn and all this.
3. But those who do not, (.) some of them are maybe,
4. you know (.) used to really believe in the traditional ways whereby (.) you
know, (.) some of them did not even know about God and they really(.) you
know (.) believe in some GODs.

5.3.3 Literacy and interrupted schooling

As the previous story illustrates, many of the children who went through the tran-
sition journey did not go to school before arriving in the refugee camps in Ethiopia
and in Kenya. Those who went to Ethiopia received their education in English and
also learnt some of the official language of Ethiopia. The conditions in the
Ethiopian camp were very poor and children were in large classes with limited
number of teachers and resources. There was no reading or writing material and
the space inside the classroom was so limited that they were sent outside the class
to sit in a circle and write the new words or letters in the sand. See Excerpt 17.
Excerpt 17
Facilitator: 1. Yeah, and what about uhh books or writing material Did you
actually write down what the teacher said or did you just
Respondent: 2. Umm (.) you know (.) sometime when we write this sort of
letters (.) the alphabet (.) we are forced to go hout ((out)) and
we sit in a circle
3. We sit in a circle and we have to write with our hand on the
Facilitator: 4. Into the sand
Respondent: 5. Yep (.) when they say A, we write and if you dont write well
(.) you know (.) the same teacher can come and rule your
finger like this and make it hard whereby you might cry
(section deleted from here)
Facilitator: 6. And what did the teacher write on
Respondent: 7. Umm
Facilitator: 8. Just in the air
Respondent: 9. Umm when we are in (.) you know (.) when we are inside the
class (.) there used to be a blackboard
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

Facilitator: 10. Okay =

Respondent: 11. = and the chalk and the teacher write A B C D and all
those =
Facilitator: 12. = Hmm =
Respondent: 13. = and when we seem to be understanding all this
14. we are asked to go out and we keep it in our mind
15. and the teacher can stand there like (.) you know (.) like a
dictation like a dictation (.) dictation (.) yeah (.) saying (.)
write A and we write A on the floor (.)
Facilitator: 16. Like dictation yeah
Respondent: 17. yeah yeah
There were 5070 children in the classroom and while inside the classroom there
was a blackboard, students did not have enough space around them to write on the
floor. So they were sent outside to practice writing the letters in the sand. They also
had the same method for learning the numbers, whereby the teacher called out the
numbers and wrote it on the blackboard. Then, students went outside to sit in a
circle and practised writing the numbers in the sand. While these circumstances
were extremely poor conditions for their education, the young man I interviewed
mentioned that in those days, that was not important to them as staying alive was
most important:
Excerpt 18
Of course, yeah, there was no education and we are not even focused on that
because there was war. We hear the guns and fighting here and there so people
were not even worried about education, but lives. (K. 27.10.2010)
Another important factor for students in transition was that a large number of
children were orphaned and they had to cope alone. They faced not only physical,
but the emotional challenges of being left without their family members and
haunted by the memories of the war. As one respondent (LB 04) explained:
Excerpt 19
1. In (.) Ethiopia I studied up to (.) class three and I managed it well
2. although I was facing some (.) constraint
3. because I was (.) unaccompanied kid
4. because there were no parents I was having no mum and dad
5. so we were (.) confined in the minor group
6. they called minor(.) they called our group minor
7. and we are responsible for our own things
Chapter 5. Languages lost and gained in transition

Interrupted schooling or poor educational provisions were the main factors in

refugee students language and literacy development (Hatoss, et al., 2012). These
findings confirm other research, which has highlighted the effect of poor educa-
tion during refugee years by many scholars (Brown, Miller, & Mitchell, 2006;
J. Miller, Mitchell, & Brown, 2005; Naidoo, 2008; Warriner, 2007b).


These accounts have demonstrated that schooling and language development

took extremely diverse routes for refugee children. Depending on what route
people took to escape from Sudan, their educational opportunities along with
their language use practices became very diverse. The people who migrated to
Kenya had the opportunity to develop their education within the refugee camp
school or, if they had the financial opportunity or scholarship, they attended the
Kenyan government schools. In Kenya the language of education was English
but they also used Swahili; in Ethiopia it was English and students also learnt
Amharic. Those who left Sudan and went to Egypt attended Arabic medium
schools. Generally the educational opportunities for those who were in refugee
camps were severely limited. The camp schools were set up as temporary schools,
often under a tree, so there was no physical shelter from the heat of the sun. The
teachers were untrained volunteers who were selected based on their prior
educational achievement in Sudan. Those who completed twelve years of formal
education in Sudan became the teachers for others in the refugee camps. In addi-
tion to the limitations caused by the lack of physical and human resources, one of
the major challenges was the mixed ethnolinguistic ecology of the classes. There
were also significant gender-related inequalities due to the continued traditional
gender role expectations where girls were expected to stay at home and look after
young children.
These factors are important to consider in the holistic picture of our language
ecology as they have explanatory power as to the diversity in immigrants language
skills and educational attainment at the time of their arrival. Refugee support pro-
grams, therefore, need to look beneath the surface and examine in more depth
about the histories of these opportunities prior to arrival in the country of resettle-
ment. These insights also remind us that refugee groups, even if they represent the
same ethnic group, cannot be looked at as monolithic, but need to be explored for
their diversity within.
chapter 6

New spaces of multilingualism in Australia


In this chapter, I will explore language use in diverse spaces of everyday interac-
tion in Australia. In Section (6.1) I will discuss the concepts of domain, space and
scales as relevant to dynamic sociolinguistic settings. In Section 6.2 I will describe
language use in translocal spaces (6.2.1) mediated through modern technology,
then bridging spaces (6.2.2) where immigrants interact with mainstream
Australians. Here, I will also focus on English and the language barriers which
impede interaction with the mainstream community. In Section (6.2.3) I will turn
to language use in bonding spaces such as in the church and in Section (6.2.4) I
present data on language use within the family home. Finally, in Section (6.3) I will
discuss language attitudes including perceptions of multilingualism. My aim is to
inform the language ecology from socio-affective perspectives. As this chapter will
demonstrate, multilingualism is a key element in the everyday life of the commu-
nity and heritage languages form an essential part of developing and maintaining
social capital.

6.1 Domains versus space and scales

While traditionally sociolinguistics has mainly been concerned with the descrip-
tion of fixed and bounded communities examined synchronically or over incre-
mental time-points (Coupland, Bishop, & Garrett, 2003, p. 154), researchers have
increasingly argued that sociolinguistic processes need to be reconceptualised in
the era of globalization (Blommaert, 2010). The concept of space has also attracted
much attention since globalization has brought social changes that cannot be de-
scribed with traditional, static and structural concepts. For example, one can no
longer treat any geographical location as a fixed locality isolated from the outside
world. Instead, localities are interconnected on multiple levels.
Localities and domains also need to be explored with due attention to the
power-dynamics between speakers. Migrants never move between empty spaces;
rather spaces are always filled with linguistic norms and expectations (Blommaert,
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

2010, p. 6). For example, in Australia, prior to the introduction of multicultural

policies, which became more broadly accepted in the 1980s, immigrants were ex-
pected to use English only in public domains. Such external expectations of lan-
guage use represented a power imperative that saw immigrants as subordinate and
deficient in their English ability. These attitudes created spaces where multilin-
gualism was seen as a problem, not a resource. These views were fuelled by the
assimilationist policies of the times that I described in Chapter 3. But, did multi-
cultural policies change mainstream Australians attitudes towards immigrants
and their languages? Signs of linguicism and linguistic paranoia are still present in
various pockets of Australian society and it is difficult to establish the direct im-
pact of policies on such negative attitudes. In this Chapter I will explore the atti-
tudes that Sudanese immigrants have experienced and how they have negotiated
power relations in their newly adopted communities.
The concept of scales offers innovative ways to study language use in socio-
linguistic contexts and allows for a more dynamic analysis than the traditional
concept of domains. While by their original definition, as Fishman (1991) argued,
domains are sociolinguistic contexts definable for any given society by three sig-
nificant dimensions: the location, the participants and the topic, it is important to
keep in mind that domains are to some extent imagined ideological constructs
since they only provide a schematic and simplified description of language use in
context. As Spolsky (2004b) argues, domains are diverse and, therefore, must be
established empirically for any given society.
Domains, as sociolinguistic constructs, therefore, should not be conceptua-
lised in static categories. The same applies to the category of place. For exam-
ple, in a place such as a schoolyard, language use is far from being static and
uniform; rather it is changing by the minute as different interactants enter and
enact different identities. In addition, public and private domains are not always
clear-cut, as a public domain can be private for the immediate participants,
while a private domain, such as the family home, can become somewhat public,
or transnational. For example, this happens when communication occurs
through the Internet or the telephone reaching relatives overseas and when us-
ing social media such as Facebook. Therefore, instead of using the terms do-
mains or places, it is more useful to think of them as spaces with dynamic
Hymess (1962) ethnography of speaking has traditionally been applied to de-
scribe communicative events as cultural behaviour. However, most of the elements
in this model (such as setting, purpose, ends/goals, key/tone, instruments/chan-
nels, norms/expectations, and genre) focus on, what I would call, to some degree
speaker-external factors or, at least, factors in which participants are embedded,
and circumstances which are beyond their control. However, discourse studies
Chapter 6. New spaces of multilingualism in Australia

and interactional sociolinguistics have shown us that speakers, in fact, take an ac-
tive part in shaping the very context in which they participate. Therefore, to
complement this model, it is necessary to draw on discourse theories and add
speaker-driven factors such as the speakers identity, positionings, power-relations
and the language resources of those participating in the interaction. Also,
traditional Hymesian ethnographies of speaking have tended to portray commu-
nication as a static cultural behaviour characteristic of a homogenous speech
community. However, as Schiffrin has argued, culture is continually created, ne-
gotiated and redefined in concrete acts between persons who are participating in
some kind of interactive situation (Schiffrin, 1994, p. 139).
A more effective research approach recognises that context, culture and iden-
tity are all constantly changing, fluid elements shaped through interactions
(Duranti & Goodwin, 1992). This approach fits poststructuralist paradigms in so-
ciolinguistics and draws on Gumperzs (1982) contextualization cues, Goffmans
(1974, 1981) contextual frames and the Bakhtinian (Bakhtin, 1981) dialogic per-
spective on the relationship between language and context. Duranti and Goodwin
(1992) have called for analysts to recognize that participants are situated within
multiple contexts which are capable of rapid and dynamic change as the events
they are engaged in unfold (Duranti & Goodwin, 1992, p. 5). According to Duranti
and Goodwin, context is a frame that surrounds the event being examined and
provides resources for its appropriate interpretation (Duranti & Goodwin, 1992,
p. 3) Therefore, context, as described by Hymesian frameworks, is far more than
the culturally and historically organised social worlds that discourse participants
inhabit (Duranti & Goodwin, 1992, p. 5). Similarly, Bauman and Briggs (1990)
have called for a performative view of speech events and criticised the static per-
spective of context:
positivistic definitions construe context as a set of discourse-external conditions
that exist prior to and independently of the performance. This undermines the
analysts ability to discern how the participants themselves determine which as-
pects of the ongoing social interaction are relevant. It also obscures the manner
in which speech shapes the setting, often transforming social relations. (Bauman
& Briggs, 1990, p. 68).

Instead, they commend research development led by discourse and conversation

analysts who recognise that communicative contexts are not dictated by the social
and physical environment but emerge in negotiations between participants in so-
cial interactions (Bauman & Briggs, 1990, p. 68).
Discourse-based ethnographies of speaking treat communities as dynamic
and heterogeneous and use an analytical lens which recognises the multilayered
and bidirectional connections between talk and context. Traditional comparative
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

claims that ethnographies of communication have offered need to be contested on

smaller scale groups and micro contexts, such as immigrant groups. As Bauman
and Sherzer (1975) have argued ethnographic investigations are particularly well
equipped to clarify [..] problem situations which stem from covert conflicts be-
tween different ways of speaking (Bauman & Sherzer, 1975, p. 115).
See Table 20 below for a summary of the contrasting features of traditional
ethnographies of speaking and discourse-based ethnographies.
Let me return now to the concept of space. While Fishman (1991)s name is
mostly associated with the concept of domains, he also used space metaphorically
to argue that when communities become geographically, socially and culturally

Table 20. A comparative summary of traditional and new ethnographies

Traditional ethnography New ethnography

aim generalizability and validity of mapping out the intricate interplay

claims about socio-cultural between socio-cultural norms as
patterns reflected in language use expected behavior and the partici-
as applicable to a given speech pants own invocation of these
community resources.
Context static and external to speakers a dynamic and invoked by the speakers
feature a process > contextualization
community homogeneous, monolithic heterogeneous, diverse defined by
defined by ethnicity and mother participation and action
participants representatives of cultural traits active individuals armed with a
and traditions variety of linguistic and cultural
also agents?
identity static, given, ascribed dynamic, negotiated, constructed in
also performed?
method etic description of cultural Combined etic and emic descriptions
practices and language use of participants behavior
Perhaps it is also more than merely
culture static, given, trait dynamic, changing, negotiated
talk surrounded by context part of context: Provides context for
other talk
Focus/ analytical Holistic description of a cultural, Voice, intersubjectivity, interpretive
lens social group or system (Creswell, authority and representation (Chase,
1998, p. 58) 2005, p. 660)
Ideology descriptive Critical
Researcher objective interpreter of situation Affecting the context, participator
Chapter 6. New spaces of multilingualism in Australia

dislocated, they need a physical breathing space in which the community can
sustain its cultural practices and their language, where xish can be on its own turf,
predominant and unharassed and such spaces become oases of authenticity and
centres of increased cultural self-regulation (Fishman, 1991, p. 59). Similarly,
Bourdieu has argued that a sense of social space is essential for successful
[a] linguistic sense of place governs the degree of constraints which a given field
will bring to bear on the production of discourse imposing silence or a hypercon-
trolled language on some people, while allowing others the liberties of a language
that is securely established (Bourdieu, 1991, p. 82).

Bourdieu further claimed that language competence could only be interpreted

situationally and in context, as individuals need to develop a certain level of mas-
tery of a socially acceptable language use in order to fit into their new space:
competence which is acquired in a social context and through practice, is insep-
arable from the practical mastery of a usage of language and the practical mas-
tery of situations in which this language usage is socially acceptable (emphasis
original) (Bourdieu, 1991, p. 82).

Using the linguistic market metaphor, Bourdieu (1991) argued that ones ability to
make language choices that satisfy the expectations of the linguistic market is an
important contributor to ones sense of knowing the place and self worth. As he
put it:
the sense of the value of ones own linguistic products is a fundamental dimension
of the sense of knowing the place which one occupies in the social space. Ones
original relation with different markets and the experience of sanctions applied to
own productions, together with the experience of the price attributed to ones own
body, are doubtless some of the mediations which help to constitute that sense of
ones own social (sic) worth which governs the practical relation to different mar-
kets (shyness, confidence), and more generally ones whole physical posture in the
social world (Bourdieu, 1991, p. 82).

While Bourdieus (1986, 1991) observations are mostly concerned with stylistic
and dialect variation, particularly in relation to class structure, the concepts of
habitus and linguistic markets are applicable to multilingual spaces in diasporic
contexts. For example, insufficient English abilities may pose a physical, social and
psychological barrier to immigrants interaction with cultural outsiders, and con-
sequently, to their successful integration into mainstream society. On the other
hand, immigrants mastery of their heritage language can provide them with a
continued recourse for self-worth and index their cultural authenticity and pride.
These positive psychological feelings can counterbalance the linguistic constraints
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

imposed by largely monolingual English public spaces such as formal educational

and employment institutions.
Another consideration in studying language use in dynamic spaces is the way
researchers conceptualise modern speech communities. Sociolinguists have been
grappling with the concepts of language community and speech community and
used these terms as a social aggregate in which language is used (Irvine, 2006,
p. 689). Contrary to earlier (Bloomfields) notions, which saw speech communities
as homogenous, contemporary multilingual speech communities are seen as fields
of action, where multilingualism, multidialectism and linguistic repertoires take a
central stage:
The repertoire and its deployment in communicative practice are now seen as
the crucial place where the relationship between language and social organisa-
tion lie (Irvine, 2006, p. 691)

In other words, it is not the language skills that form the centre of sociolinguistic
attention, but the way individuals and communities make use of these resources in
complex and dynamic social settings. Language use in contemporary social spaces
is, therefore, not without methodological difficulties and researchers need to look
beyond the static categories of settings, domains and participants.

6.2 Spaces of language use

6.2.1 Language use in translocal spaces

As stated in the introduction, translocal spaces created through the Internet offer
new opportunities for diaspora representations, including symbolic, semiotic and
real ingroup spaces, where they connect with relatives and friends outside their im-
mediate local community. A term which I introduced to describe such interconnect-
edness is Cyberspora, to which I will return in Chapter 9, when I talk about an online
learning community for mother tongue maintenance in the Sudanese diaspora.
Here, my focus is on language use with friends and relatives who are physically sep-
arated from each other. In our survey, we found that most families maintained strong
relations outside their immediate community, and they often contacted friends and
relatives in Australia as well as overseas. It was also common to keep in contact with
relatives in other Western countries such as the United States and Canada. In the
survey, we asked respondents about their language use according to some selected
communication channels such as letters, telephone, email and SMS. Table 21 shows
the diversity of language use, which included their African community language
(CL), Arabic (AR), English (ENG) and Kiswahili (KIS). Also see Table 22 for lan-
guage use with friends and relative in Africa.
Chapter 6. New spaces of multilingualism in Australia

Table 21. Language use with friends and relatives in Australia


channels used used used used used used used used
most most most most

f % f % f % f % f % f % f % f %

Letters 1 1.3 2 2.6 2 2.6 2 2.6 1 1.3 10 13.3 1 1.3 1 1.3

Phone 7 9.3 59 78.7 28 37.3 13 17.3 27 36 5 6.7 2 2.7 0 0
Email 2 2.7 2 2.7 2 2.7 0 0 2 2.7 25 33.3 1 1.3 0 0
SMS 0 0 3 4 1 1.3 2 2.7 3 4 32 42.7 1 1.3 0 0
Visit 5 6.7 53 70.7 24 32 10 13.3 23 30.7 5 6.7 1 1.3 0 0
F = frequency count, CL = Community Language, AR = Arabic, ENG = English, KIS = Kiswahili

Table 22. Language use with friends and relatives in Africa


channels used used used used used used used used
most most most most

f % f % f % f % f % f % f % f %

Letters 0 0 1 1.3 1 1.3 0 0 0 0 11 14.7 0 0 0 0

Phone 10 13.3 59 78.7 27 36 15 20 9 12 1 1.3 1 1.3 0 0
Email 3 4 3 4 3 4 2 2.7 4 5.3 19 25.3 0 0 0 0
SMS 1 1.3 2 2.7 2 2.7 0 0 2 2.7 24 32 1 1.3 0 0
Visit 0 0 8 10.7 4 5.3 0 0 3 4 0 0 1 1.3 0 0
F = frequency count, CL = Community Language, AR = Arabic, ENG = English, KIS = Kiswahili

Telephone was the main channel of communication with friends and relatives
in Africa and Sudanese families mainly used their African Community Language
(N = 59; 78.7% used as the main language) when talking on the telephone. Arabic
was used by a third of the respondents (N = 27; 36%) and for some (N = 15; 20%)
it was the main language of telephone interaction. For SMS and emails, English
was the main language used (N = 24, 32%). Approximately a quarter of the respon-
dents used English for writing e-mails (N = 19, 25.3%). See Table 22 for details.
The cross-tabulation according to age has shown that these modern media were
mainly used by the younger generation.

6.2.2 Language use in bridging spaces

When immigrants settle in a new country they need to build bridges with the
mainstream society. Such bridging is essential for successful integration and
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

settlement, and cannot be successful without sufficient proficiency in the domi-

nant language. The level of proficiency required, however, varies according to the
social roles, job expectations to which migrants aspire. In Australia, the term
functional English has been introduced to describe migrants level of proficiency
that allows them to conduct day-to-day operations in English. Following the
bridging metaphor, I define bridging spaces where immigrants enter into
cross-cultural interactions outside their immediate diasporic context to engage
with the broader Australian society. These are not only cross-linguistic, but also
cross-cultural spaces of interaction, and they demand the knowledge and applica-
tion of pragmatic and sociolinguistic competence. As immigrants usually represent
a numerical minority, they need to conform to mainstream rules and expectations,
but this is a negotiated and dialogic process which provides them with an oppor-
tunity to construct their new identity. Due to space limitations, I have chosen to
cover one such bridging space, the school.

Language use at school

School is the most important bridging space for the younger generations. While
competence in English is a key to successful integration into the education system,
for most participants in this study, English posed major challenges. Most of the
Sudanese youth who participated in this study arrived in Australia with limited or
no English and they had limited educational opportunities in Africa. In the
following, I will discuss two cases to exemplify the complexity of bridging by
Sudanese Australian youth.

Case 1 Jool

I will first report some of the school experiences of Jool, a 17-year-old boy (Post-
Survey Family Interview 3). At the time of the interview Jool attended grade 12.
During the interview he talked at length about the difficulties he faced when start-
ing school in Australia. For the purpose of the discussion, I selected an excerpt in
which he was particularly expressive of the fact that he faced linguistic and aca-
demic challenges when completing school assignments (see Excerpt 20). As he
puts it Im learning the actual language how to speak it and how to write it (Excerpt
20 Line 5), while others in the class just need to learn how to spell it (Excerpt 20
Line 6). He refers to new words as BIG words which reflects his casual language
ideology where everyday words are the norm and big words are too technical
and perhaps convoluted. His strategy of coping in the class, however, is to ask for
explanation which he does reluctantly. As he states it, he needs to sort of ask. His
use of the minimiser sort of suggests that he wants to lessen his feeling of
Chapter 6. New spaces of multilingualism in Australia

embarrassment about asking for help which might come across as a sign of incom-
petence. On the contrary, he talks with pride about his ability in his mother tongue.
He hypothetically reverses the roles in the interview (Excerpt 20 Line 20) to ex-
plain that if someone was to ask him in his own language (Dinka), then he would
be able to explain words, even though he acknowledges that he would not be able
to explain all words.
Excerpt 20
Facilitator 1. Yeah uhh(.) so what about in terms of your language (.) or
2. do you find uhh(.) any problems with your English doing
3. like do you feel its harder for you (.) than other (.) students
Jool 4. Yeah (.) well its pretty(.) I dont know
5. I guess (.) its uhh Im learning the actual language how to
speak it and how to write it
6. and(.) in a classroom everyone else is just learning the
Facilitator 7. Mmm
Jool 8. Thats basically it
9. so I am actually doing two things at once
Facilitator 10. Yeah //which//
Jool 11. //Which// make it harder (.) plus (.) if the teacher says
something (.) a BIG word and I have to sort of ask someone
what it meant
12. or have to put my hand up and sort of ask again
Facilitator 13. Did the person know what the word meant
14. they can explain it to you
Jool 15. Yeah// most of them//
Facilitator 16. //Cause some words// even
Jool 17. Yeah (.) not everyone know (.) every word
Facilitator 18. Yeah ((laughs))
Jool 19. = but some people know what those words mean
20. just like (.) you ask me in my own language (.) I probably
tell you a lot of things but which you wouldnt understand
but thats how it work
21. and thered be something I wouldnt understand (.) about my
language too
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

In the same interview, Jool talks about his experience of negative attitudes exhib-
ited by Australian peers when he used Dinka with other Sudanese in the school
space (see Excerpt 21). As he explained, the Australian students felt excluded and
wanted to be part of the conversation. He dismissed them as he had nothing to
share as he was talking about home. This is a good example of resilience and the
fact that language domains are multilayered spaces which can be used by the
speakers for their own purposes. Using the mother tongue at school was an impor-
tant tool for self-confidence and self-worth, even though it created a barrier to
outsiders. While Sudanese children faced language barriers in their bridging pro-
cess due to their lack of confidence in English, their mother tongue fulfilled an
important counter balancing role in maintaining their contact with their ethnic
peers in the school. The outsiders intolerance to the use of other languages reflects
linguistic paranoia, which has been reported as a common phenomenon in di-
verse multilingual contexts (Blommaert, Collins, & Slembrouck, 2005).
Excerpt 21
Jool 1. = sort of go like that
2. I mean knowing my own language right now and I have a
couple of fellows at school (.) that know it too =
Facilitator 3. Hmm
Jool 4. = my friends kind of find it weird if I talk to them in Dinka
5. cause they dont know what Im saying to this guy
6. and they just sitting there going
7. are you going to share it (.)
8. and I sitting there going its nothing to share
9. I was just talking about home

Case 2 Riak

The second case is Riaks. He migrated to Australia through Kenya, but he missed
out on schooling due to a lack of financial support. In fact, he only found out five
days before his flight that he was going to be resettled to Australia. As far as his
English was concerned, all he knew was how to say hello and the alphabet.
At the time I interviewed him Riak was studying at university. In the interview,
he reminisced about his early days in Australia. He talked about the difficulty of
adjusting to school when he was put straight into a Grade 6 class. But the real lan-
guage difficulties came in high school, because the subjects were more demanding
and children were less polite, as he explained. The language barrier was particu-
larly difficult when he needed to defend himself and explain things. Without
English he felt powerless and completely dependent on the goodwill of others. He
Chapter 6. New spaces of multilingualism in Australia

explained that due to his limited English, people became frustrated and negative
towards him, or as he puts it pissed off (Excerpt 22 Line 14). This social space at
high school was less polite and rough (Excerpt 22, Lines 23).
Later, in Lines 2325, he explains how the misunderstanding quickly turned
into racially motivated comments from fellow students. Riaks stance is strong and
resilient. He does not blame the fellow school children for their behaviour. To him,
the circumstances of the language barrier provide a reasonable explanation for the
behaviour of all participants. As his English was very poor, he was not able to ex-
plain himself. He also mentions his inability to defend himself in front of others.
He felt that many times he was blamed for things he did not do just because he was
not able to explain his case to defend himself (Lines 3136) or express himself
truly (Line 66). In this section, Riak also talks about the fact that his schoolmates
generally had a positive attitude towards his African heritage language. As he put
it, others found the language rather cool (Line 56).
Excerpt 22
Riak 1. The difficulties came to high school
2. because then things were very quite serious in terms of aca-
3. a::nd also kids are a lot more rough at high school
4. and they are theyre not as POLITE in high school
5. or they seem to be sort of ah (...) how would you say it
6. ah YEAH a lot of a lot of a::h less kindness that I would
Facilitator 7. Uhu:m
Riak 8. in high school. And so =
Facilitator 9. = So they were less supportive
Riak 10. Yeah less supportive
11. If you were unable to express your feelings
12. or what you want to say properly people would be frustrated
13. and they will they will actually u:hh let you know
14. theyre pissed off and they start insulting
Facilitator 15. Really because you couldnt express yourself
Riak 16. Yeah =
Facilitator 17. = Really
Riak 18. People make =
Facilitator 19. = Do you remember =
Riak 20. = they could yeah (...) theyll be frustrated as well as you try-
ing to =
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

Facilitator 21. = Hmmm (...) so do you remember any particular story

about this
22. or it was just a general everyday thing
Riak 23. Ah yeah pretty much a general everyday thing
24. ah just people bad mouthing from about your RACE u:hh
25. then u:hh people accusing you of something you didnt do
and you will have difficulties actually ah explaining your in-
Facilitator 26. I see so really the language was a barrier for you
Riak 27. Yeah
Facilitator 28. Uhu:m
Riak 29. Yeah and, yeah definitely the language made was made
difficult for me because =
Facilitator 30. = Uhu:m =
Riak 31. = a lot of things that were happening
32. you couldnt really express a::h (.)
33. explain clearly what had happened
34. you will have difficulties even though its not your fault
35. it will automatically seem like your fault
36. because the other person will be able to explain themself (sic)
(Line 36
Facilitator 37. And what about the other languages
38. didnt you use the other languages =
Riak 39. = At school =
Facilitator 40. = to explain or to yeah
Riak 41. NO I couldnt because I didnt (know) nobody
42. OF COURSE they did not speak DINKA
43. NOBODY spoke Dinka
Facilitator 44. So you never tried to respond to them in Dinka //Just
Riak 45. No//
Facilitator 46. //because you were frustrated
Riak 47. But//
Facilitator 48. //not to be able to use the English
Riak 49. Yeah I couldnt reply to them in DINKA
50. but if its when I was speaking to ah (...) other Dinkas
51. students like my cousins
52. that we eh we are able to sort of speak DINKA and English
Facilitator 53. At school
Riak 54. At school
Chapter 6. New spaces of multilingualism in Australia

Facilitator 55. And how did the other students react to that
Riak 56. A::h theyd be asking me yeah its so COOL to speak in your
ah language and say how I heard I heard some
57. they would say ah I heard a word in English
58. and then they would blur off
59. there was NOTHING else they could hear
60. and then English pop out and so they yea:h it was quite (...)
61. Some people were curious others they just completely ig-
nore it ((spoken slowly))
Facilitator 62. Uhu:m so what did it mean to you at the time to be able to
use your mother tongue was it important
Riak 63. A:h (.) to be able to explain the thing in my mother tongue
64. I think it was yea:h (.) you felt good about it
65. cause you are able to actually let somebody know
66. or explain yourself TRULY (...) and thats good you feel

Language as a barrier

Bridging requires a common language for communication across immigrant and

host communities. In the case of Sudanese Australians English serves this purpose
with the broader Australian community and Arabic with other Sudanese ethnic
groups. While we have seen that multilingualism is a rich resource and part of
social capital, (Hatoss 2012c) especially in terms of social networking within the
Sudanese community, English continues to be a barrier for many in terms of their
successful integration into the broader Australian society. In this section, I will
discuss the obstacles that adult learners face when it comes to developing their
English and provide examples for English as a barrier at school.
During the interviews participants talked at length about their difficulties in
learning English. While they were grateful for the 510 hours of free English tuition
that they received through the AMEP program, they expressed concerns about
access and about developing sufficient English for getting into the workforce. Is-
sues of access were related to the desire to work, as when causal job opportunities
arose (e.g. farmwork), men, particularly, were keen to provide an income for their
families at the expense of their English lessons. Computer access was another is-
sue. Even if there was a computer in the home, there were many people living in
the household to share a computer. Many others expressed concerns over the qual-
ity of the English program. Due to limited resources, advanced learners were often
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

placed in beginners classes, which made learning ineffective for them. As one re-
spondent explained:
Excerpt 23
Respondent: the way (they) help people is not good way, because when you
get somebody who knows everything and somebody (with)
no word and you go to the class but some other people dont
know that language ... because you cant make it one class... yes
that was the problem. (Focus group Toowoomba, 28.10.2008)
Another common issue was learning Australian English, which caused problems
even for those who learnt English in Kenya or Uganda. Sudanese learners found it
difficult to understand the Australian accent, slang and colloquialism. Female re-
spondents mentioned their lack of ability to help their children with their home-
work, as they did not understand English, while children often shifted from their
mother tongue so parents were not able to assist their children in their heritage
language either. As one mother explained:
Excerpt 24
Respondent Sometimes children need some help with homework but be-
cause I dont know English it becomes a problem. They are
even throughout with English and they are now forgetting the
language even if you talk to them in Arabic they may not un-
derstand and change to English. So it is hard to help the chil-
dren. ... if there is no language how can we help ourselves
(Survey 54, Arabic speaking female)
Despite all the difficulties, most respondents emphasised the importance of im-
proving their English and their desire and motivation to do so. I will return to
these points in Section 6.3.2 when I discuss attitudes to English. Next, I will turn
to exploring language use in spaces of bonding and discuss mother tongue as a
bonding tool and as a resource for social connectedness within the community.

6.2.3 Language use in bonding spaces

Language use at church

In the discourses elicited from parents and youth, one of the main themes was the
role the church. The church provided an important space in which African heritage
languages continued to be used. The community held church services in Dinka.
The church was also equipped with Dinka Bibles imported from Sudan, so that all
participants were able to sing the hymns in Dinka language. See Excerpt 25.
Chapter 6. New spaces of multilingualism in Australia

Excerpt 25
When I go like Sudanese meetings and you know like (.) cultural things we
go to church we sing in our language and all that you know (.) so just is (.)
you know I feel (.) more li:ke thats why I am there and I thats what I need to
speak when I'm around them so they can understand me more cause some
of them cant understand English that well so when I speak Dinka they
understand me more (Youth 05, Dit)
As participants indicated, African community languages, particularly Dinka, were
the main languages used during cultural events, community gatherings and at
church, unless other ethnic groups were also represented who did not speak Dinka.
In such situations English was used most often. Altogether thirty (N = 75, 40%)
participants used their community language as their main language at church, 11
(14.7%) mainly used Arabic and 32 (42.7%) mainly used English. 22(29.3%) re-
spondents also used English as an additional language at church and similarly
22(29.3%) also used Arabic as an additional language. See Table 23.
The most common literacy practice in the mother tongue was reading the
Bible. Almost half of those parents who answered this question (29/70 = 41.4%)
used their community language to read the Bible. Eleven (15.7%) respondents
used the ancestral language for reading hymns and 10 (14.3%) for reading and
writing letters. See Table 24.

6.2.4 Language use in the home

The family home has been identified as the most important space for the intergen-
erational transmission of the immigrant language. Fishman (1991) emphasised
the importance of parents language consciousness in the successful intergenera-
tional transmission of the ethnic tongue:

Table 23. Language use at Church

Languages use Participants who used this as the Participants who used this as an
at church main language additional language

frequency percent frequency percent

CL 30 40 10 13.3
Arabic 11 14.7 22 29.3
English 32 42.7 22 29.3
Kiswahili 0 0 0 0
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

Table 24. Parents literacy practices in the community language

Frequency Percent

Bible 29 41.4%
Hymns 11 15.7%
Book/story 5 7.1%
Web/email 3 4.3%
History book 7 10.0%
SMS 1 1.4%
Letter 10 14.3%
Poem 1 1.4%
Peoples names 3 4.3%
Total 70 100.0%

Without proper parental and neighbourhood/town sociolinguistic characteristics

the subsequent characteristics of consciousness-building schools, media and of-
ficial agencies have no way of taking hold and contributing to the foundation of
future intergenerational transmission (Fishman, 1991, p. 162).

Fishman (1991, p. 181) argues that education, public administration and media
cannot replace the basic family-proximate processes of transmission. The familys
role is twofold. Firstly, the language of communication in the home should be in
the mother tongue; secondly, the family has a key role in consciousness building
about language maintenance. This consciousness about the mother tongue has its
impact beyond the home and expands into out-of-home language consciousness
and activities.
In the sociolinguistic survey we collected, we asked parents to report lan-
guage use with each member of the family. As language use in immigrant fami-
lies is often asymmetrical, we asked them to report the use of languages in both
directions. For example, we asked parents views on what language children used
with them, and what language they used with children. The results of the survey
are presented in Tables 2530. Parents mainly used the African heritage lan-
guage with all of their children. Some parents reported using mostly Arabic with
children in all age groups and these families were the ones where Arabic was
used as a community language even prior to leaving Sudan. Most importantly,
however, some parents reported using English as the main language of commu-
nicating with their younger children in the home. These children were all under
the age of 12. See Table 25 and Table 26.
Chapter 6. New spaces of multilingualism in Australia

Table 25. Mothers language use with children

Language used Child 15+ Child1214 Child 611 Child 25

most (%)

African vernacular 83.3 84.8 76.9 83.3

Arabic 16.7 15.2 19.2 11.9
English 0 0 3.8 4.8
Kiswahili 0 0 0 0

Table 26. Fathers language use with children

Language used Child 15+ Child 1214 Child 611 Child 25

most (%)

African vernacular 90.5 86.4 80 78.1

Arabic 9.5 9.1 14.3 9.4
English 0 4.5 8.6 12.5
Kiswahili 0 0 0 0

Table 27. Childrens language use with family members

Language used Child 15+ Child1214 Child 611 Child 25

most (%)

with mother
African vernacular 65.7 61.3 54.2 55.8
Arabic 25.7 16.1 25 14
English 11.4 22.6 25 32.6
Kiswahili 2.3
with father
African vernacular 62.5 65.2 44.4 58.8
Arabic 21.7 13 27.8 11.8
English 13 21.7 30.6 35.3

Grandparents provided the opportunity for children of all age groups to continue
using their African heritage language. Parents reported that children exclusively used
the African heritage language when talking to their grandparents. In the age group
611, Arabic was also used as the main language, typically in the families where Ara-
bic was the community language prior to migration from Sudan. Language use
among siblings varied and the use of the African vernacular ranged between ap-
proximately 40 and 60 percent See Table 28. See Tables 28 and 29 for details.
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

Table 28. Language use with siblings by age groups

Language used Child 15+ Child 1214 Child 611 Child 25

most (%)

with sibling 15+

African vernacular n/a* 47.8 50 55.6
Arabic 21.7 11.5 11.1
English 34.8 42.3 38.9
with sibling 1214
African vernacular 47.8 n/a 41.7 56.3
Arabic 17.4 8.3 6.3
English 39.1 54.2 43.8
with sibling 611
African vernacular 54.2 42.3 n/a 42.4
Arabic 8 15.4 6.1
English 44 46.2 57.6
with sibling 24
African vernacular 64.7 60 43.8 n/a
Arabic 12.5 13.3 6.3
English 25 33.3 56.3
* As parents were asked to report language use by four of their children, not children accordingly age groups
generally, we did not obtain data about communication within the same age groups.

Table 29. Childrens language use with extended family

Language used Child 15+ Child1214 Child 611 Child 25

most (%)

with grandparents
African vernacular 100 100 85.7 100
Arabic 14.3
with cousins
African vernacular 58.6 58.3 45.9 61.5
Arabic 3.4 8.1 3.8
English 37.9 41.7 51.4 38.5
Kiswahili 3.4
Chapter 6. New spaces of multilingualism in Australia

The findings have shown that parents mainly used the African heritage language
with their children, but children used this code to a lesser degree with their par-
ents. This is consistent with the typical pattern of asymmetrical language use
between parents and children. In immigrant families it is also important to note
that the younger the children were, the less they used the heritage language with
other members of the family, particularly the age groups 611 and 1214. While
parents maintained the same level of use in the African heritage language with
all age groups of children, these children showed a strong tendency to shift to
English in their communication with their parents and even more so with their
siblings. They, however, maintained their heritage language use through their
interactions with their grandparents and this was attributable to the fact that
grandparents spoke only very limited, if any, English. There was, however, a re-
verse tendency with the youngest age group. Children between the ages of 2 and
4 mainly used the African heritage language with all other members of the fam-
ily. This was explained by the fact that these children spent most of their time
with their mothers at home as they were not attending school. Nevertheless,
some of these children attended childcare and this was a significant factor in
language shift as reported by the parents. I will return to this and other factors
in language shift in Chapter 8.
The oldest age group (Child 15+) used the African heritage language most. This
can be explained by the birthplace ratios according to age groups. While only ap-
proximately half of the children in the age groups 1214 and 611 were born in
Sudan, the majority of children over the age of 15 were born in Sudan. See Table 30.

Table 30. Children by age group and country of birth

Country of Birth Child 15+ Child1214 Child 611 Child 25

n (%) n (%) n (%) n (%)

Sudan 32 (80) 18 (54.5) 23 (41.1) 5 (12.2)

Uganda 2 (5) 4 (12.1%) 7 (12.5) 4 (9.8)
Egypt 1 (3%) 4 (7.1) 5 (12.2)
Kenya 3 (7.5) 9 (27.3%) 18 (32.1) 11 (26.8)
Australia 2 (3.6) 16 (39)
Liberia 1 (2.5) 1 (1.8)
Congo 1 (2.5) 1 (3%)
Guinea 1 (2.5)
Tanzania 1 (1.8)
Total 40 (100) 33 (100) 56 (100) 41 (100)
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

I will examine the various factors behind language shift patterns in Chapter 8. In
the next section, I will turn to language attitudes and discuss how the Sudanese
youth perceived the languages they spoke and what values they attached to their

6.3 Language attitudes and ideologies

6.3.1 Attitudes to African vernaculars

Students were asked to answer the same question about their African languages:
Do you like using Dinka in Australia? The majority of the responses were also
highly positive and the reasons provided were diverse. These reasons were coded
in Nvivo according to the general principles of thematic analysis.
One of the key themes in the data was the role that African languages play in
maintaining social contacts within the Sudanese community. African languages
were seen as the main tool for communication within their ethnic group. Since
many adult respondents did not speak sufficient English to deal with everyday
matters, the youth felt that it was their responsibility to maintain their African
languages in order to help those who lacked English abilities. The youth, therefore,
fulfilled the roles of translators and interpreters in everyday contexts. As one re-
spondent explained:
Yes (I like using my community language in Australia), because there are some
people in the community who doesnt know how to speak English, and it is my
responsibility to help these people because I know both languages.

Respondents also stressed the role the mother tongue (their African vernacular)
played in understanding other languages and making sense of new words in
English. As the examples below demonstrate:
Yes. I like using Dinka in Australia because it is my first language and I understand
it well. It helps me to ask for help when using other languages. So I do ask Dinka
person to translate it well to me.
Yes. Because it let me understand some word in English, e.g. cook. Like if get new
word as the word cook. I know ((what)) is cook in Dinka.

Several respondents wrote about the importance of maintaining their mother

tongue in the future. Some of these comments were related to intergenerational
transmission of this language. See Figure 1 below.
The majority of the responses were highly positive and the reasons provided
were diverse. The positive answers were groupped according to integrative, instru-
mental, affective and future-orientation motivational dimensions. Students expressed
Chapter 6. New spaces of multilingualism in Australia

Pride Secret

Language Learning
maintenance Return to English
Fun sudan Australian

Learning Affective orientation Barrier

languages Instrumental


Work Identity
Social contact

Interpretation Community in
Australia Church Culture


Figure 1. Attitudes to African languages

that they liked using Dinka, because it was a way to maintain social contacts with
relatives and family and it was the language used in the church. Dinka language
was also seen as closely related to their ethnic identity not only because it was their
mother tongue (ownership), but also, because their language was seen as an es-
sential part of their culture: I like Dinka language because it is first language. If I
lost it which mean I lost culture.
The instrumental motivational dimension included using Dinka language for
work and helping each other learn English by translating texts: It helps me to ask
for help when using other languages. So I do ask Dinka person to translate it well to
me. Students answers also revealed a range of affective motivational dimensions.
The most predominant emotion that students expressed towards Dinka was pride:
I love my first language and Im proud of it. They also saw Dinka as a fun lan-
guage or a language of privacy (secret language). As one student wrote: Well I
can say its important to me, interesting, fun and is useful to me, because if I have
something I can use Dinka to let it not be heard by someone else.
The positive answers also referred to the future emphasising the need to main-
tain the Dinka language. As language was seen as an integral part of culture, lan-
guage maintenance also meant the maintenance of culture. As one student wrote:
Dinka is my language and without it I wouldnt be valuable in terms of culture.
This statement echoes the normativity of cultural and language maintenance as
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

exerted by the parents. Several students also stressed the need to pass the language
(and thus culture) on to future generations: It is our mother tongue so we want
keeping and teach our children in Dinka, and cultural. So we want to maintain these.
Finally, the maintenance of Dinka also meant the ability to use the language when
returning to Sudan. I will discuss these and similar statements about language
maintenance in Chapter 8.
Few students expressed negative attitudes to their ethnic tongue. Some stu-
dents, however, saw Dinka as a barrier to either successfully adopting an Australian
identity: I come to be Australian and speak English only, or a barrier to learning
English as expressed with the following words: I always use Dinka I might not ((be))
getting better in English and I was coming to Australia to improve my English.
Lastly, reflecting an instrumental motivational dimension, Dinka was seen
as closely linked to Sudan in the sense that it is a meaningful local language there
(as English in Australia); thus revealing a positioning in which respondents an-
swered the question not only in relation to the Australian context, but also consid-
ering their homeland and connecting the past, present and future in their respons-
es. Such examples provide rich empirical data about how refugees constantly
operationalise complex spatial and temporal dimensions of their everyday life,
crossing spatial and temporal frames and boundaries. Despite such strong attach-
ments to the mother tongue, there were several respondents who reported lan-
guage shift happening in their families. I will return to these issues in Chapter 8.

6.3.2 Attitudes to English

Most students indicated that they enjoyed using English in Australia and English
was important in their lives. They provided a range of reasons for these. There
were seven main themes that emerged from the discourse and these are repre-
sented with the diamond-shape elements in Figure 2.
The seven themes included seeing English as a community lingua franca with-
in the Sudanese community. Students saw English as a tool for inter-ethnic
communication across groups from Sudan. English also played the role of an inter-
cultural facilitator and of the language of unity. The second most frequently not-
ed theme was English as a world language. Students referred to English as the top,
key, popular or international language in the world, which allows people to
communicate across all cultures. Some of the contexts of use mentioned included
travel and getting a job in Sudan. Generally, English was associated with strong
instrumental motivational factors such as getting a job either in Australia, in Sudan
or any other country in the world. Other themes related to English were national
language of Australia, bridge to Australians, and the language of fitting in.
Chapter 6. New spaces of multilingualism in Australia

With non-dinka National

Sudanese ATTITUDES TO language-
Affective Language of
ENGLISH Australia
public spaces
facilitator Community lingua
franca Fun Nationwide
Dialect language
They dont language
know dinka Jobs in
Africa World language
Language of
Communication unity
Self-expression Instrumental
language Travel English is
Learning popular
Express Study
Personal Feelings Job
myself Top Important
goal prospects
language language of
Bridge to communication
learning is good A need to
improve My future
Language proficiency
learning is Communication
Reason for Reason to Language of fitting in
come to

Figure 2. Attitudes to English

Finally, the theme of self-expression emerged as the most important integrative

motivational dimension. Students talked about English as the language which can
allow them to express their feelings. Several responses had an affective dimen-
sion, e.g. they described English as a fun language to learn. Learning English was
also a strong theme in the discourse with some respondents stating that learning
English was the main reason they migrated to Australia. Respondents felt that
learning English opened up new opportunities for them, regardless whether they
stayed in Australia, returned to Africa or if they sought an international career.

6.3.3 Attitudes to Arabic

Students gave a range of reasons why they liked using Arabic in Australia. Most of
these responses were related to the theme of social contact within their own ethnic
community. Many of them commented that for those who were not able to speak
English or Dinka, it was extremely important to have Arabic for interethnic com-
munication across various groups from Sudan. They also regarded Arabic useful
for travelling to Arabic speaking countries: So that I can know a little bit about it
when I go to any other Arab countries and for reconnecting with Sudan: Because
it is the language that we understand each other in Sudan. See Figure 3.
Many youths, however, expressed a negative attitude to using Arabic as it was
not their language and they even referred to it as the language of the enemy.
Arabic was also seen to be a hard language to acquire and even though an
international language, not necessarily as useful for jobs (compared to English).
One respondent expressed her concern about Arabic being used as she did not
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

understand it and was afraid that people using Arabic around her are saying some
bad things about her. This is what Haviland (2003, cited in Blommaert et al. 2005)
referred to as linguistic paranoia:because if people talking in Arabic I am around
them I should think maybe talking about me. See Excerpt 26:
Excerpt 26
No. Because some of us know Arabic language but Arabic are enemy to us.
Thats why some dont wanted to learn Arabic. [LANGUAGE OF ENEMY
No. Very hard in speaking and writing. [DIFFICULT LANGUAGE LAN-
GUAGE IDEOLOGY (Survey 9, male, born in Sudan, arrived in 2004) [
No. Because it is not international language.(Survey 12, male, 20, arrived 2003)
Yes. Arabic is good to use when speaking to other Sudanese who does not
speak Dinka. (Survey 10, male, 20, arrived in 2004) [SOCIAL CONTACT
Yes. To have fun with other friends dont speak Dinka. (Survey 8: Male, , born
in Sudan, his first Language is Dinka, studies in grade 10, arrived in Australia
in 2004) [FUN; +INTEGRATIVE]
No. Because I cant speak Arabic that why I dont like, because if people talking
in Arabic I am around them I should think maybe talking about me. (Survey,29,
female, 14, arrived 2003) [LACK OF ABILITY; -LINGUISTIC PARANOIA1]
No. Because is not my language (Survey 62, 13, born in Sudan, first Language
is Baria, arrived in 2005) [LACK OF OWNERSHIP; -IDENTITY]
Some students did not like using Arabic because it was not an international lan-
guage and it was helpless in get job. A lack of sufficient proficiency and not hav-
ing enough Arabic speakers were often provided as reasons for not using Arabic.
Some also regarded Arabic as the language of the enemy or as something that
they do not have (ownership): because is not my language.

6.3.4 Attitude to Kiswahili

Students gave several reasons why they liked using Kiswahili in Australia, which
were coded according to integrative, instrumental, affective and ideological di-
mensions. Similarly to Arabic, the main integrative dimension was the need to
maintain social contacts with other Africans and this was mentioned in the con-
text of transitioning through Kenya as well as in their present life in Australia. In-
terestingly, even though Kiswahili was not their ethnic language and not their
Chapter 6. New spaces of multilingualism in Australia

Lingua Franca

Language Ability

Negative ATTITUDES TO Positive

Linguistic ARABIC Travel


With people who

do not speak Social contact
Identity English
Lack of

Language of Fun with friends

the enemy Lingua Franca
Lack of in Sudan

Figure 3. Attitudes to Arabic

mother tongue, some respondents expressed a connection between using Kiswahili

and their identity. Kiswahili was seen as something that Sudanese people under-
stand, partly own, and, thus, it was seen to be part of a pan-Sudanese identity. On
the other hand, some others expressed a lack of ownership. These contrasting ex-
amples show that ownership and identity are scaled phenomena. When consid-
ering the scale of being South Sudanese in Australia, knowing Kiswahili is an
important identity marker as this is a language they share, even if their compe-
tence is not very high, they can use Kiswahili words in their Sudanese speak
which is an unmarked code (Myers-Scotton 1997) for their everyday communica-
tion. On the other hand, on the scales of ethnic groups, respondents positioned
themselves as Dinka, Acholi, Nuer and other local ethnic groups. Therefore, they
distanced themselves from Kiswahili as it was not their language.
The instrumental motivational dimension revealed students approach to
Kiswahili as something that could be useful when travelling to Kenya. Some re-
sponses also had a translocal (Blommaert, 2010) dimension as Kiswahili was
described as a neighbour language (with Kenya neighbouring Sudan), thus speak-
ing from the position of living in Sudan, treating the language as a means to estab-
lish and maintain a spatial link between Australia and Sudan.
The affective comments included seeing Kiswahili as a fun language. Re-
spondents treated it as a tool to remind them of the times spent in Kenya. Their
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

Secret Easy Not

Neighbour Positive
language language international
language memories

Language Language
Translocal ideology Fun ideology


Travel to

Social contact
Lack of
Past in Kenya ownership
Lack of
Present time speakers
in Australia
With Kenyan Ownership
people Sudanese

Figure 4. Attitudes to Kiswahili

language ideology was reflected in comments about Kiswahili as an easy language

or one that could be used when they do not want others to understand their dis-
cussion (secret language). See Figure 4.
Negative answers also had integrative, instrumental and language ideological
dimensions as well as orientation towards learning. Not wanting to use Kiswahili,
because of a lack of speakers in Australia was coded under integrative as the
answers mainly focussed on social connections or their lack thereof. The instru-
mental dimension showed a spatial aspect as the usefulness of the language was
seen as varied by locality and the origin of the speakers. Students saw Kiswahili as
a language that was useful in the past when they lived in Kenya, as is was the lan-
guage of the people who gave them refuge and schooling: because when we have
war they welcome us to come in their country to learn. However, they emphasised
that in Australia Kiswahili was replaced by English: not interesting to know any-
more because I want to learn English. Again, the concept of scales can explain
these seemingly contradictory dimensions. The usefulness of a language is context
dependent and contingent upon speakers choices to mobilize various layers of
their spatio-temporal surroundings.
Finally, some students did not like using Kiswahili, because it was not an
international language (language ideology similar as expressed about Arabic) and
Chapter 6. New spaces of multilingualism in Australia

others had the view that the language could not be used at school and could not be
developed. One student even expressed his/her frustration over the question:
comon about that sir/m. These examples demonstrate that language attitudes
show different and often seemingly contradicting dimensions as speakers con-
stantly deploy complex identities and position themselves in relation to various
scales and localities.
In addition to spatial dimensions (scales), temporal aspects of attitudes were
also present, as many respondents gave their responses by making references ei-
ther to the past, present or the future. Some expressed a desire to keep their
Kiswahili, as, in the future, they might go back to Africa and they would need it
then: I wouldnt like to forget because I would like to go back one day. These com-
ments about the future and the possibility of returning to Sudan demonstrate that
spatial and temporal dimensions play a role in shaping language attitudes, and
they should be considered in conjunction with each other.


Participants demonstrated the intricate relationships between their multiple lin-

guistic competencies and the value they attached to them in the Australian social
spaces. On the one hand, some language competencies, or their lack thereof, have
led to language barriers, while others have created bridging and bonding opportu-
nities in their newly adopted diasporic community and beyond. Language barriers
were not only issues of limited language competencies. Rather, different rules of
communication (language regimes) as implemented daily in diverse communities
of practice formed part of broader intercultural barriers. A lack of comprehension
often leads to frustration and even racist attitudes among majority members, and
a feeling of exclusion among minority members. Dynamic communities renegoti-
ate their linguistic practices every day and this negotiation process is partly as-
sisted by and partly the product of their metapragmatic awareness.
Families used a variety of codes (languages and dialects) for their everyday
communication. While English was the main language used in bridging spaces,
their African heritage language played a crucial role in bonding spaces and main-
taining contacts in the African community. There was also an asymmetrical pattern
of language use, as parents used the heritage language, while children, especially
those under the age of 14, used English in their responses. I will return to this issue
in Chapter 8 when I discuss family language rules and issues of language shift.
While the survey-based study of language use is a useful starting point for re-
search, it is important to combine this approach with qualitative discourse-based
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

data. I will use this approach in Chapter 8 to complement the language use find-
ings presented here.
Participants discourses reflected a range of spatial and temporal orientations
to the question about the usefulness of a language in their lives. Some comments
were related to their past experiences, some others referred to their future motiva-
tions of travel or work. These findings have shown that the concept of space and
scales are useful for exploring the dynamics of language attitudes as expressed
through discourse. Further research needs to be done in this area to refute the cur-
rently dominant survey-based and psychometric approaches to the study of lan-
guage attitudes.
chapter 7

Constructing identities


In this chapter I will discuss the dynamic and complex processes through which
Sudanese immigrants negotiate identities in their newly adopted homeland. I will
argue that ethnic identity is best seen as constructed, rather than a given, and as
influenced by the external factors surrounding the immigrant group, and to fit this
ontological position, the approach I take is to combine a number of different meth-
ods in my analysis. First, I offer a brief theoretical overview of identity in diaspor-
ic contexts (7.1) and explore the concepts of identity and ethnicity. Understanding
these concepts is crucial to the study of language and migration, even more so
from an ecological perspective which takes broader social processes into consider-
ation. Next, I will use discourse excerpts to further explore the dynamics of the
way the participants make sense of their shifting identities. Here, the focus is on
processes of perceived othering by mainstream Australians based on racial
boundaries (7.2.1), identity self-labelling (7.2.3), attitudes towards multilingual-
ism and the factors which influence identity development and the shaping of the
multilingual self (7.3).

7.1 Identity in diasporic contexts

The question of identity development is arguably an important and complex ques-

tion in the context of diasporic communities, but even more so in racially, linguis-
tically and ethnically diverse refugee groups. Members of the Sudanese Australian
community belong to diverse ethnic groups, many of which have been at war with
each other. The extreme circumstances of their refugee journey and their clearly
distinct physiological appearance make this group especially vulnerable in the in-
tegration process in a white-dominant, largely monolingual host community.
One of the challenges of studying identity development in immigrant contexts
is that identity is not a free choice, and certainly not a dichotomous choice be-
tween affiliations with either the source or the newly adopted home country.
Instead, identity choices are shaped by social structures (e.g. class), ideologies and
power relations (Blackledge, 2005; Gal, 2006). For example, the host communitys
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

attitudes and expectations about how migrants should settle and adjust has an
impact on the acculturation strategies that migrants adopt, which inadvertently
influences the way migrants perceive themselves in the host society. On the other
hand, migrants ability to build social capital and join the economic fabric of their
new country will influence how the mainstream perceives them in terms of their
identity membership. Importantly, ethnicity is only one of the multiple social cat-
egories to which someone can belong (Makihara, 2010, p. 35); attachments to kin-
ship, race, colour, culture, generation, language, socioeconomic class, religion, and
country of origin are just some of the complex interconnected dimensions that
make up a persons identity.
As migrants often need to reconcile sharply different cultural practices, iden-
tity development most often leads to multiple identities. As Suarez and Orozco
(2001) have observed in the Canadian African diaspora, African immigrant youth
need to construct new identities, which enable them to function and thrive in
incommensurable social settings:
Bearing in mind that the fluidity of social relations African youth experience is
embedded, their identities cannot be theorized in terms of a coherent, monolithic,
and enduring construct [but more as a probe into the manner in which the diver-
sity of constructs] are implicated in the ability to transverse increasingly discon-
tinuous social, symbolic, and political spheres. The children of immigrants must
construct identities that will, if successful, enable them to thrive in incommensu-
rable social settings such as home, schools, the world of peers, and the world of
work (Suarez-Orozco, 2001, p. 137)

To study identity processes in diasporic communities, therefore, we must be con-

cerned with the ways diaspora members juggle or recreate hybrids of their home
and adopted cultures that enable them to find a comfortable ground (Okeke-
Ihejirika & Spritzer, 2005, p. 208).
An additional aspect of identity development among racially marked immi-
grant groups is the potential salience of ethnic and racial identity. While under
normal conditions people do not need to tell others who they are or what ethnic
group they belong to, except in threatening circumstances (Joseph, 2004, p. 1), in
interethnic contexts membership categorisation is a routine act conducted by main-
stream society. As Jenkins (2008) argues, this categorisation happens on a daily
basis during interactions with the host community. While this categorisation is best
explored through studying everyday interactions between immigrants and the
host community, examples of such interethnic communication are extremely diffi-
cult to collect. Therefore, the next best option is to study the discursive re-construc-
tion of such events as told by immigrants. In Section 7.2.1 I will use this strategy to
discuss racial othering as told in the mini-narratives of Sudanese first generation
Chapter 7. Constructing identities

immigrants. For this, I use the discourse analytical concept of positioning as it is

dynamic and carries implicit messages about identity work (Ribeiro, 2006).

7.1.1 Identity and ethnicity as social constructs

In this chapter I draw on constructivist identity theories (see e.g. Bucholtz & Hall,
2005) which argue for a fluid ontology of identity. According to these theories,
identity is not seen as a given, monolithic or static characteristic of individuals;
rather as constructed in social settings which can be explored through discursive
practices (De Fina, et al., 2006). In poststructuralist ontology (Giddens, 1991),
identity is defined as the construction of membership in one or more social groups
or categories (Kroskrity, 2000, p. 111). Bucholtz & Hall (2005) theorise identity in
discourse according to five distinct principles: (1.) The Emergence principle: iden-
tity is best viewed as an emerging product, rather than a source of linguistic
practices. (2.) The Positionality principle: identities encompass (a) macro-level de-
mographic categories, (b) local, ethnographically specific cultural positions, and
(c) temporary and interactionally specific stances and participant roles. (3.) The
Indexicality principle: identity relations emerge in interaction through several re-
lated indexical processes; and (4.) The Relationality principle: identities are inter-
subjectively constructed through several often overlapping relations; and (5) The
Partialness principle:
[A]ny given construction of identity maybe in part deliberate and intentional,
in part habitual and hence often less than fully conscious, in part an outcome of
interactional negotiation and contestation, in part an outcome of others percep-
tions and representations, and in part an effect of larger ideological processes and
material structures that may become relevant to interaction. (Bucholtz & Hall,
2005, p. 606)

The concept of ethnicity has been defined and discussed in a number of disci-
plines. In history it has been viewed as the most elementary dimension of iden-
tity in the construction of human society (Haarmann, 1999, p. 61); in psychology
as an individuals membership in a group that shares a common ancestral heri-
tage (Padilla, 1999, p. 116) and in sociology as a specific form of solidarity asso-
ciated with the traditional order, this solidarity being the basis of special kind of
community (Williams, 1999, p. 171).
Social constructivist theorists of ethnicity claim that ethnic sentiments derive
from social interaction occurring within specific economic, political and historical
contexts (Rong & Brown, 2002, p. 253). Therefore, ethnicity is is not a tidy natural
science construct, but rather a subjective cultural construct (Fishman, 1989, p. 6)
and ethnic loyalties are not given, but negotiated and they often contradict
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

expectations about received ethnic boundaries (De Fina, 2007, p. 374). As Fishman
argues, languages and ethnicities are more continuous and gradual than has been
initially anticipated by local politicized historiographies and ethnographies
(Fishman, 2010, p. xxxiii). Fishman emphasised the phenomenological nature of
ethnicity with the following words:
[Ethnicity] exists as it is recognised, interpreted and experienced. It is commonly
recognised bodily, implemented behaviourally and evaluated emotionally. (...) It
is not a tidy natural science construct, but rather a subjective cultural construct
that fills and directs the hearts and minds and daily rounds of human beings and
aggregative systems. It is cosmological: it provides an apparently distinctive way of
understanding life, history, the world, the universe. (Fishman, 1989, p. 6)

As identity and ethnicity are constructed in discourse, discursive interpretations

and framings of identity are useful research tools in our enquiry into ethnic iden-
tification as they create frames of interpretation for social interaction (Gal, 2006,
p. 171). A discourse-based approach allows researchers to explore identity devel-
opment as an interactional process. As Sebba and Tate argue:
global diasporic discourses of identity are reproduced at the local level. We argue
that the global and local identities of British Caribbeans manifest and repro-
duce themselves through everyday discourse, and are constructed through identi-
fications in which the choice of language and the choice of words interact and are
both significant. (Sebba & Tate, 2002, p. 75)

This process is partly consciously developed by individuals, in the context of the

current research, by Sudanese immigrants, and partly influenced by all others in-
cluding fellow ingroup members (other Sudanese) and outgroup members or out-
siders (mainstream Australians). In this chapter, in Section 7.3 I will explore how
identity processes, whether habitual, intentional, and conscious or not, are shaped
through interactions with Australians. For this exploratory discourse analytical
work, I will use positioning theory as the main analytical device.

7.1.2 Ethnicity, identity and language

Another relevant theoretical discussion is concerned with the interrelationship

between identity, ethnicity and language. Fishman described the relationship be-
tween ethnicity and language with the following words:
At every stage, ethnicity is linked to language whether indexically, implemen-
tationally or symbolically. There is no escaping the primary system-symbol of
our species, certainly not where the phenomenology of aggregational definition
and boundary maintenance is involved, when ethnic being, doing and knowing
are involved. Initially, however, language is but one of a myriad of minimally
Chapter 7. Constructing identities

conscious discriminanda. Ultimately, it is not only a conscious factor, but may

become a primary cause, a rallying cry, a prime concern and a perceived first line
of defence. (Fishman, 1989, p. 17)

The language of primary socialisation has been described as part of the core of
ethnicity and is highly valued as the critical element in the meaning of identifying
oneself as a member of the ethnic group (Padilla, 1999, p. 116). Padilla further
states that language has crucial functions in our lives which are far beyond the
need to communicate:
for members of many ethnic groups (...) (their) language comes to be symbolic of
the groups vitality and place in the world, (...) language gives meaning to an ethnic
group, because it connects the present with the past through its oral traditions,
literary forms, music, history and customs (Padilla, 1999, p. 116).

While some authors have argued that language and ethnicity are inextricable
phenomena,1 others have maintained that language is only one aspect of ethnic
identity (although a very crucial one) and therefore the maintenance of the ethnic
tongue and that of ethnic identity do not necessarily go hand in hand. Edwards
(1984; 1994; 2010) has asserted that identity can be maintained through periods of
language shift and that the continuity of identity is not necessarily dependent
upon communicative language retention (Edwards, 1984, p. 304). A useful and
important distinction needs to be made between communicative and symbolic
functions of language (Edwards, 1984), which others have linked to instrumental
versus integrative motivational aspects of language maintenance and use.2 For ex-
ample, Liebkind states that people mostly have a so-called integrative attitude
towards their mother tongue, that is they identify with the speakers of that lan-
guage and they want to maintain that identification (2010, p. 20). Similarly,
Tsunoda distinguishes between integrative and instrumental functions of language
in the context indigenous minorities:
[T]he value of traditional languages is in their integrative, rather than instru-
mental or pragmatic, function...Traditional languages have an integrative func-
tion in that they plan important role in maintaining the groups identity...tradi-
tional languages may have a symbolic value, as an ethnic marker, even if they can
no longer have a communicative value (Tsunoda, 2005, pp. 135136).

As the next section will demonstrate, this distinction will have an important
explanatory power in interpreting the seemingly contradictory discursive data

1. Also see Chapter 1, Section 1.4.1.

2. I will return to these concepts in Chapter 8 when I discuss language maintenance.
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

concerning the relationship between language and ethnic identity in the Sudanese
Australian community.
Another relevant question is whether adopting a new identity inevitably re-
sults in the disposal of the first. Immigrants can feel emotionally attached to the
new country without losing their attachment to their homeland and they often
develop identification with both the host and immigrant groups simultaneously.
This dual identification does not simply mean that immigrants feel half host and
half ethnic, but identify fully with both the ethnic and host groups. Also, immi-
grants often select and incorporate more than one ethnic component in their indi-
vidual identities (Smolicz, 1999a). Dual ethnic identities may summate rather than
compete, thus constituting a stable and enriching situation (Taft, 1972, p. 3). Dual
identity is the desired outcome of settlement in multicultural societies, such as
Australia, as multicultural policies strive to provide migrants with an opportunity
for an enrichment and expansion of outlook through identifying with two cultures
and two language groups. However, as this study will show, it is more appropriate
to view identities as multiple and multilayered, rather than dual.

7.1.3 Ethnolinguistic identity among Sudanese Australians

As discussed previously, the relationship between community membership and

the ability to speak the community language was ambiguous. Of the 75 respon-
dents, 42 (56%) disagreed with (had a negative rating to) the statement that Q47
A person who cannot speak his/her community language cannot be a member of that
community. Five respondents (6.7%) had a neutral rating and 28 (37.3%) agreed
with (had a positive rating to) the statement.
Some felt that even though they do not speak their mother tongue, they could
be a member of their ethnic community. As Tomas, one of the youths, expressed
his view (See Excerpt 27), he could be a community leader and relate to them by
using other languages, such as Kiswahili and Arabic:
Excerpt 27
I think I COULD (.) to be a member (.) youve got to possess (.) different
qualities right it doesnt matter if you cant speak the language if you just have
the (.) background on the language (.) theres a way you can relate to people
its not just the language that matters (.) its the way you communicate to peo-
ple too (.) you know so I think (.) I could be a leader and um (.) I would try
to (.) communicate with other people despite the fact that I dont know the
language that well (Youth Interview 02, 25-year old Dinka-background male
respondent who speaks English, Kiswahili and Arabic)
Chapter 7. Constructing identities

Some other respondents who thought that ethnic tongue and ethnic identity can
be separated from each other explained that their ancestry and their racial fea-
tures, such as their skin colour, are used by outsiders, as well as their ethnic peers,
as objective traits of their identity. Therefore, even though they might not speak
the language, their racial features will continue to identify them with their ethnic
Excerpt 28
To be Dinka is not just to speak Dinka but it is when your parents are from
Dinka so it does not matter if someone doesnt speak Dinka (.) he/she can be
Dinka as long as his/her parent are from Dinka. Take for example if I go out
and maybe a white person sees me (.) he/she would definitely know that I am
from Africa and indeed he might be interesting to know which tribe do I iden-
tify myself with and even if I do not know Dinka (.) colour itself can still
tell that I must be from Africa and may be from a certain tribe The shape or
physical appearance of (a) person can also tell his tribe so in this question I
strongly agree that a person can still be a member of his/her community. You
can even see that people learn English and that do not make them white peo-
ple (Survey_004_DIN_D_M_27/09/08)
Others, on the other hand, felt that such involuntary (given) traits of ethnic iden-
tity, were insufficient for proper identification, as racial features do not always
define the ethnic group. They felt that language and culture were essential for
claiming and maintaining group membership, therefore they considered it to
be important to maintain their ethnic tongue in the next generations. See
Excerpt 29.
Excerpt 29
You may find there are different black people all over the world but they have
different languages (.) Even white people (.) all of them are white but they got
different languages (.) languages and cultures contribute a very big part in
their identity and that is why I need my children to learn Dinka language by
reading and writing perfectly (J-03 Interview 2009, male Dinka speaker)
Some expressed the view that those members of the ethnic group who have lost
their cultural traditions and their language skills (typically second generation
youth) will most likely lose their interest in community activities as well, therefore
even though they might have had a strong affiliation with the group originally, as
a result of shifting to English, they lack engagement and active participation with
their culture:
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

Excerpt 30
Actually if he lost our traditional cultures I think hes not going to be inter-
ested to be in a community because first of all when you start losing (of) your
own language and cultures I dont think youre going to be interested to...[be a
member] (Survey_025_ENG_D_W_20/09/08)
These excerpts demonstrate that the relationship between ethnic identity and the
ethnic tongue is not straightforward, but complex and multifaceted.
Also, ethnic identity is constructed according to the scales and the dynamics
of multicultural spaces, where outsiders assign certain identities to newcomers
based on many factors, of which language use is just one. In the case of Sudanese
immigrants racial identification has become a prominent assigned identity. On the
other hand, even if they wish to maintain a strong ethnolinguistic identity, insiders
face the challenge of contesting these assigned identities (also see Section 7.3).
Most importantly, however, these excerpts demonstrate that identity is complex,
fluid and negotiated in everyday contexts through interactions.
Respondents shared the view that their membership and belonging to their
group was only partly determined by internal factors, such as I want to belong to
this group; and partly it was influenced by external expectations both from the
broader host community as well as from their peers in their own ethnic commu-
nity. There were also comments about their possible return to Sudan and the nega-
tive attitudes people in Sudan might have towards those who cannot speak their
ethnic tongue: if he doesnt know Dinka then he doesnt belong to them Thats how
all the people may think about it (Post-survey family interview 10). I will return
to these expectations when I discuss future prospects and language maintenance
in Chapter 8.

7.2 Racial boundaries and otherness

7.2.1 Everyday othering in interethnic contact

As I have argued previously, racial identity was a particularly salient element of

social identity which needed further explorations. In the US several studies have
been conducted regarding the adjustment of African Americans, and they found
that racial boundary was more resistant to bridging than were ethnic boundar-
ies in general (Sanders, 2002, p. 332). Sanders (2002) argues that groups that
are socially defined as racial minorities are especially slow to assimilate because
of greater resistance by the dominant group (Sanders, 2002, p. 334). Therefore,
this aspect of identity is crucial to examine as it has implications for other aspects
Chapter 7. Constructing identities

of identity development as well as the broader social adjustment of immigrant

One of the key issues that participants reported was that the host community
perceived them as non-Australian, temporary, and as refugees who were expect-
ed to return to their country. They were also singled out in everyday contexts due
to the colour of their skin and their physiological features. White Anglo-Australians
who lived locally and have not encountered many people from other cultural
backgrounds especially targeted Sudanese refugees with their constant question-
ing about their origins. The question of where are you from? became to be re-
garded by Sudanese Australians as one of the practices of everyday othering and
potentially everyday racism. However, as some respondents explained, not all
Australians saw them as unwanted visitors. Some were simply curious about their
background. Nevertheless, the constant questioning about their identity and ori-
gin as experienced by those who have been living in Australia for a decade or
longer, contributes to discourses of everyday exclusion based on a white-Australian
ideology. In the following excerpt I demonstrate this through the voice of a Dinka
man in Toowoomba who talked about his experiences of othering by mainstream
Australians and explained that racism was a common practice, especially in facto-
ries and schools:
Excerpt 31
1. Sometime even in the school. (..) in the churches (..), Uhhh wherever people
meet together (.) Like me when I was in ((name)) college somebody asked me
2. I say I came from Africa (.)
3. WHAT PA:RT in Africa did you come from
4. I say from Sudan
5. Are you (..) now (..) like Australian.. o:r
6. I say OF COURSE I am the one who want to come here
7. He is asking me AGAIN (..) Are you become a citizen now or
8. I say yes (.) I become a citizen (.) Uhhh
9. When are you going back to Africa
10. I say why are you asking me these questions ((emotive))
11. You hear (...) I became a citizen and you are asking me AGAIN
12. When did you go back to Africa and now you became a citizen
((animated voice))
13. You don't like me to stay here
14. So actually this word is (..) all the time
15. where the people meet you can hear people asking this question (Toowoom-
ba, March 2008)
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

In this excerpt the speaker acts out a typical imaginary dialogue with a main-
stream Australian. He is highly sensitive to the identity questions and this is ex-
pressed through his use of emotive language such as loud and animated speech
when quoting the mainstream Australian participant in the story-world and re-
peated use of AGAIN. At the same time, in his account he performs his agency as
someone who has control over his life (e.g. Line 6: Im the one who want to come
here). He is also contesting the questions and asking his interlocutor back: Line
11: You hear (...) I became a citizen and you are asking me AGAIN and in Line
13: You dont like me to stay here.
In another interview, a young Dinka man expresses that he feels Sudanese
among Australians and Australian among Sudanese. As he explains, his physical
and racial features give him a permanent outsider identity and people do not see
him as Australian, even though he has developed a strong Australian identity. He
tells the story of participating in the Queensland State elections where he was con-
fronted with the Where are you from? question. Even when he responded that
he was Australian, the woman who was asking him responded with laughter. He
explains that even if they learn English, mainstream Australians do not consider
them to be a complete Australian, not even a migrant Australian, just a complete
Excerpt 32
1. I feel Australian when I am among my Sudanese people
2. I feel African when I am among Australians
3. Because even though I am Australian citizen
4. I go among Australians you are an African by physical look
5. so whether you speak ((English or not)) you cannot be a complete
6. they dont consider you a complete Australian
7. because they tend to be white people that tend to be Australian
8. you are a migrant always (.) NOT you are an Australian migrant
9. (...) when I went to do some voting (.) I went in there
10. I was asked by this person (.) the lady that was there (.) she said where are you
11. I said Australia
12. She looked at me and laughed
13. so really where are you from
14. So that makes you automatically not Australian (.)
15. When you are among the white people you feel you are African
16. but when you are among the Sudanese (.) I feel like I am Australian (.) be-
cause what they do, I do less than them.
Chapter 7. Constructing identities

Identity development, therefore, was a discursive and interactive process in every-

day contexts and was linked with complex scales of indexicalities. (See more in-
depth discussion of this othering in Hatoss, 2012b).

7.2.2 Identity labelling

Identity as self-categorisation (De Fina, 2003) was explored through the question:
Some people say I am Australian, I am Sudanese, how do you identify yourself?
The data I am presenting here are based on the pilot interviews (N = 14) con-
ducted with fourteen first generation Sudanese immigrants. Responses were cate-
gorised according to the identity labels that the participants used. These included
identification by country of birth (12/14), nationality (2/14), ethnic group (3/14),
residence in Australia (2/14), colour (1/14), transition country (1/14) and as
African (1/14). Participants explained the various contextual conditions which
will influence the way they identify themselves. The complex and varied identity
labels reflected the identity categories used in Sudan. For example, as one partici-
pant explained, Dinka is an umbrella term to describe many ethnic groups. There
are two main identity systems, one based on the tribal system and the other based
on the government system. For instance, a member of the Dinka ethnic group can
be a member of the Dinka Bor dialect group and he/she can also be a member of
the Twic county, the Lith and Adhiok communities and the Nyanthieth clan.
While most identity labels were related to the broader national identity such as
Sudanese, participants had a strong attachment to their ethnic group. This was
evident in the high number of identity affirmation statements. For example, re-
spondents explicitly expressed how proud they were of their ethnic background
and identity.
Excerpt 33

Original Dinka Translation into English

n ye piu mit cn ba ya ji I strongly agree. I feel happy to be Dinka
because ((ENG: spoken in English)) because ((ENG: spoken in English)) God
yen ke t din c Nhialic a lac thn. had chosen me to be to be Dinka. So
So ((ENG: spoken in English)) a ((ENG: spoken in English)) I love to be
nhiaar ba ya ji c man c Nhialic Dinka as I am and likewise God has
a yn culture ((ENG: spoken in given me the culture I belong to! (Sur-
English)) dn ba ya j! vey-interview 001, a 37-year old single
mother of four children)
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia


Dinka Rek Dinka Kiec

Dinka Bor
Dinka Twic Dinka Agaar Dinka Nigok


Adhiok Community

Nyanthieth Clan

Figure 5. Dinka tribal system

Another interesting dimension of the identity question was whether participants

were happy to tell mainstream Australians about their ethnic origin and back-
ground. Respondents were asked: When people ask you in the street, where you are
from, how do you respond? What do you say? In terms of action responses (what
people do when they are asked the identity question), respondents were either
cooperative (7/14), non-cooperative (3/14), or context-dependent cooperative
(4/14). See Table 31. In general, therefore, most participants reported that they
acted cooperatively when Australians confronted them with the identity question.
In Phase 2, however, the reactions were further explored in the narratives and
these discursive constructions of their stories tell us more about the positions these
respondents take in such inter-ethnic sociolinguistic settings (Hatoss, 2012b).
Chapter 7. Constructing identities

Table 31. Identity labels and positionings by 14 pilot-interview participants

Interview Main positioning towards Australians in the street Identity labels


1. Cooperative3: resilience: denial and being foreign or a Country of birth4

stranger nationality5
2. Cooperative: Pride and resilience Colour6
Country of birth
3. Cooperative: Neutral/happy Country of birth
4. Context dependent cooperative7: Neutral/happy/resilient nationality
5. Context dependent cooperative: Depends on who is Country of birth
asking pride Ethnic group8
6. Cooperative: affirmative Country of birth
7. Non-Cooperative9: Avoidance strategy/ depends Residence in
on context: Depends Australia10
Transition country11
8. Non-Cooperative: Annoyed, avoidance strategy Country of birth and
Residence in Australia
9. Non-cooperative: Rejection Country of birth
This is a silly question
10 Context dependent cooperative: Depends/ I can feel bad. Country of birth
11 Cooperative: Does not bother me. They know where you Ethnic group
have been Country of birth
12 Cooperative: resilience and pride: Im proud to be Country of birth
Sudanese and Im proud to be African. continent12
13 Context dependent cooperative: Depends on situation. Country of birth
Ethnic group
14 Cooperative: Pride and feel good but many people are Country of birth
ignorant (Hatoss, 2012b)

3. Cooperative means answering the identity question by Australians in the street.

4. Typical response was I was born in Sudan.
5. Typical response was I am Sudanese.
6. Typical response included reference to colour: Im black.
7. Context-dependent cooperative means that they answered the question but specified con-
ditions, e.g. it depends on...
8. Typical response was Im Dinka.
9. Non-cooperative means that they used an avoidance strategy and did not respond to the
question asked by Australians in the street.
10. Typical response was I live in Australia.
11. Typical response included mention of transition country: e.g. I spent 10 years in Kenya.
12. Typical response was Im African.
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

In the next section, I will turn to multilingualism and the self and explore how the
youth perceived the role multilingualism played in their identity construction in
the diasporic community.

7.3 The multilingual self

7.3.1 School survey data attitudes to multilingualism

Multilingualism was an everyday reality for Sudanese high school students living
in Australia. To examine their attitudes, respondents were asked to answer the
question: In your opinion, is it a good thing to be multilingual? The responses
were almost exclusively positive with the exception of one student who stated that
multilingualism was useless as once you speak a global language (English), the
other languages become irrelevant: I just want to know English because of all the
world speak English that way I like using English.
The positive answers were coded in three main motivational dimensions:
(1) integrative, (2) instrumental and (3) future orientation.13 Interestingly, while
respondents comments about individual languages mainly fitted the integrative
dimension, their comments about multilingualism reflected more practical and
instrumental motivations. They saw multilingualism as an asset, a tool that can be
useful in their lives. Many respondents commented that multilingualism was use-
ful for travelling and one mentioned the advantage of knowing languages when
difficult situations arise (Problem solution). Students also felt that knowing lan-
guages allowed them to learn more by being able to talk to different people from
other cultures (Knowledge). Moreover, knowing languages was seen as useful for
work opportunities and to promote peace and mutual understanding:
This is the beginning of the peace. So long you heard each other the more the
peace is there.
It is a good thing to be multilingual because it bring people from other countries
Yes it is good to be multilingual because you learn the language of the people
where you are this way you know what is good and what is wrong to particular
place you are.

Multilingualism was also seen as a tool for promoting their cultural image by being
able to talk about their home country and culture in different languages. Finally,
responses had a translocal (Blommaert, 2010) dimension, e.g. the benefits of

13. These categories are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Future was singled out for vitality-
related comments.
Chapter 7. Constructing identities




Travel Instrumental


Positive ATTITUDE TO Negative


Knowledge Language

Social contact

Cultural Global
Friends language

Cultural Family

Figure 6. Attitude to multilingualism

multilingualism were linked to the home country context: It is good also to our
children who are born in Australia to their mother tongue in our country. This re-
sponse had a future dimension as the here-and-now of multilingualism in the
diaspora was related to the future vitality of the language in the homeland.
Students saw multilingualism as an essential tool for building networks in
their community, and this was coded as an integrative motivational dimension.
Multilingualism was also seen as a skill which could help them adapt to different
new cultures (Cultural adaptation): Because whenever you know any particular
language for the certain people, you will definitely be accepted in that society and you
can be allow to play some roles and understand these cultures better (Cultural un-
derstanding): In my opinion it is a good thing to learn so many languages because
many languages are sometime let you know different culture and different traditions.
Most respondents who participated in the interviews took multilingualism as
a natural part of life. This is not surprising, since they grew up in highly multilin-
gual communities in Sudan where various ethnic languages and dialects were used
in the local communities on a daily basis. Multilingualism also played an impor-
tant role during their transition time when they spent lengthy years in refugee
camps or in Sudans neighbouring countries (see Chapter 4). Multilingualism,
therefore, was not regarded as something special, but as a necessity for survival
and an essential part of everyday life. As one young Dinka-speaking man, Riak,
explained in his interview: you do not feel special because you speak other lan-
guages, until you find others around you who share that language with you.
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

Excerpt 34
Facilitator So you have all these language skills you must feel you are spe-
cial person
Riak You dont feel special until you are (..) among those that speak
the same language (...)
Excerpt 34 reinforces that multilingualism is not what individuals have and
dont have, but what the environment, as structured determinations and inter-
actional emergence enables and disables (Blommaert, et al., 2005, p. 197). Par-
ticipants, however, also voiced some instrumental benefits of multilingualism
as e.g. going to different countries, making friends and getting a job.
It is very important to speak many languages, because many languages helps (sic)
a person to get an offer for the jobs in any languages

I will return to these motivational dimensions in Chapter 8 when I discuss par-

ticipants aspirations of returning to their home country in the future. As I will
explain, instrumental and integrative aspects of motivation are closely intercon-
nected and difficult to separate.

7.3.2 Youth data multilingual self

Following the poststructuralist ontology, the multilingual self is best explored as a

dynamic construct shaped by time and space and, often, by unequal power relations.
In this section, multilingual Sudanese students attitudes to and their understanding
of multilingualism as part of their identity are examined. My first analytical strategy
was to code discourse segments in terms of respondents orientation in two main
categories: (1) towards the community as a collective and (2) towards themselves as
individuals. Secondly, I focussed on motivational aspects of language use and for this
I applied Drnyeis (Drnyei & Ushioda, 2009) terminology of the self-system which
was developed in the context of second language learning. I believe that the concepts
proposed by Drnyei, such as the possible self , ideal self and ought to self are
applicable to the study of multilingualism and identity in diasporic context, where
language learning, use and maintenance are, at least partially, rooted in motivational
orientations. The concept of possible self , according to Drnyei, refers to what
language users might become, including what language users would like to be-
come, that is the ideal self, what language users are afraid of becoming, that is the
feared self , and what they are expected to become, the ought to self (Drnyei,
2005; Drnyei & Ushioda, 2009). I used these concepts for coding discursive data
about multilingualism and for making sense of the multiple dimensions of motiva-
tions that impact on language use, maintenance and shift in the diasporic
Chapter 7. Constructing identities

community. The responses reflect a complex interplay of spacio-temporal dimen-

sions and the multilingual self is constantly being shaped by the there and then of
past experiences, the here and now of the diasporic speech community and in the
projected future. See Figure 7.
The analysis presented here is based on semi-structured informal interviews
with ten Sudanese youths aged between 14 and 25 years who were all multilingual
to some degree since they spoke more than two languages with varied levels of
abilities. Typically, they were trilingual in Sudanese Arabic, English and their
African heritage language, but they also spoke some Kiswahili. Participants were
asked about the story of their languages, about their thoughts on being multilin-
gual and the role of languages in their future. Finally, they were also asked about
the expectations elders had towards them in terms of language use and their cul-
tural and social practices.
To address the connections between personality and language use, a focus
question was added: Do you feel different when you use different languages?, but
interestingly, whenever the question came up, the answer was negative. Pavlenko
(2006, cited in Koven, 2007), who conducted extensive research on this topic,
speculates that multilinguals who reported no language-related change in the self
relied upon a common folk belief in a single, coherent self that language does

Help rebuild
home country

Integration into the
Return to Sudan
Maintenance of
ethnic group
Ought to English
Show respect to
Language elders-satisfy
language use
expectations Linguistic
Multilingual self paranoia

class citizen
Feared Here and now in
Ideal self self Australia

Having to defend
Cultural Privacy and self insulted
bridge expression through
mother tongue Forever seen
Return to Sudan as an
Connect with
both cultures Work in
Learning new international
languages diplomacy Language

Figure 7. The multilingual self model

Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

not influence (p. 63). Also, in our case, the respondents age and background can
be an explanation as these students were either born in transition countries or
born in Sudan, but grew up moving from one country to another and thus learn-
ing and using different languages became part of their lives. As previously dis-
cussed, Sudan itself is a country that has a multitude of languages and multilin-
guality is part of everyday social practice in those communities. Some responses,
however, suggested that Sudanese youth had strong emotional attachments to cer-
tain languages, e.g. heritage languages linked them to the past and allowed them to
relive common experience. For example, Tomas (a 25-year-old Dinka youth) re-
ported using his vernacular with friends in Australia when discussing the memo-
ries of past times spent together in Africa. Thus, the African language served the
purposes of reconciling the past, making sense of what had happened and main-
taining connections to the past lived experiences. This orientation to multilingual-
ity was termed translocal (Blommaert, 2010).
Excerpt 35
Facilitator: Alright (.) So in your view, is it a good thing to be multilingual?
Tomas: Yeah (.) because I still follow up with my friends (.) Most of my
friends (.) I used to grow up with (.) theyre mostly theyre in
Australia here. (...) So: I still chat to them (.) you know (.) We
usually (.) for fun (.) we use like normal terms of language that was
back in Kenya (.) just to see if you still understand each other
The ability to speak various African languages was a tool for these participants to
establish their privacy. For example, one respondent spoke about his intentions to
learn Dinka writing so that he could record secrets in a personal diary (See
Section 8.1.3 for more discussion on this). Another theme participants mentioned
was learning new languages. Respondents felt that their prior language learning
experience was a factor which made learning new additional languages easier.
Excerpt 36
Facilitator: 1. Is it good to know so many languages
Bimbi: 2. Well (...) it is good in a way because I can (.) I can (.) I can
speak to Zambians (.) I can speak to Kenyans
3. And, you know (.) the fact that I can speak two Bantu lan-
guages (.) it might be easier for me to speak some other lan-
guage I might come across
Thirdly, one respondent mentioned the need to be multilingual to defend him-
self. He talked about the need to learn English so as to be able to explain his feel-
ings and actions at school (See Section 6.2.2 Language use in bridging spaces for
a more detailed discussion on this).
Chapter 7. Constructing identities

The maintenance of the heritage culture and language was a strong aspect of
the ought to self . For example, Riak (a 25-year-old Dinka man) talks about re-
cording life stories:
((I would like to learn Dinka writing))) to document the lives of people here
because there are some many exciting things that have happened and ah, now it is
in the past and there is no really records of it, so I could yeah, maybe record the,
ah the life of their stories. [...] That would be good later on.

An important aspect of the multilingual self was keeping social networks within
their own ethnic group, across African ethnic groups as well as with mainstream
Australians. Riak expressed a strong sense of peer support as he was surrounded
by similar multilingual peers who shared the same cultural experiences with him
(Excerpt 37).
Excerpt 37
Facilitator : Do you fell supported by your peers
Riak Ah (...) I do have that here (.) Yeah, I do have that here because yeah I
(...) people they can speak English, they can speak Arabic (...) They
have had (.) they come from the same country and ah (...) yeah I think
I am having that kind of feeling now
The ought to self was mainly related to fulfilling the expectations of language and
cultural behaviour, both in terms of living in the diaspora here and now and in
terms of a possible return to Sudan (there in the future). It is also interesting to
consider who were the important others who influenced the ought to self . Al-
though the context was L2 language learning, Csizr and Kormos (2009) found that
in Hungary, for example, adolescents were most strongly influenced by their par-
ents in their ought to self . In the Sudanese case in addition to the parents, there is
also a strong influence from the extended family and the elders of the community.
The analysis found that discourse statements about the ought to self covered
three themes: (1) L1 and ethnic culture maintenance, (2) integration into main-
stream Australian society, and (3) return to Sudan. Students reported a strong sense
of expectation from their elders related to the maintenance of their mother tongue
and culture. One student mentioned how the elders expect them to keep their
Sudanese identity in terms of language and culture while living in Australia:
They just want me to just never forget my language. Never forget my language
and never forget where I come from [...] And you know, expect me just, you know
to just still live a Suda-, as a Sudanese but in Australia too.

In terms of attributes that one would like to possess (the ideal self ), respondents
had two orientations: helping others and being successful at work. In terms of
help respondents expressed the view that multilingualism could be used to help
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

the community back in Sudan: If I learn these couple of languages and develop
them, I might help people back at home through my education. Several respondents
voiced their desire to help newcomers (that is newly arriving Sudanese immi-
grants) in their settlement process by providing translation and interpreting ser-
vices and educating them about Australian culture. In the context of work, cultural
bridge was a metaphor used to refer to the way multilingualism provides a link
between cultures. For instance, one student mentioned that he could use his lan-
guages in his future job to talk to customers (as a mechanic), while another thought
that he could try to work in diplomacy to use all the languages that he speaks and
that would involve two countries.
Lastly, the term feared self in motivational psychology has been used for an
imaginary scenario of what would happen if the ideal situation failed, which has been
seen as a powerful source of energy to keep us going (Drnyei, 2009, p. 22). Some
respondents expressed their fear of being lost in between cultures and not being able
to reconnect with their ethnic heritage, as they have never lived there or because they
have lost their mother tongue. Bimbi talks about being a real Lost Boy:
(...) Im just, you know, lost (.) Im pretty much lost (.) Ah (...) I grew up in Kenya
(.) I grew up in Zambia (.) Ive not been to Sudan (.) so Im pretty much lost (.)
you know (.)
//Well// I am a Dinka but Mum and Dad are Dinkas (.) but I wouldnt say Im
a Dinka because Ive not been home yet (.) you know (.) I not be home (.) even
though the fact that (.) you know (.) Mum and Dad just speak (.) Dinka they dont
speak it fluently around us (.) they only speak it if theyve got something (.) you
know secretive to talk about (Youth Interview 04, Bimbi)

Bimbi (23 years old) belongs to the Dinka ethnic group. He was born in Kenya in
1985. He has a complex story of language learning. His first language is Arabic,
which was the language his parents used with him in the home when he was grow-
ing up. Not long after his birth he transitioned from Kenya to Zambia, where he
picked up the local Bantu language, Bemba. Then he left Zambia and returned to
Kenya where he picked up Kiswahili. He arrived in Australia in 2003. According to
his own self-assessment, English was the language that he spoke most proficiently,
followed by Kiswahili and Bemba. He expressed a strong desire to belong some-
where, but with his complicated life story, he felt that he was not quite clear on the
expectations of his own Dinka culture back in Sudan (as he had never been there)
neither in the diaspora community. Nevertheless, he felt that in the future he would
fit into diverse cultures very well, because he was able to speak different languages:
(...) Well in the future (.) I will (.) I will (.) I will (.) fit in (.) very well the fact
that (.) you know (.) I speak a couple of some languages (...) I will fit in very well
(Youth Interview 04, Bimbi)
Chapter 7. Constructing identities

One student also talked about a feared scenario at school, where he was not able to
express himself in English, thus reinforcing the need for multilingual skills: If you
were unable to express your feelings or what you want to say properly, people would
be frustrated and they will, they will actually ah, let you know or they pissed off and
they start insulting. There was also fear associated with a possible return to Sudan,
as a student voiced his concern for not conforming to the sociolinguistic norms of
the community back in Sudan and, therefore, being looked at as rude or some-
one who does not belong. He regularly used code mixing and code switching in his
speech in Australia, and this was, in his view, not acceptable in Sudan. I will return
to this issue in Chapter 8 under Language regimes (See Section 8.2.3).


To conclude, Sudanese immigrants continue to negotiate multiple identities in

their new communities and their positionings are shaped by internal (in-group) as
well as by external factors (e.g. out-group expectations). Identity and its relation-
ship to language and ethnicity need to be looked at as a dynamic resource which is
mobilised according to context. As Tettey & Puplampu (2005) state:
The identity markers (culture, origin, language, colour, and physiognomy, etc.)
may themselves function as resources that are deployed contextually and situa-
tionally. They function both as sets of self- attributions and attributions by others.
By focusing on location/dislocation and on positionality, it is possible to pay at-
tention to spatial and contextual dimensions, treating the issues involved in terms
of processes rather than possessive properties of individuals. (Tettey & Puplampu,
2005, p. 150)

Therefore, the way immigrants identify themselves depends on the context and the
situation. Affiliations with the ethnic group, the nation-state, a pan-African iden-
tity or an Australian identity are not mutually exclusive choices; rather, they
represent the multiple layers of identity formations. Sudanese Australians have
experienced being singled out in the dominantly white Anglo-Australian commu-
nity and they have voiced their concerns about the salience of their racialised iden-
tities. While living back in their home country they were identified by their ethnic
tongue, in Australia the dominant identity marker became their colour. This racia-
lised identity impacts on their everyday life and poses obstacles to their aspirations
to be accepted as Australian.
In language and identity research it is important not to essentialise the con-
cepts of ethnicity or ethnic identity (Makihara, 2010, p. 35). Instead, researchers
need to make use of both subjective (or idealist) and circumstantialist (materialist)
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

perspectives (Makihara, 2010). In other words, identification processes need to be

examined from a dual perspective: (1) from the point of view of individual choices
and subjective attachments to primordial traits of identity (e.g. race, cultural ritu-
als, etc.) and (2) from the perspective of how circumstances, such as social, eco-
nomic, class and migration factors influence the shaping of identities which are
beyond the control of individuals. As Gal (1986) has argued, social structure con-
strains individual choice in identity construction.
In the previous section, the terminology used by Drnyei (2009) was applied
to describe aspects of the multilingual self in diasporic contexts. For diasporic
communities, the development of a multilingual self has at least three main areas of
interest: (1) language use, (2) language maintenance and (3) expansion (e.g. learn-
ing literacy in mother tongue or learning other language). All these three dimen-
sions can be explored from the point of view of motivation by using the self system
of possible selves. For participants in this study, the possible self included a broad
range of opportunities through languages, some relating to the here-and-now,
such as connecting with their diasporic community, getting educated in English,
finding employment, cultural integration, acting as a cultural facilitator for their
community, and others. In terms of the ought to self , respondents stressed the
need to meet their parents and elders expectations about the maintenance of their
language and cultural practices in Australia, but they also wanted to help others
who do not possess those multilingual skills. Most responses reflected a desire to
maintain an ideal self which is highly multilingual and able to connect to both
cultural groups: their own ethnic group and the broader Australian community.
Literacy in the mother tongue was also seen as part of the ideal repertoire for ones
language skills. I will return to these points in Chapter 8 when I discuss language
maintenance and vitality.
In terms of the feared self , there were two main dimensions: on the one hand,
respondents feared not being fully accepted by the mainstream Australian com-
munity due to their limited ability (or accented) English. On the other hand, they
feared not being accepted in the Dinka community, as they possessed a very differ-
ent set of skills and their cultural practices had shifted. Such issues were also rele-
vant in terms of their future possible return to Sudan where they would need to
meet even more rigorous linguistic and cultural expectations.
chapter 8

Projecting the future


In this chapter, first, in (8.1), I will draw on parents views about childrens lan-
guage shift patterns as reported in the sociolinguistic survey (8.1.1). Then, in
(8.1.2), I will discuss family rules and strategies about language use at home. In
Section (8.1.3), I will provide examples of parents and youths discourses which
reflect their motivational orientations towards heritage language maintenance. In
Section (8.2), I will turn to exploring participants future orientations and goals as
well as their vitality perceptions both in the context of Sudan and in Australia. In
(8.2.3), I will discuss how language regimes govern language choices on an every-
day basis in the diasporic community and pose challenges to the youth in terms of
their potential return to Sudan. Scales and indexicalities, therefore, are useful for
capturing the spacio-temporal dimensions of language norms.
Norms and expectations are central concepts to this chapter as language choice
happens in context during interaction. This means that choices are partly deter-
mined by the collective norms of the speech community (Coulmas 2005). Choos-
ing to use language x rather than language y in a setting where both languages
are available to the speakers is a multifaceted process and requires insights from
psycholinguistic, neurolinguistic and sociolinguistic perspectives. From the socio-
linguistic perspective, the main area of interest is how communities of practice
develop and maintain a certain form of language behaviour and what underlying
mechanisms influence language choices in the speech community. It is not my aim
to review the literature in the field here, but, for the purpose of the discussion, I
will consider how certain norms develop in speech communities and apply these
to explain the intricate interrelationship between the collective norms and indi-
vidual agency as present in the here-and-now of the diaspora as well as in case of
an imagined future return to their home country (back there in the future).
Elder-Vass (2010) introduced the concept of norm circles. These circles de-
velop as individuals first apply certain behaviour and accept certain behaviour
from their peers. This acceptance becomes an endorsement and can lead to a col-
lective norm. Applied to language use contexts, this means that an individuals
language choice is never an individual choice, but dependent on the norm circle
surrounding them. The development of collective intention in terms of language
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

rules is a crucial element in language maintenance and shift. If individuals accept

the choice of English as the language of communication in informal settings, this,
in time, develops into a collective norm. On the other hand, if individuals con-
tinue to use the ethnic tongue, this has a cumulative effect on the group and be-
comes an unwritten group norm. As Elder-Vass explains:
When they act to enforce the norm, they feel they are acting on behalf of a wider
group, they are taken by others to be acting on behalf of one, and they expect
support from other members of the group. This sense of collective intention in-
creases their tendency to endorse and enforce the norm beyond the level that
would prevail if they simply felt a commitment to the norm as an independent
individual. (Elder-Vass, 2010, p. 152)

While empirically mapping out norm circles and the ways in which they impact
language use is virtually impossible, collecting self-reported discourse-based data
about language rules, expectations and reports on self-behaviour is a useful sec-
ond best option for research. Relevant research questions include:
Who uses which language with whom?
Do families have a rule about which language to use?
Do different members of the group report different views on the norms?
How do participants contest existing norms? How do they exercise their agen-
cy to do so?
Can scales and orders of indexicalities be useful in explaining norms? For ex-
ample, which spatial and temporal frame is guiding respondents views on
norms? Are they focussed on present or future? etc.
These questions can only be answered by giving voice to parents as well as their
children so that any contrastive views and intergenerational differences can be
explored. Therefore, in the coming sections I will draw on survey and discourse-
data both from parents and youth.

8.1 Language maintenance and shift

8.1.1 Parents perceptions of shift

Parents were asked to comment on their childrens language abilities and whether
they thought that there was a decline or improvement in their skills during transi-
tion and since settling in Australia.
Overall, 37 (49.3%) respondents indicated that their childrens skills in African
vernaculars worsened in Australia, 28 parents (37.3%) said it remained the same
Chapter 8. Projecting the future

Table 32. Language change as perceived by parents

During transition in Australia

Frequency Percent Frequency Percent

Better 16 21.3 10 13.3

Worse 20 26.7 37 49.3
Same 39 52 28 37.3
Total 75 100.0 75 100.0

and 10 (13.3%) respondents indicated that they had become better. In contrast, 20
parents (26.7%) reported that there was a reduction in their childrens ability to use
African vernaculars during the transition times, 39 (52%) thought their skills did
not change and 16 (21.3%) reported that their childrens skills improved overall.
See Table 32. These figures show that according to the parents own observations,
there was a relatively stable situation during transition, while in Australia there has
been a strong tendency of language loss or language attrition.
Parents were also asked to comment on the extent to which they were happy
with their childrens heritage language skills. The Likert-style survey items were
worded in question format rather than statements, because this way it was easier
for respondents to interpret the questions. Table 33 shows the frequency and per-
centage of responses by the degree of satisfaction. The mean score for fathers was
slightly higher (M = 3.42) than for mothers (M = 3.02). However, this difference
was not statistically significant. See Table 34.
Parents were also asked whether it was important for them that their children
maintained/ learnt their African language. While parents talked about the impor-
tance of maintaining Dinka (and other African languages) as the main language
used with children at home, many have observed a rapid shift to English which had
been occurring especially among the younger children. The main reasons for the
shift were attributed to bridging, that is engaging in activities with mainstream

Table 33. Parents satisfaction with childrens CL skills

Frequency Valid Percent

Valid Not at all satisfied 15 20.0

Not very satisfied 11 14.7
Undecided 18 24.0
Very satisfied 6 8.0
Most satisfied 25 33.3
Total 75 100.0
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

Table 34. Parents satisfaction with childrens CL skills by parents gender

Sex N Mean SD Std. Mean Error

Q32 Happy with Male 33 3.42 1.621 .282

childrens CL skills Female 42 3.02 1.456 .225
Note: The T-test results did not confirm a statistically significant difference across parents gender
(p >.005).

Australians, particularly for young children who were mixing with Australian
children daily. In one interview, parents talked about Dinka children playing
outside and constantly conversing all in English (Excerpt 38 Line 24), just
like Australian kids (Excerpt 38 Line 25), or mixing English with Dinka at best
(See Excerpt 38).
Excerpt 38
Facilitator 1. So are the kids mixing with the other =
Wal 2. Yes
Facilitator 3. = the other Australians
Wal 4. Yes
Facilitator 5. So then theyre all running around =
Wal 6. Around
Facilitator 7. = talking lots of English
Wal 8. Yes
Jool 9. Yeah pretty much the kids with more Dinka too
Facilitator 10. Yeah I //know = //
Jool 11. //Too much// find them speaking English not Sudanese
Facilitator 12. Yeah I know when I was here the other day
13. and there was uhh(.) they were playing outside =
Wal 14. Yes with the other
Facilitator 15. = and there was a little white kid as well
Wal 16. Yes
Jool 17. Theres //two of them //
Wal 18. //There were two of them //
Jool 19. One across there ((points out window to a house across the
road)) and three on the //other end//
Wal 20. //And three on the other side//
Facilitator 21. Playing with the guns and
Jool 22. Yeah (.) kid next door
Wal 23. Yes
Facilitator 24. And there was ALL in English
Chapter 8. Projecting the future

25. they were ALL in English (.) really just like Australian kids
26. (Post-survey family interview 03)


Many parents felt that childcare had a negative impact on childrens language de-
velopment. While they acknowledged that children picked up English rapidly
once they started attending childcare, they expressed their concern about them
losing their mother tongue. In one family (Survey-Interview 25), a widowed sin-
gle-mother describes how her 4-year-old daughter started to shift to English when
she went to childcare. In Excerpt 39, Line 7 she explicitly refers to language shift
as being a sudden change upon entering childcare (thats the end of that). Then,
(in Line 16) she suddenly shifts to referring to her boys who are also rapidly shift-
ing to English as they were taken away from her by the Department of Child Safety.
As she says they just forgotten Dinka language (Line 19) and reiterates this in
Line 21: thats a big thing, they forgot it all. While this is a special case, it was not
uncommon in the Dinka community to have their children taken away from them
by the authorities due to domestic violence or other related issues. Often, however,
it was the case that the older children called the police and reported that their
parents were violent with them, even though these were very mild cases of vio-
lence. Children used this opportunity to reject their parents authority and gain
more freedom.
Excerpt 39
Facilitzator: 1. What about Akon
Mother: 2. Akon she does speak a little bit but =
Facilitator: 3. = She speaks a little bit of English
Mother: 4. A little bit of English yeah
Facilitator: 5. How old was she when she started using English
Mother: 6. Actually when she went to prep (.) to day-care
7. thats the end of that
Facilitator: 8. How old was she then (.) Three or something
Mother: 9. Two years.
Facilitator: 10. She was two years old
Mother: 11. Two years yeah but she would have Dinka
12. But now shes just starting speaking more
Facilitator: 13. More and more...
Mother: 14. More and more yeah
Facilitator: 15. English
Mother: 16. Yeah in fact when I just met them yesterday
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

17. because they just been away now

18. and I speak with them by Dinka language
19. so they just forgotten Dinka language
Facilitator: 20. Oh (.) of course thats a big thing isnt it^
Mother: 21. Thats a big thing they forgot it all
Facilitator: 22. If theyre not with the people in the community
Mother: 23. with the people in the community yeah
Facilitator: 24. Dinkas really =
Mother: 25. = Thats right that is really important so the kids now
Facilitator: 26. If theyre gone for two years
Mother: 27. Its going to be nothing
Facilitator: 28. When they come back thats a BIG PROBLEM
Mother: 29. Big problem because I havent met the other boys now
30. because they have been away for nearly a month
31. and something
32. but imagine for those two little kids
33. they didnt speak anything.
34. their Dinkas gone for good you know
35. and they dont allow me to talk with them by Dinka
As Excerpt 39 demonstrates, the mother is pessimistic about her ability to re-es-
tablish Dinka as the home language under these circumstances. As she puts it,
their Dinka is gone for good, you know (Line 34). She also mentions that they
dont allow her to talk to the children in Dinka (Line 35). Here, she refers to the child
protection authorities who have taken her children away from her. These issues of
intervention are complex and due to space limitations I cannot discuss them here
in detail. Suffice it to say that when parents lose the opportunity to discipline their
children according to their cultural norms and traditions as well as through their
own language, the family dynamics are changed so significantly that children gain
more power and parents lose their authority. The consequences of language shift,
therefore, become broader social consequences. I will return to disciplining chil-
dren in Section 8.1.2 when I discuss language rules in the family.
In another interview, a father (K.) talked about the issues of a lack of time
when it comes to teaching children their mother tongue. As parents are busy
at work, there is little room for the language maintenance efforts at home. See
Excerpt 40.
Excerpt 40
Because of the peer group, because, you know, they go to school and they
spend more of their time with other children and teachers of the school and
Chapter 8. Projecting the future

when they come back (.) some of them come at around 4:00 pm or maybe
6:00pm or maybe 5:00pm and they sleep and again tomorrow, you know, they
go to school, so, they dont have room or they dont have chance whereby they
can talk to their parents freely and all this
So and another point (.) you know (.) parents (.) they go to work. (.)and some
of them come at 6:00pm and all this so, you know, they dont have enough
time with their children. (.) Some of the children or the kids (.) they are taken
to childcare when theyre young and (.) parents go to work and all this (...) So
(.) you know (.) from childcare to kindergarten (.) from kindergarten to school
(.) so theres no room for Dinka language
This excerpt also demonstrates the transition from a traditional family structure
where mothers are at home looking after the children, to a modern family struc-
ture where both parents work and children are taken to childcare. These shifting
cultural and social practices have a strong impact on the language maintenance
effort, and the best option that remains for parents is to set some strict rules about
language use in the home. I will turn to the challenges of implementing such lan-
guage policies in the next section.

8.1.2 Language rules at home

Interaction in the home of large families with diverse language skills is a complex
kaleidoscope of language choices. However, there is usually an unwritten norm
(unmarked choice) (Myers-Scotton, 1997) which is the expected language choice,
even though this is often a mixed code. Language choices are further complicated
as adult-child, sibling-sibling and adult-adult interactions can take different
shapes. In immigrant families it is common to have an asymmetrical pattern of
language use in adult-child conversations where adults speak in their heritage lan-
guage to the children and children respond in the majority language which is valo-
rised in public spaces in their newly adopted country. In some families there is an
unwritten rule about language choices which parents either explicitly reiterate to
their children or just implicitly enforce through their own language behaviour. In
our research sample most parents reported having such house rules and reinforc-
ing the use of the African languages at home. One father explained that parents try
to use only Dinka at home with children even if they were born in Australia. Par-
ents also reprimand them if children switch to English (see Excerpt 41).
Excerpt 41
Because our people are very strong. Like parents (.) parents now are keeping
talk in the houses, the language and everything in Dinka. Yeah. Like Sunday
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

and Saturday and from 3 or 4 yeah and the weekday Monday, Tuesday, Wednes-
day, Thursday, Friday from 5 to 8 when they are going to bed, (.) they are using
just Dinka. If the children are talking English the mother or the father say No,
talk in Dinka and if they dont know the thing they can ask their parents
What is this in the name of Dinka? (..) those who have been born here in
Australia. (Jacob, March 2009)
While most families expressed a desire to enforce language rules in their homes,
the actual implementation of these rules posed challenges, especially in the con-
text of disciplining children. In the following, I will provide some examples of
discourse data which reflects parents challenges in enforcing home language
use patterns and the intricate power games which are played out in parent-child
In Excerpt 42 Agueet, a 38-year-old mother of eight children talks about rules
of language use at home. Her oldest child is 18 and the youngest is three. The fam-
ily left Sudan in 1997 and arrived in Australia in 2001 after spending four years in
the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. This lengthy transition meant that the children
were born in three different countries: the oldest in Sudan, three other children
born in the refugee camp and the two youngest children in Australia. To complicate
matters further, due to losing her husband in the war, she is raising the children
alone in Australia. Despite all these challenges, she is showing a great deal of resil-
ience and motivation to support her family by taking night shift work in a local
factory. This, however, means that she has limited time to spend with the children.
Due to these difficulties the children had previously been taken into foster care and
had only returned home two weeks before she was interviewed for the project. Her
case illustrates the everyday reality of parenting for many single mothers from
Sudan and the complexity of the family structures where the majority of her chil-
dren have never seen her home country. Under such circumstances it is extremely
difficult to maintain the Dinka language as the language of home. Even if the moth-
er insists on the use of the ancestral language, the limited time spent together as a
family does not allow sufficient engagement with the language at home.
Whilst living in Australia Agueet has gained a certificate in aged care and has
successfully found relevant employment in a local facility. In Excerpt 42 she and
her 18-year-old daughter (Ajok) are participating. Her daughter has recently re-
turned from Brisbane where she had fled as she felt guilty and responsible for the
removal of her brothers form the family by the Department of Child Safety. This is
why she left at the age of 18 and decided to try freedom in Australia. Now she is
back and reflects on her escape as wrong. See Excerpt 42.
In the interview, Agueet positions (the mother) herself as a parent who has
lost power in disciplining her children. She attributes this loss of power to the loss
Chapter 8. Projecting the future

of her authoritative voice. Raising your voice, as she explains, is not acceptable in
Australia (Excerpt 42 Line 13). She refers to the department (referring to the
former Department of Child Safety in Australia) who took her children away from
her. In Line 16 she repeats and directly quotes the authoritative voice of the de-
partment you dont have to raise the voice for the children. She talks about the
rules that the department is trying to impose on her about how to communicate
with her children and refers to a lot of rules you supposed to have (Excerpt 42 Line
21). Then, she provides the metapragmatic explanation of how the department is
expecting her to communicate with the children quietly, politely and reasoning
with them (Excerpt 42 Lines 22 -23). Finally she animates the polite voice in
Lines 2627 as come on darling, you have to sit down. Her story concludes with
an evaluative statement that it is too much for her and too late to learn it
(Excerpt 42 Lines 2930). Also, she positions herself as old enough not to have
to use polite language and endearment such as darling and just calm down
(Excerpt 42 Line 32). But this statement equally serves as a positioning of herself
as a mature responsible adult who does not need to be trained about how to raise
her children.
Excerpt 42
Agueet 1. Actually we used to discipline the kids
2. and they used to respect the rules without discipline
3. because they know this is the rules
4. and this is the way you used to be brought up
5. So: when I used to say ah NO parties or no outside or no
any place to go
6. they have to listen and say okay
7. Im gonna stay and do whatever going to do
8. //but = //
Facilitator 9. //But now// you feel you have LESS POWER
Agueet 10. I have less power
Facilitator 11. WHY is that do you think
Agueet 12. Because first of all
13. I cant raise the voice
14. thats what the department said
15. thats against the law
16. you dont have to raise the voice for the children
Facilitator 17. Really
Agueet 18. YEAH^
19. A lot of rules
Facilitator 20. Hmmm
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

Agueet 21. YEAH a lot of rules you supposed to have

22. way to talk to the kids you know quietly ((x2)) politely
and =
Facilitator 23. Reasoning with them =
Agueet 24. = So we =
Facilitator 25. = And explaining
Agueet 26. Yeah come on darling ((animated voice))
27. you have to sit down ((animated voice))
28. Its TOO MUCH FOR ME I cant do that so
Facilitator 29. It takes a LONG time
Agueet 30. Long time and also with me its too late to learn it
31. because Im old enough
32. so to just say darling or just calm down
For many Sudanese families, disciplining children in their traditional cultural
ways has become a challenge as parental practices are less authoritarian and chil-
dren have more protection through formal legislation in Australia. In addition to
these shifted power structures in the family, childrearing was further complicated
by language choices. On the one hand, the ancestry language remained the main
tool through which parents were able to discipline their children. On the other
hand, English became a resource for children through which they could contest
their parents authority and exercise their agency. Norms of communication were
constantly being renegotiated as part of a broader power game.
In Excerpt 43, the conversation continues about one of Agueets sons, Mark
(17), who, according to Agueet, is not very obedient as he uses English in interac-
tions with her. On the other hand Agueet recognises that it is difficult to stick to
house rules about language choice when the children do not speak the language
well enough for everyday communication. For example, she and her 18-year old
daughter collectively describe her son as someone who has got a problem with his
tongue (Excerpt 43 Lines 1317) and by this she means his pronunciation in
Dinka is not clear or proper. Mark was born in Kenya and although his first lan-
guage was Dinka, he was educated in English and Kiswahili (four years of school-
ing in Kenya). He also completed eight years of schooling in Australia. He started
learning English and Kiswahili at the age of seven. In the survey his mother gave
him top ratings for his skills in Dinka speaking and listening as well as for his
English speaking and listening. However, during the follow up interview it became
clear that his level of oral proficiency is not sufficient for everyday family commu-
nication. Excerpt 43 illustrates that multilingualism is not the problem of the in-
dividual, but for the individual in the sense that if someone is seen to deploy the
wrong forms and sounds of the language and is not able to follow the rules and
Chapter 8. Projecting the future

rituals, the person can be incapacitated (Blommaert, et al., 2005, p. 198) and
eventually will stop using that language. The result is a complete shift from the
mother tongue to English.
Excerpt 43
Facilitator 1. What language does he speak to you
Ajok 2. English
Agueet 3. Uhh^ He normally speak English mostly
Facilitator 4. English
Agueet 5. Hmm Mostly
Facilitator 6. Does he ever use that to kind of get a bit more power
7. Cause(.) is his English better than yours
Agueet 8. Yeah
Ajok 9. It is
Agueet 10. Yeah
Ajok 11. But his Dinka is worse than any of ours
Facilitator 12. Its not so good
Agueet 13. His Dinkas not ((x2)) so good
14. His Dinka is that kind of people who got a problem with (.)
like pronunciation
Ajok 15. Like the //tongue //
Agueet 16. //With the// tongue
Ajok 17. Pronunciation and that
Facilitator 18. Ah
Agueet 19. So his tongue is not ((laughs)) good
Ajok 20. You can never HEAR what hes saying
Agueet 21. WHEN he TRY to speak Dinka
22. its better to speak in English =
Ajok 23. Door CLOSE THE DOOR ((to the children))
Agueet 24. = Because even my little ones they used to laugh at him
25. because of the words he tried to say by Dinka
26. So a lot of people they say I cant understand what you talk-
ing about
27. So he can just change back to the English
28. (Post-survey family interview 06)
Later in the interview, Agueet explained that her aim was to keep Dinka as their
language of communication in the home as well as with the relatives. While she re-
ported that all of her children use Dinka and English with each other as well as with
cousins, she is consciously trying to make them keep using Dinka in the home.
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

Excerpt 44
Facilitator: 1. So you have some rules in the house here that says when
youre at HOME you should speak Dinka?
Mother: 2. Yeah.
Facilitator: 3. ((long pause)) Ahh so how do you enforce those rules? If the
kids start speaking English together what would you do
Mother: 4. I used to tell them you have to speak Dinka
5. and Im not bother them if they just...
6. because they used to sometime to answer by English
7. but I used to ignore that
8. and started just you know return it by Dinka
9. so thats why they used to change immediately
10. Yknow I dont want them to speak English
11. Thats the way I used to (...) do the rules with them
Facilitator: 12. Did you find if like you just said they spoke some English to
13. and you just ignore that and you would just //speak to them
in Dinka
14. would they then change into Dinka
Mother: 15. Yeah// they change to Dinka.
Facilitator: 16. That would kind of remind them
Mother: 17. Yeah
The examples provided here demonstrate that while parents wish to continue us-
ing Dinka, language choices form intricate language games (Habermas 2007)
whereby parental authority and the childrens desire for autonomy come into com-
petition. Language choices are also determined by actual and perceived language

8.1.3 Motivation in language maintenance

In the interviews, parents were asked whether and why it was important for them
that their children maintained their heritage language. They were asked to name
the three main reasons for language maintenance and these were allocated a 13
weighting, based on whether parents mentioned these as their first, second or third
reasons. The first mention was considered to be the strongest and it was allocated
3 points, etc. These weighted responses were multiplied with the absolute number
of times parents gave this response. Based on this scoring system, responses were
collated and the reasons were ranked based on the total scores. See Table 35 for a
summary of the weighted prominence of each reason or motivational theme. The
rank ordering of the top ten motivational factors is shown in Table 35.
Chapter 8. Projecting the future

Table 35. Motivational dimensions of heritage language maintenance

Ranking Motivational dimension Score

1 Ethnic identity 422.4

2 Communication with in-group members 411
3 Maintain culture and traditions 243.7
4 Useful if returning to Africa 155.5
5 Maintain the language 71.3
6 Its the mother tongue 45.9
7 Useful in other countries 11.7
8 Useful for religious purposes 8
9 Good to speak more than one language 5.9
10 Integration into own community 2.9

As Table 35 shows, the most important motivational factor in heritage language

maintenance was ethnic identity. Parents argued that the ethnic language was part
of their ethnic identity and it was not possible to separate these. One mother, for
example, explained that as the children will always carry the ethnic identity fea-
tures of being Dinka, including their racial features, it is impossible to separate
their linguistic identity from their ethnic identity. As she puts it how can we leave
the language so that a language go and the body remain?. See Excerpt 45.
Excerpt 45
Another thing for example we Dinka I am sure even if we stay up to twenty
years in this country our skin will not change and our Dinka name will not
change either, then how can we leave the language so that a language go
and body remain? (ARC Survey Interview 30, female Dinka speaker, 2008
The second most common response was related to maintaining social contacts
within the ethnic group, followed by the desire to maintain cultural practices and
traditions in the third place. Some of the responses also highlighted that knowing
the ethnic tongue was necessary for earning respect in the community. This re-
spect by ethnic peers was especially important as Sudanese Australians did not feel
fully accepted by white people due to their limited competence in English. See
Excerpt 46 as an example.
Excerpt 46
...through Dinka language my children will be able to communicate with other
Dinka and they would be respect if they can speak it well. No matter how well
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

my children may speak English, they will not be accepted by white people that
they know English because they were adopting English as a second language.
(ARC Survey Interview 004, Dinka male speaker, 2008, Toowoomba)
The idea of respect earned through the maintenance of the African heritage lan-
guage was also expressed by a father who talked about the need for his children
not only to maintain their spoken language abilities, but also develop literacy skills
in Dinka. He reiterated that his children who cannot speak Dinka will not be re-
spected, while those who maintain the language will be regarded as well-brought
up children. See Excerpt 47.
Excerpt 47
Majority of Dinka old people are not educated and they know Dinka so much
and of course if these Dinka elders ask in Dinka and they ((= the children))
dont know Dinka they will not be respect((ed)) but if they can speak Dinka
and English then they will be respect((ed)) as well-brought-up children. (ARC
Survey Interview 005, male Dinka speaker, 2008, Toowoomba)
Maintaining the heritage language, therefore, was seen as essential for being re-
garded as a good and respected community member and this view was echoed
by the younger generation also. In an interview a young Dinka man, Joseph, who
was born in Sudan, but lived most of his life outside Sudan, talked about the need
to conform to the unwritten rules of language behaviour in the Dinka community
in Australia. He was trying to fit into both social worlds, that of the elders and the
youth culture. In his account of language use he talked about the need to conform
to good language behaviour exerted on him by Dinka elders in his community.
In Excerpt 48 he explicitly states that he is considered to be good (Line 9) as he
maintains his Dinka language (Line 10) as opposed to being a wild child (Line 12)
who has given up the old traditions and does not even speak the language.
Excerpt 48
Joseph: 1. Ah yeah I participate in all of them when I get a chance
2. if it is the elders then ah I just go there and observe so:
3. if there is a uhh uhh u::h young like a gath- a gathering con-
cerning young people then I will attend also
Facilitator: 4. Uhum
Joseph: 5. Ah so yeah
Facilitator: 6. Yeah I know you Joseph you have been very active in the
community yeah
Joseph: 7. Yeah
Facilitator: 8. Ahhh (.) why is it that you are so active (.) why is it
Chapter 8. Projecting the future

Joseph: 9. Because uhh (.) on one side I am uhh (.) not considered to be
a (.) uhh (.) Im considered to be GOOD
10. because I uhh (.) I have retained my language
11. and I am able to understand pe:ople
12. and uhh uhh thats I am not considered by the elders to be
uhhh (.) what do you call it (.) a complete WILD CHILD
13. that has adopted a different foreign behaviour
Facilitator: 14. Uhum
Joseph: 15. But at the same time I am not completely like they want me
16. I am a child who has adopted a foreign behaviour
Facilitator: 17. I see so you try to um keep both sides happy yeah in a
Joseph: 18. I have both side in me
When I asked him why it was so important for him to follow the elders ways and
be regarded well, he explained that it was crucial as the elders have a strong say in
approving or disapproving of his prospective marriage. So he might not be allowed
to marry someone he loves, due to the fact that he does not earn the elders respect
through his mannerism and communication style.
Several responses reflected a strong motivation to maintain strong social net-
works in the ethnic community through the mother tongue, and thus build social
capital. There is a necessary strong connection between social networks and social
capital as networks help to reinforce sustained collective action (Sanders, 2002,
p.331). Such sustained collective action is most likely to happen in the mother
tongue. In linguistically diverse communities such as the Sudanese in Australia,
this social networking happens in a multitude of languages including the African
heritage languages, Sudanese Arabic and in some cases in Kiswahili (as we have
seen in Chapter 6). One Dinka mother emphasised the need for her children to
connect with their grandparents through the Dinka language. See Excerpt 49.
Excerpt 49
It will be good for them [the children] to have a language because [...] a per-
son will go and find his/her grandfather and grandmother and if you have
changed your language and he will not know that this is my sons or my
daughters child then what language would they talk That is why a source of
the language must be maintained. (ARC Survey 030, female Dinka speaker,
2008, Toowoomba)
From the discourses provided by parents and the youth, it is clear that heritage
languages play a crucial role in the community in Australia and play a key role in
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

connecting with relatives in Africa. In fact the main motivational dimension of in-
tergenerational language maintenance was communication with relatives in Africa.
Literacy in African languages was also seen as an important dimension of this
connectedness. Several respondents mentioned that those with literacy skills in
African languages, regularly read out letters from Africa to those who lack literacy
skills in the language. For example, an Acholi-speaking mother expressed the idea
that children should keep Acholi and learn how to read and write it, so that they
can help others who are not literate in the language. See Excerpt 50.
Excerpt 50
[it is important] to learn Acholi because there are also some Acholi here in
Australia that dont know English they can communicate easily in Acholi, and
sometimes there are some people from Africa that they write letters in Acholi
they can also read it out to those who dont know it. (ARC Survey Interview
011, female Acholi speaker, 2008, Toowoomba).
For some, literacy in the mother tongue meant a safe communication channel
through which they could express some truths. Joseph, a young Dinka man talked
about his desire to learn how to read and write in Dinka, as he explained he would
like to keep a diary in his language. When I asked him why it was important to
have it in his own language, he explained that through his own language he can
write down the truths. See Excerpt 51.
Excerpt 51
Joseph 1. Im really eager to write in Dinka so I can maybe write books
as well
Facilitator 2. Oh really mm hm (.) what else would you use it for
Joseph 3. Dinka (.) writing ah I would be using it to ah I guess Hmm
(...) write a diary
Facilitator 4. Just for yourself
Joseph 5. My own my own diary
Facilitator 6. Really
Joseph 7. L will be in, if it come to be in possession of someone it will
make no sense so I will be only the one who will make sense
of it
Facilitator 8. So why would you like to write a diary in Dinka
Joseph 9. Ah, because I think I will be writing ah, some TRUTHS
Facilitator 10. Some truths About what
Joseph 11. About the (.) general life or event that have happened
Chapter 8. Projecting the future

Facilitator 12. So if something happens to you (.) you would feel good to be
able to write it down in your own language
Joseph 13. I will write it down in ah my own language and ah,
14. write the complete story because sometimes some people
15. when you write it in English you (.) yeah you tend to (.) sort
of (.)
16. I guess do not want to OFFEND people or
17. you dont want to say BAD (.) inappropriate things
Another strong motivational factor in heritage language maintenance was the pro-
spective return to Sudan. This was also found in an earlier study conducted with
secondary-school students of Sudanese background (Hatoss & Sheely, 2009). See
Excerpt 52.
Excerpt 52
Yes it is very important [to maintain the tribal language] because in future
when the children go for visit in Africa they will find it easy to communicate
with people over there. Sometimes even they may think that they are different
people not our children, if they dont speak the language. These are the reasons
for the language to be kept. (ARC Survey Interview 06, female Balanda speaker,
2008, Toowoomba).
These examples demonstrate that the motivation of language maintenance in the
diaspora is strongly linked to broader spacio-temporal dimensions. It is not only
the local diaspora networks that matter in the present, but also the future connec-
tions which participants anticipate to make in the future back in their country. I
will discuss the various dimensions of these imagined returns in the next section.

8.2 Projecting the future

8.2.1 Perceived vitality of African tribal languages

Participants were asked whether they saw their community language as having a
strong vitality in their home country as well as in Australia. Out of the 75 respon-
dents, 69 (92.0%) considered it most likely that their ethnic tongue would remain
strong in Sudan in the future. There were no vitality concerns in their home coun-
try which is understandable, as the majority respondents were Dinka; one of the
largest ethnic groups in Sudan. The three respondents who were undecided were
speakers of Kuku and Aranga, which are relatively small languages in Sudan. See
perceived vitality in Table 36 and 37. According to Ethnologue (Gordon, 2005),
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

Table 36. Perceived vitality of CL in home country

Frequency Per cent (%)

Undecided 3 4.0
Very likely 3 4.0
Most likely 69 92.0
Total 75 100.0

Table 37. Perceived CL vitality in Australia

Frequency Per cent (%)

Definitely not likely 5 6.7

Not likely 5 6.7
Undecided 19 25.3
Very likely 15 20.0
Most likely 31 41.3
Total 75 100.0

there are 26,400 speakers of Kuku which is a dialect of Bari. Aranga is not listed in
Ethnologue, but the UN Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on
Darfur (United Nations, 2005) mentions Aranga as an ethnic group in the West-
Darfur region.

8.2.2 Returning to Sudan

While memories of the war and the insecurities it had created remained fresh in
their mind (Excerpt 53), many expressed a desire to return to their homeland. As
one respondent explained, people who received their education in Australia, but
failed to enter the workforce, opted for returning to Sudan and looking for em-
ployment there. See Excerpt 54.
Excerpt 53
1. when I think of Sudan (...) the thing that comes to my mind is (.) because
2. I feel (.) I feel Sudan the way I left it because Sudan was not
3. was very fragile the time I went away
4. because it was fragile (.) when I think of it here in Australia (.) I thinks of
insecurity is still there
5. and a lot of (.) things that are not good are still happening
6. although its good now cause I heard its now in peace
7. but Im still holding the former picture
8. that was there at the time I left it
Chapter 8. Projecting the future

Excerpt 54
Respondent: 1. Many of them now they going back to Sudan (...) they whove
got good job there they can work and just they can come
back to visit their families here and going back. Those who
did not get the good job in Sudan they will come and work
here and staying with the family yeah so that is, that is good
relationship between those who have remained behind and
those who are in overseas here. Cause you used to go to visit
your relative and come back and if you got a good job there
you can work.
Facilitator: 2. So are a lot of people making that decision on where they
can make more money or?
Respondent: 3. Because they are jobless here in Australia. Even if you finish
today and you got a bachelor in whatever...
Facilitator: 4. Engineering or accounting.
Respondent: 5. Engineering or doctor and all these things and you fail to got
it, you can go to Sudan and if you got it in Sudan you can
work there
The youth, particularly, expressed a strong desire to repatriate and contribute to
their countrys development. However, without oral and written proficiency in
their local African language, this would not be possible (see Excerpt 55). 1
Excerpt 55
Yes, English and Arabic are there, but if you dont know how to read and write
in Dinka, you cannot get a job in Sudan, because the major businesses use
Dinka. So they are going to start again from zero. So, tomorrow Dinka will be
important. (Focus group discussion at St Anthonys volunteer Dinka class, 16
February 2007, Toowoomba
Returning to Sudan, however, is only a dream for many, as respondents were not
ready for such a move. They wanted to achieve something in Australia, such as
getting a job, before returning to Sudan. They do not want to go back empty-
handed. See Excerpt 56.

1. The need to become literate in African languages has recently been accelerated by new de-
velopments in African countries with an increased emphasis on the use of local languages. In the
academic year 2010, for example, Southern Sudan introduced a new education policy which
makes the local community languages the language of education in grades 1 to 3. Also, more
recently, in 2004, as discussed in Chapter 3, the new language policy of the Naivasha agreement
created a pathway for local African languages to be used and recognised in education.
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

Excerpt 56
I would ((be)) considering going back to Sudan, but I prefer working here first
then to gain much experience in the field of my career before I would go back
to Sudan. This is because it doesnt sound good to get the paper then go back
like that. Also the country (Sudan) is stable but still the people are employed
based on whom you know and not what you know at this stage. Furthermore,
I better have something in hand before I go back. This is because I came emp-
ty handed and I dont want to go back empty handed. (Personal communica-
tion with P.K. via email on 19/11/2010)
There were also cultural differences which made returns difficult. As being
Sudanese and practising Sudanese culture was rapidly shifting towards a dual
Australian-Sudanese identity, this was potentially seen as disadvantageous from
the point of view of those back in Sudan. Two youths from the Dinka community
have explained some difficulties of returning to Sudan. Malual (a 22-year old
speaker of Dinka Agar, arrived in Australia in 2003) expressed his fear of not being
accepted into jobs in Sudan upon their return there. As he put it: we are going to
be really different from those who are already there (Excerpt 57 Line 14). The tem-
poral adverb already is a telling discourse marker about Maluals positioning
here. As he uses the deictic term already there (Line 14), he is speaking from a
stance which puts him into the newcomer role rather than returnee role.
Maluals choice of wording reflects his fear of being seen as an outsider and not a
returning member of the community. He fears that westernised Sudanese youths
who have spent lengthy time in the US, Australia and Canada will only have re-
stricted access to employment opportunities (Excerpt 57 Line 11).
Excerpt 57
Malual: 1. And its um really hard for me to go and settle down over
there because its (...)
Joseph: 2. Situation is ((laughs))
Malual: 3. Situation is not //really stable//
Joseph: 4. = // haunting you from your past//
Malual: 5. Because yeah
Facilitator: 6. Its not stable
Malual 7. Its not stable theres no good security over there to look
after people
8. certainly those who are away
9. ah for a long time like ourself ((sic)) me
10. and Joseph and me
Chapter 8. Projecting the future

11. and other people who are living in America Canada New
12. they have the same feeling too
13. because its not really accepted for us to go there and live
there forever
14. because we are going to be really (.) ah different from those
who are already there
Facilitator: 15. Uhum
Malual: 16. And we will not get the same opportunity that they would
get //well //
Facilitator: 17. // Really//
Malual: 18. Yes we will never
Facilitator: 19. So youre saying that um if you went back to your country
if you wanted to get jobs and things like that you would have
a disadvantage against those who have never left
Malual: 20. Yes
Later in the interview, Malual explained that a lack of fluency in the African lan-
guage is also a concern. This is supporting research evidence confirming the im-
portance of returnees proficiency in the local languages for job opportunities. A
report prepared for the International Organization for Migration (Genova) high-
lighted the issue that contrary to the educational advancement of refugees in their
newly adopted countries, deskilling occurred due to a lack of mastery of the lan-
guage of the receiving country (Ionescu, 2006, p. 22). The report argues that
a number of legal, social and economic factors in the host country influence
the potential of diaspora members to transfer knowledge to the home country
(Ionescu, 2006, p. 22).

8.2.3 Language regimes

In the next section, I will demonstrate that in a diasporic context language regimes
have several spacio-temporal dimensions. Firstly, language norms do not just op-
erate in the space of the here and now of the immediate speech community of the
immigrant diaspora, but cross geographical boundaries and apply simultaneously
in the there and then or there and now sociolinguistic settings. This means that
discourse participants are often reminded of the expected language behaviour that
was the norm back in their country of origin. This desire to conform to the tra-
ditional ways of speaking is partly driven by the desire to ensure the continuity of
traditional ways not only culturally, but also linguistically. This is most evident in
the interactions between younger and older generations or those who migrated as
adults and those who were underage at the time of leaving their home country.
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

Excerpt 58 illustrates the linguistic sense of space that governs the way people
produce discourse. Joseph was aware of the pragmatic differences between the way
they speak Dinka in Australia and the way Dinka is spoken back in Sudan. The
main difference, he emphasised, was the fact that Dinka speakers in Australia
code-switch between English and Dinka and their speech is less formal. Their
body language has also shifted to Australian norms and the youth need to be aware
of this and shift back to traditional mannerisms, including stance, posture, eye-gaze
and eye-contact (or lack of) when talking to the elders in their ethnic community.
In Excerpt 58 Joseph talks about an imagined visit back to Sudan. As he ex-
plains he has many family members in Sudan who want him to return, but he feels
uneasy about the potential communication problems with them. His imagined
interaction with his relatives back home is not framed as an easygoing happy re-
union, but as a conflict caused by the communicative norms, or as he put it lan-
guage boundaries (Excerpt 58, Line 5) of the speech community back there. As his
speech style has changed over the years in Australia, these language boundaries
can get him into trouble. (Excerpt 58, Line 10). When I asked him about what
these changes were, he explained that he routinely mixed English with Dinka and
this would make him an out-group member. As he puts it, people would isolate
him (Line 44). See Excerpt 58.
Excerpt 58
Joseph 1. if I go back home (.) yeah this (.) I think I will be yeah (.)
2. I ahhh I will STRUGGLE like I did when I came here
3. because even though I know the language
4. there are some language barr- (.) boundaries that I have to
respect ((softly))
A 5. What is it (.) language boundaries
Joseph 6. Yeah
A 7. What is it (.) Like what
Joseph 8. U::hhh the way to talk to people
A 9. Yeah
Joseph 10. Yeah (.) I (.) sometimes honesty can get you in trouble
A 11. Yeah
Joseph 12. Most of the time or if =
A 13. = So
Joseph 14. IF (.) the way you talk to an elder person is different to a way
you speak to a younger person
15. Of course that is in many tribal (.) cases but ah
16. theres always a SMALL difference so (...)
17. but being in AUSTRALIA
Chapter 8. Projecting the future

18. I tend to (.) speak to older people or younger people the

same (.)
19. joke around yeah (.) do things that may offend people unin-
A 20. I see so:: you have changed your communication style
21. and you feel that if you spoke Dinka back in your country
22. then it would be different yeah
23. your communication style would be different
Joseph 24. yeah (.) I will have to (.) yeah talk to them in DINKA
25. because if I was to MIX it (...) like I do it here without actu-
ally knowing
26. they will not completely understand what I am saying
27. because it will be just (...) one word uhh (.) describing some-
28. and uhh (.) the next few words will be completely what they
dont know
A 29. Uhumm =
Joseph 30. = so: (.) I will be (.) I think I will be having trouble ((with?))
31. I will be the one whos having trouble (...)
32. Okay I could say people will have difficulty understanding
A 33. Uhumm (.) also pronunciation
34. or only the mixing(.) or pronunciation as well
Joseph 35. NO (.) pronunciation will not be a trouble
A 36. Uhumm
Joseph 37. Except for not knowing some words to describe things
A 38. Hmmm
Joseph 39. But maybe I guess the mixing will be the main focus and or
how to:: sort of (.) behave
A 40. Uhumm (.) And ahh do you think the mixing will also be
41. they will consider as a ba:d thing to do
Joseph 42. A::hh =
A 43. = Or is it just a comprehension (.) understanding
Joseph 44. It will (.) it will isolate you
A 45. Isolate yeah
Joseph 46. Yeah (.) youll be alone
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

Later in the interview (Line 34 onwards), he reverts to the context of here and
now and talks about the pressures from the elders that require polite behaviour in
the Australian community. For example, young Sudanese need to refrain from
mixing English words with the Dinka, they need to use restrained body language
when they communicate with the elders and avoid direct eye contact in certain
situations to show respect. As previously stated (see Excerpt 48 also), Joseph is
particularly concerned about how the elders see him and what opinion they form
of him, as when he gets married, the elders will have a crucial say in giving a rec-
ommendation about him.
Another example of the normative nature of scales is demonstrated by Excerpt
59 which was taken from an interview with a Dinka priest in Toowoomba who
explained that those people who might want to return to Sudan will face difficult
expectations about language use. These expectations are exerted to reinforce the
inseparable link between Dinka ethnicity and a respectable command of
the Dinka language. As he puts it, a person who has the physiological features of
the Dinka, but cannot speak the language would be ridiculed and ultimately not
accepted as a member of the community. See Excerpt 59.
Excerpt 59
1. Yes, everything (..) and even in Sudan and if you say you are Dinka and you
cannot speak Dinka (.) people will LAUGH at you
2. What are you saying [animated high pitched tone]
3. Are you Dinka (.) [animated high pitched tone]
4. And you dont know your language [animated high pitched tone]
5. Nobody can listen for you (.) to you completely [sarcasm and disappoint-
ment](.) because you dont KNOW your mother tongue
6. WHAT is your identification for you/
7. Yes I can say today I am a DINKA/ and I got to know the language.//Uhm.
8. (J Interview, male Dinka Bor speaker, March 2008)
These accounts of the unwritten rules and expectations of language norms pro-
vide insights into the orders of indexicalities as discussed by Blommaert (2005).
The multiple layers of scales governing language choices can be summarised as in
Figure 8.
In Figure 8 the outer circle represents the spacio-temporal scales of the future
return to home country and the way these expectations influence language choices
and language behaviour including verbal and non-verbal communication patterns
in the here and now of living in Australia. The second circle moving inwards
represents the spacio-temporal scale of the here and now, but as part of the
broader Australian community. In this scale the language behaviour is governed
Chapter 8. Projecting the future

Spatio-temporal scale of
back home in the future

Spatio-temporal scale of here

and now in Australia: Out-group pressures
integration, identity-work, fitting -in

Spatio-temporal scale of here and now

in the diaspora
In-group pressures, identity and solidarity


Figure 8. Spacio-temporal scales of language regimes

by interethnic and intercultural expectations, such as fitting into the Australian

way of life through using English. The third circle demonstrates the scale of here
and how in the narrower sense, in the diasporic ethnic community, which of
course has its own multiple layers by social identity, gender, age and other factors.
The final and inner-most circle represents the scale of the self : that is the indi-
vidual, who is an active agent in his or her language choices and manoeuvres these
choices in everyday interactions so that the external structural and collective
norms are negotiated and reconciled by his or her identity positionings.


In this chapter I have argued that language regimes and expectations saturate all
aspects of language use and its time/space dimensions. Language rules in the fam-
ily domain are influenced by a complex web of factors related to the social and
cultural transition from Sudanese culture to Australian culture, language profi-
ciency matters and shifting child rearing practices. Language shift leads to signifi-
cant power shifts in the families, which can have important social and cultural
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

Norms in the here and now determine language choices in the diaspora,
while expectations about a possible future use of the language in Sudan demon-
strate that language regimes of the here and now are closely linked with those in
the back home in the future spacio-temporal dimension. Code switching, in par-
ticular mixing in English, was mentioned as something unacceptable. Participants
also emphasised the need to observe different politeness strategies when commu-
nicating with the elderly members of the community.
chapter 9

Micro-level language planning


Traditionally language planning and policy (hence LPP) have been defined more
narrowly as activities on the national level (Kaplan & Baldauf, 2008, p. 41). In re-
cent decades, however, there has been a strong development in the study of bottom
up or grass-root language planning (see Barkhuizen & Knoch, 2006; Canagarajah,
2005; Hornberger, 1996; Liddicoat & Baldauf Jr., 2008; May, 2013; McCarty &
Nicholas, 2012). Such bottom-up planning is the topic of this chapter. Bottom-up
planning, however, is not necessarily confined to geographical locality, as this
chapter will demonstrate, LPP actions in diasporic communities are increasingly
transnational due to the use of the Internet. These trends call for a new research
ontology to complement the national with sub-national and supranational levels.
In this chapter I draw on cosmopolitan theories to explore their explanatory pow-
er for these trends.
First, in Section (9.1), I will introduce the concept of cosmopolitanism and call
for a cosmopolitan outlook in LPP that embraces post-modern spaces of linguistic
ecologies; in Section (9.2) I discuss micro language planning and showcase some
planning initiatives taken by the Australian Dinka speaking community. Here I
draw on ethnographic and discourse data to stress the role of the church, and the
motivation and agency of volunteers. I also showcase micro planning with trans-
national characteristics such as the Agola Kapuk community and Cyberspora, an
online learning community that aimed to teach Dinka literacy to youth. In Section
(9.3) I present a model for micro-planning informed by theories of community

9.1 A cosmopolitan outlook for language planning

9.1.1 Why cosmopolitanism?

The term cosmopolitan has had a convoluted history and has been used to de-
scribe moral ideals, cultural goals as well as hybrid social configurations (Hansen,
2008, p. 207). Its modern usage is directly linked to the spread of globalization, and
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

it has gained prominence in the past few decades as an alternative sociological

framework to theorize social action beyond the nation state. In this Chapter, I ex-
plore this term as a heuristic to study language planning in transnational fluid
spaces. My endeavour is motivated by the pursuit of a concept which fits the con-
text of contemporary transnational diaspora which are, at least partially, and sym-
bolically deterritorialised. As Hansen put it in the context of education:
A cosmopolitan orientation spurs people to reimagine the creative possibilities in the
local, the universal, and the unfathomable spaces between. (Hansen, 2008, p. 206)

While cosmopolitanism has been critiqued for shifting too much attention to the
global at the expense of the local, in the theoretical framework I propose here, local
and global perspectives share an equal weight. In my view, cosmopolitanism avoids
the plurality usually implied in terms such as multiculturalism, and allows us to see
diaspora communities as connected across physical and geographical boundaries
partly through modern technology and travel, partly through creativity as members
of imagined communities (Anderson, 2006) nurture local and global (and many
spaces in between) identities. According to cosmopolitan liberal theorists, territo-
rial boundaries and fixations have been transformed as they have become ambigu-
ous, incongruent and contingent (Grande, 2006). Ambiguity means that boundaries
are not easily identifiable and clear-cut. Incongruence means that economic, politi-
cal and cultural boundaries no longer co-exist. Contingency means that boundaries
cannot be taken for granted, but they are subject of individual and collective deci-
sions (Grande, 2006, p. 90). I will return to this point later in greater depth. In sum,
despite the controversies surrounding globalization and its effect, it needs to be ac-
knowledged that transnational developments in all spheres of life are evident and
these impact on the ecology of contemporary ethnolinguistic communities.
It seems that cosmopolitanism also conveniently captures the dynamics of
bottom-up language planning since it presumes a creative potential on the part of
persons everywhere to craft lives of meaning and purpose (Hansen, 2008, p. 208).
Similarly, it allows us to move beyond the epistemological locus of the nation-state
and to address transnational contexts. Cosmopolitanism has many versions, and it
is not without limitations. Therefore, one should exercise caution before adopting
it as a general frame. This will become clearer in the discussion that follows. First
(9.1.2), I clarify the concept of cosmopolitanism and give a brief critical review of
its various forms; I also discuss its premise as an alternative epistemological ap-
proach in place of methodological nationalism for the study of transnational
diaspora; third (9.1.3) I consider the implications for LPP.
One of the main themes of scholarly debate in the area of globalization studies
has been the relationship between nationalism and ethnicity. While traditionally
Chapter 9. Micro-level language planning

ethnicity was viewed as a pre-existing condition for nationhood, modern scholars

have argued that ethnicity and nation do not go hand in hand, and their relationship
is simply incidental. Calhoun (1993) occupies a middle ground and claims that it is
impossible to dissociate nationalism entirely from ethnicity, but, on the other hand,
it is equally impossible to explain it simply as a continuation of ethnicity or as a
simple reflection of common history or language (Calhoun, 1993, p. 211). May
(2012) approaches the topic of nationalism in the context of minority language rights
and shares Calhouns perspective. According to May (2012), having two sharply op-
posing views on the relationship between ethnicity and nationalism has been coun-
terproductive and calls for a more subjective, situational and socially constructed
account of nationalism and nationhood (May, 2012, p. 56). In the next section I will
turn to contrasting cosmopolitanism and methodological nationalism.

9.1.2 Cosmopolitanism versus methodological nationalism

Traditionally, the focus of sociological investigation was intended to describe so-

cial action primarily within and only secondarily across state boundaries. How-
ever, the role and viability of the nation-state both as a political unit and as research
ontology has long been the centre of academic debate in diverse interdisciplinary
fields, especially in globalization studies. With the development of globalization,
theorists have called for new epistemologies, moving away from the nation-state.
On one side of the debate, represented by liberalists (and cosmopolitanists), the
argument has been that the nation-state is an old-fashioned frame of reference and
does not suit the globalized world. As Calhoun observes:
that social relations extend across nation-state borders, that migration and cul-
tural flows challenge nationalist notions of the integral character of cultures
and political communities, that states are not able to organize or control many
of the main influences on the lives of their citizens, and that the most salient
inequalities are intersocietally global and thus not addressed by intrasocietal
measures (Calhoun, 2003, p. 534)

These scholars (see e.g. Beck & Sznaider, 2006) have critiqued traditional sociolo-
gy for its inability to capture transnational contexts. As cosmopolitanists have ar-
gued, the light of the great cultural problems has moved on from a nation-state
definition of society and politics to a cosmopolitan outlook (Beck & Sznaider,
2006, p. 2) and this outlook has three interconnected characteristics:
1. The critique of methodological nationalism;
2. The shared diagnosis that the 21st century is becoming an age of cosmopoli-
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

3. The shared assumption that for this purpose we need a methodological cos-
mopolitanism (Beck & Sznaider, 2006: 23).
Cosmopolitanists claim that the national organization as a structuring principle
of societal and political action can no longer serve as the orienting reference point
for the social scientific observer (Beck & Sznaider, 2006, p. 4). In their view, hav-
ing the nation-state as the central epistemological frame for studying society is
problematic for two reasons. Firstly, globalization has brought social movements
and actions which are not confined to the territorial boundaries of nation states.
Globalization has reshaped existing boundaries and created new boundaries across
nations (Grande, 2006 p. 89).
Secondly, state and nation are not identical and their seemingly neat relation-
ship is the result of nationalist movements. In the era of globalization the nation
seems to be under pressure, while the state continues to do well (Blommaert,
2006, p. 239). Methodological nationalism is contrasted with cosmopolitanism in
Table 38.
Cosmopolitanism, therefore, is a useful alternative heuristic for describing
transnational spaces of social action and has particular relevance in the context of
language planning below and beyond national boundaries.
Opponents of cosmopolitanism defend sociology and its methods claiming
that classical sociology is perfectly suitable for capturing current transnational
trends. For example, Turner (2006, p. 139) states that sociology is essentially criti-
cal and social (rather than national) and cautions against the nave equation of the
social with national. As he argues: classicality involved the study of the social,

Table 38. Contrasting cosmopolitanism and nationalism

Methodological nationalism Cosmopolitan outlook

clear distinction between national and blurred boundaries between national and
international international
contrasting homogenous units exploring dynamic and heterogeneous units
unit of analysis: the nation state unit of analysis: the cosmopolitan space
categories of analysis are rigid and static categories of analysis are characterized by
fluidity, liquidity and mobility
social actors are treated as separate and recognition of interdependency among
belonging to one nation state social actors across national boundaries
focussed on national > national outlook focussed on transnational > cosmopolitan
mono-perspectival one lens; e.g. uses multi-perspectival multiple lenses
national statistical indicators
Chapter 9. Micro-level language planning

not society, and hence this tradition is not negated by the current interest in socio-
logical accounts of globality, networks and flows (Turner, 2006, p. 135). Accord-
ing to Turner, the idea of the social is directly relevant to the task of analysing
transnational relationships and global processes (Turner, 2006, p. 139). Therefore,
sociolinguists should also keep the social in focus, rather than the national, as
planning actions and actors do not only operate on the level of the nation-state.
Cosmopolitanism also has a particular approach to identity where fixity is re-
placed by identification. It has been criticised (see e.g. Calhoun 2003) for falling
into a form of methodological individualism overemphasising the individuals
freedom of identity choices and ignoring more static and stable belongings based
on groups, culture and society. Cosmopolitanism, according to Calhoun, is at fault
of escaping from social determinations into a realm of greater freedom, and of
cultural partiality into greater universalism (Calhoun, 2003, p. 536). It represents
an attempt to get rid of society as a feature of political theory (Calhoun, 2003,
p. 536). A cosmopolitan view which defines ethnicity based on self-identifications
neglect(s) the omnipresence of ascription and discrimination as determinations
of social identities (Calhoun 2007:3001 cited in May, 2012, p. 114). May also
calls for scholars to rethink a political community based on self-image and self-
identification while avoiding reductionism or essentialism (May, 2012, p. 115). He
proposes an ethno-symbolic position which recognises the relationship between
ethnicity and nationalism, but moves away from essentialising them. He stresses
that individual and group identities need to be differentiated and claims that a
group identity approach does not imply an essentialist perspective. On the con-
trary, groups can be seen as dynamic and fluid while still maintaining some sense
of distinct identity (May, 2012, p. 114). May (2012) gives credit to cosmopolitan
scholars for recognising and celebrating hybridity, but critiques them for ignoring
the class-based, privileged nature of so-called cosmopolitans the frequent fly-
ers of the contemporary world (May, 2012, p. 114). He sees a cosmopolitan
identity as devoid of deeply held affiliations either publicly or privately, except,
perhaps, as an acknowledged, interdependent participant in the wider global
community (May, 2012, p. 113). To put it simply, cosmopolitan identities need
to be seen as only partially the matter of free choice and researchers need to exer-
cise self-criticism as their views are always biased by their social standing and
A blanket acceptance of cosmopolitanism would be wrong, as cosmopolitan
theory is not uniform. According to Calhoun (2003), there are at least four
main trends in contemporary cosmopolitan theories. The first and most extreme
form advocated by Nussbaum (1997) has a strong normative aspect which
emphasises the ethical responsibility of individuals to pursue a common good
for humanity. Nussbaums cosmopolitanism is highly universalistic, rationalistic
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

and decontextualised (Calhoun, 2003). It takes world citizenship as fundamen-

tal, clearly and always morally superior to more local bonds such as ethnic or
national solidarities (Calhoun, 2003, p. 538). The second version of cosmopoli-
tanism is more moderate, as it does not place the universal ahead of the particu-
lar, but recognises that people belong to the local and cultural as well as the
universal. The third branch of cosmopolitanism is a socio-psychological usage
and refers to the appreciation of diversity. Finally, the fourth approach, which
Calhoun describes as critical cosmopolitanism, allows for memberships and
solidarities on multiple levels and refuses the notion that cosmopolitanism is
somehow above or outside particularities of culture (Calhoun, 2003, p. 541).
Another theme of interest in globalization studies has been the concept of
citizenship. Terms such as global, transnational, cultural or flexible citizen-
ship have become fashionable in the literature, despite the fact that the concept of
citizenship is defined by rights and obligations on the state level. Even though we
live in the era of globalization, some terms, such as citizenship, are clearly national
and inherently not mobile (Turner, 2006, p. 146). Nevertheless, these innovative
concepts of citizenship offer insights, at least on the symbolic level, to the study of
solidarity and belonging in the era of globalization.
Theorists of language planning in diasporic transnational contexts are also in-
formed by the notion of linguistic citizenship (Stroud, 2001) which takes a non-
essentialist view of ethnicity and identity. This suits the post-modern era where
ethnicity and language are seen as performed and lived in everyday contexts as
opposed to fixed, static or given. Consequently, minority language planning is best
approached through transformative as opposed to affirmative strategies (Stroud,
2001). In other words, the actions and processes that minority groups engage in
matter more than their inherited and primordial ethnic identity and associated
rights. This idea resonates with Baldauf s (2006) notion of agency as well as with
the body of literature on post-modern approaches to the study of identity. Identity,
however, is not just a free choice, as Chapter 7 has shown. This chapter will dem-
onstrate that the grass-root minority language planning activities of the Sudanese
community fit the transformative approach.

9.1.3 Challenges for LPP research

As stated previously, traditionally, in LPP studies a nation or a state has formed the
unit of analysis: e.g. the national language policy of a certain nation-state. However,
as I have argued, one should not confuse state and nation and neither should ne-
glect the fact that actors and influences (...) can be manifold and involve sub-state,
state and superstate levels (Blommaert, 2006, p. 240). In our increasingly global-
ized world, political actors have been dealing with liquefied units of action:
Chapter 9. Micro-level language planning

Political actors, [...] are confronted with a [...] problem. In their case, it is not the
unit of analysis but the unit of action which has been liquefying. If the boundaries
of their activities are no longer defined by the nation-state and the international
arenas established by it, they have to re-constitute their respective units of action
according to their own criteria whatever these might be. (Grande, 2006p. 90).

These processes pose challenges to LPP researchers and call for new research agen-
das which take into consideration these shifting boundaries. In the context of lan-
guage planning in Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, Omoniyi has suggested that
the treatment of boundaries as zones of continuity rather than discontinuity will
allow for the development of stronger interstate agencies within which framework
projects may be better managed (Omoniyi, 2007, p. 533).
With the rapid growth of transnational sociolinguistic contexts, there is a need
for a new heuristic in the context of LPP. There are two major implications for LPP
research: Firstly, LPP needs to respond to the new sociolinguistic contexts created
by new migration patterns and consider planning actions and actors beyond
national boundaries. Secondly, LPP needs to shift from fixed territorial contexts
(such as a polity) to a cosmopolitan outlook where language planning is achieved
through multiple levels, across national borders and internationally. In this chap-
ter I argue that LPP research can benefit from the insights offered by cosmopolitan
theories, but this does not mean that nation-state level LPP is to be neglected or
replaced. As Blommaert (2006, p. 24) argues, actors and influences in the field of
language policy can be manifold and involve both sub-state, state and super-state
actors in processes of considerable complexity.
The fundamental research questions in LPP, therefore, may need reconsidera-
tion and reinterpretation. The research questions that Grande suggested in the
field of political sciences suggest inspiring new directions:
Which criteria can political actors apply in a globalizing world to establish
boundaries, if territorial boundaries have become ambiguous, incongruent
and contingent?
How can they define the unit of their actions, the scope of their activity, and
How can they grant individual or collective membership?(Grande, 2006 p. 91)

Based on these fundamental questions, LPP research may seek answers for the fol-
lowing questions:
Which actions do LPP actors apply in a globalizing world to establish bound-
aries, if territorial boundaries have become ambiguous, incongruent and con-
How can LPP research define the unit of language policy-actors actions, the
scope of their activity, and
How can they grant individual or collective membership through language
planning tools?
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

In summary, a cosmopolitan outlook is informative for two main reasons i.e.

because, such an outlook: (1) puts the emphasis on solidarity and identity beyond
the national level; and (2) calls for a moral position where otherness is the norm.
It is, however, important not to underestimate the power of the nation-state. So-
ciolinguists need to treat language planning by stressing the social, and not nec-
essarily, or not only, the national. In other words, social does not need to be
confined to the nation state. Adopting the approach of a social focus with a cosmo-
politan outlook, does not entail the denial of classicality in sociology and does not
mean that some contexts should not be studied on the national level. On the con-
trary, by keeping the social in the centre, traditional sociological concepts and
theories can be used to describe contexts below and beyond the nation-state. 1

9.2 Micro planning: Language planning from bottom-up

Language planning and policy emerged in sociolinguistics in the 1950s and 1960s
(see e.g. Haugen (1966), Haarmann (1990), Kaplan and Baldauf (1997), Tollefson,
(1991) Hornberger (1996) and Cooper (1989), Spolsky (2009; Spolsky et al. 2006)
to refer to interventions targeted at changing language behaviour in society. Kaplan
and Baldauf give the following definition of language planning:
In a general sense, language planning has been conceived as an effort, usually
at national level, to change the language behavior of some population for some
stated or implied reason (Kaplan & Baldauf, 2008, p. 41).

While some authors use planning and policy interchangeably, there are im-
portant distinctions to make: generally speaking language policy refers to the
plan, e.g. an official policy document, while language planning denotes the im-
plementation of policy; that is some concrete actions taken (Baldauf, 2006, p.
149). However, this distinction is not always clear-cut. Policy can take various
diverse forms some of which are not necessarily written in government legisla-
tion or official documents. The terms language engineering (Rubin & Jernudd,
1971) and language management (Neustupn & Nekvapil, 2003; Spolsky, 2009)
have also been used to shift the attention from macro to micro levels and capture
the dynamic nature of planning in contemporary sociolinguistic situations. Ac-
cording to Spolsky (2004a) language policy has three main components: prac-
tices, ideologies and language management. He advocates the study of language

1. One, however, needs to differentiate the scholar from the practitioner; as practitioners need
to work with agencies/organizations that have power to accomplish things at national (or lower)
levels; scholars may consider global or cosmopolitan concepts, realizing that action may lie in
the distant future. My point here refers to the scholarly perspective.
Chapter 9. Micro-level language planning

policy on multiple levels according to Fishmans domains. For example, in the

family domain, a child insisting on the choice of a language with other family
members imposes some kind of policy, nonetheless a much less formal one. An
individual or family level language planning is also referred to as infra micro
planning (Chua & Baldauf, 2011). One would also need to distinguish between
overt and covert planning based on the level of awareness of goals (Baldauf,
2006) and recognise that policies can have planned as well as unplanned effects
(Baldauf, 1994).
Kaplan & Baldauf (1997) have proposed various models of planning on multiple
levels ranging from micro to macro. While macro planning is usually interpreted as
being performed by the state or by relevant government bodies, micro planning ac-
tions are initiated by non-government organisations or individual members of eth-
nolinguistic communities. As Baldauf (2006) states:
micro planning refers to cases where businesses, institutions, groups or individu-
als hold agency and create what can be recognised as a language policy and plan to
utilise and develop their language resources (Baldauf, 2006, p. 155).

Micro planning has gained more and more focus in LPP studies, as researchers
have recognised that the success of national or macro level language policies is
subject to a number of contextual influences (Chua & Baldauf, 2011). Central to
micro planning is agency, which members of linguistic communities exercise in
order to better their language situation. Micro language policy should originate
from the micro and not the macro level (Baldauf, 2005), and a mere implementa-
tion of macro policy, does not constitute micro planning, as agency in this case
remains with government bodies (Baldauf, 2006). In the literature there are vari-
ous models and frameworks representing the relationship between macro and mi-
cro planning, one model suggesting ten levels which are suggested as exemplary
rather than definitive. As the authors argue, the participation of actors in the im-
plementation or translation of macro policy is highly context-dependent (Chua
& Baldauf, 2011). The examples I provide in this chapter fit the definition of micro
planning as stemming from the local context. In the next section I turn to an ex-
ample in the church context.

9.2.1 Language planning and the church

The role of the church has long been the focus of sociolinguistic interest in LPP for
several reasons (Hatoss, 2012a; Omoniyi & Fishman, 2006; Peterson, 2012; Woods,
2004). Language planning actions through the church represent meso level plan-
ning (Kaplan & Baldauf, 1997). As religion often plays a central part in ethnic com-
munities everyday life, the church domain has been shown to have a strong impact
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

on vitality (Fishman, 1991) and national or ethnolinguistic identity development

(Safran, 2002). Having said this, one needs to be cautious as national and religious
identities do not always go hand in hand as this has been shown in Chapter 72.
The language choices of ethnic churches have been shown to play a major role
in the development of diglossic situations (see e.g. Classical Arabic). Churches
usually adopt a (covert or overt) language-religion-ideology which can be theo-
rised as a continuum between a strong and a weak language-religion relationship.
On one end of the continuum, language is a central issue for the church and the
church is a stronghold for the protection of minority languages. On the other end
of the spectrum is a weak attachment to the ethnic or local languages by the church,
and in this scenario the church does not attach significance to language. The kind
of ideology adopted by the church regarding language reflects a denominations
actions, attitudes, traditions, and official/unofficial policies which pertain to lan-
guage (Woods, 2004) and inform LPP studies. Motivational models of language
planning (Ager, 2001; Karan, 2000) have also identified religion as a major factor
in the language maintenance of immigrant communities. This is also reflected in
the definition of language planning as the ways in which organised communities,
united by religious, ethnic, or political ties, consciously attempt to influence the
language(s) their members use (Ager, 2001, p. 5). Religion has played a particu-
larly important and complex role in the way languages, particularly local African
languages in Sudan, have been treated throughout centuries (see various articles
by Sinfree Makoni and the discussion in Chapter 3).
As African languages are not taught through the public school system in
Australia (with a few exceptions of Dinka classes offered in South Australia and
Victoria), the Sudanese Australian community has run their own language pro-
grams as part of the Sunday church school. As the community is largely Christian,
including a small minority of Muslims who come from the north of Sudan and
speak Arabic, the local Christian churches have been particularly active in sup-
porting the Sudanese community. The local churches have provided a venue for
their regular church services and for language programs such as English language
classes on Saturdays and the Dinka classes on Sundays. The church, therefore, has
had a twofold impact on the communitys acculturation and language behaviour.
On the one hand, the church has built social networks within the Sudanese com-
munity; on the other hand it has assisted the integration of Sudanese refugees into
mainstream Australia.
At the time of the ethnographic research presented in this volume there were
two parishes that the Sudanese community members have made their own, al-
though individual Sudanese also attended some other services in Toowoomba.

2. also see Hatoss (2012a) on language and identity in the Lutheran churches of Australia.
Chapter 9. Micro-level language planning

The main gathering point was the local Anglican church hall where the Sudanese
held their Sunday mass at 12 noon a Dinka Prayer Service conducted by a Dinka
Pastor. Most Dinka Catholics attended the ordinary Parish Masses at St Anthonys
Parish church, especially the 9.00am Sunday Mass. There was also a Dinka Choir
which sang at this Mass about once a month. There was no Dinka Catholic Priest
in Toowoomba.
Visiting the Sunday mass in the Anglican church was a rich cultural experi-
ence for the research team. People started to gather outside the church well before
the start of the service with the intent of catching up with friends and relatives who
lived in other parts of the town as well as with those visiting from other parts of
Australia. The typical greeting was a handshake and all verbal communication
took place in African languages, with varieties of Arabic mixed in. People coming
from other ethnic communities used Arabic or English for communication. As
demonstrated in Picture 1, inside the church, the congregation seating was sepa-
rated by gender. This practice reflected traditional gender roles in Dinka culture.
In the front row of the church, a group of young Sudanese men played some tradi-
tional musical instruments that they made in Australia using goat skin. On the
benches, copies of the Dinka translations of the Holy Bible and of Hymn Books
were easily available.
Extensive singing occurred during the ceremony as people stood up and read
the words from the Hymn books. Some people, however, were only holding the
book perhaps because they were unable to read. There were several readings from
the Bible by the priest and speeches were delivered by community members. The
topics of these speeches included such important issues for the community as
bringing up children in Australia, settlement issues (particularly those concerning
family matters, youth matters) and finding employment. At the end of the service
some important community announcements were made. At the conclusion of the
mass, the Sunday school, where the children were taught about the Bible stories,

Picture 1. Sunday mass in Dinka language

Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

began. The Sunday school was conducted in the Dinka language. The Dinka pastor
described the activities of the School in the following words (See Excerpt 60):
Excerpt 60
They have been teaching song, dancing, ah language, singing yeah. These are
an worship and just some basics of Bible be taught to them. That is a special
service of the Sunday school. (Interview with Dinka pastor 2008)
Regular Dinka classes were provided after each Sunday church service. These
classes, however, were highly unstructured and did not follow a syllabus or a cur-
riculum. The main activity was teaching the Bible to the children in Dinka, as the
majority of participants belonged to the Dinka ethnic group. In addition, another
type of class was provided by volunteers in a local school. The aim of this class was
to teach children the Dinka alphabet and to develop their literacy skills through
secular content. In the next section, I will turn to discuss the motivation of the
volunteer teacher who taught these classes.

9.2.2 Motivation of volunteer teachers

The Dinka literacy class was offered by a volunteer teacher on Saturdays. Lessons
were provided in English, as most children were more proficient in English than in
Dinka. The teacher used a phonics approach; introduced the letters of the alphabet
and helped children to pronounce individual phonemes as well as words. The par-
ticipants ranged widely in age making the teaching challenging. The teacher used
a traditional chalk and talk approach, as children did not have any books or
reading materials. See Picture 2 showing the teacher in action.

Picture 2. Dinka literacy class

Chapter 9. Micro-level language planning

When I interviewed the teacher about why he volunteered to teach the class, he
gave four major reasons. The first reason was a strong attachment to his mother
tongue, Jieng (Dinka), and a strong belief that language and culture are closely
connected and he saw it as his responsibility to teach others who have not had the
opportunity to learn how to read and write in Dinka. See Excerpt 61.
Excerpt 61
Jieng3 is my first language (Mother Tongue). I do love my language just like
anyone else in the world and that is the one I would better express myself to oth-
ers. However, I use Jieng language to communicate with my Jieng fellows in
speaking, reading and writing and therefore, I should also teach it to those who
want to read, write and speak in Jieng. In the context of culture, first language is
important because it is the best archive to store and maintain traditional cul-
tures (written communication by Dinka teacher, A.M. 24 February 2008).
His second reason was orientated towards the past, reminiscing about the policies
in Sudan which suppressed Dinka and other local African languages. He felt that
this policy was harmful and that in the diaspora context there was an opportunity
to take things in their own hands and to promote the learning of African lan-
guages. See Excerpt 62.
Excerpt 62
The central government of Sudan which is controlled by Arab Ethnic groups
had applied policies designed to press down non-Arab languages in Sudan in
favour of Arabic language. These government policies made every Jieng per-
son including myself to not only love our language more and more, but also to
work hard in order to make it a formal and written language like Arabic and
English and I am so proud of doing that. (volunteer Dinka teacher 24 February
2008, Toowoomba)
The third reason he provided was oriented towards the future as he talked about
the opportunities that lie ahead, such as the possibility of a new independent state
of Southern Sudan, which would allow Southern Sudanese to return to their
homeland and contribute to its economic development. See Excerpt 63.
Excerpt 63
Fieng is the largest ethnic group not only in the South, but in the whole Sudan.
Being the largest community in the South plus huge Agricultural Products
and Minerals such as Oil in their areas, Jieng language is important for com-
munication at markets, businesses and may one day become one of official

3. Jieng refers to Dinka.

Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

languages in an expected new State in Southern Sudan in two and half years
time from now. The formation of new state in Southern Sudan means to me,
more education chances and more teachers to teach Jieng language alongside
with other languages and I am preparing myself to be one of Jieng teachers.
(volunteer Dinka teacher 24 February 2008, Toowoomba)
Finally, he added a personal motivational reason, which had to do with his ambi-
tion to help others. As he put it, he wanted to follow his father who was well-
known in his village for his generosity in supporting others. He felt that it was an
opportunity for him to help those young children whose parents have dreams
about returning to Sudan and have their children take big responsibilities there.
Community leaders were asked about their thoughts about what needed to be
done to maintain African languages in the diaspora. Their responses reflected a
common view that supporting African languages in the Australian context could
best be achieved by combining community grass-root initiatives with government
support. Most respondents emphasised the need to obtain government backing for
their literacy classes specifically for providing a venue for the classes, supplying
materials and assisting them with expert advice on teaching methods and strategies.
The leaders also talked about the benefits of cultural activities such as dancing, story-
telling and singing, stressed the opportunities to connect with other diaspora inter-
nationally and expressed the need to have bilingual, well-trained African teachers.

9.2.3 Micro planning crossing national boundaries

While the previous examples of micro planning were largely confined to the local
community (except for the fact that they obtained books and cultural material from
their homeland and they aspired to share teachers internationally), there was another
initiative which exemplifies the transnational or supranational character of micro-
planning. The effects of language planning in transnational and regional context have
long been recognised in LPP literature. As Kaplan and Baldauf have argued:
Language planning must recognise [...] that language modification may not be
susceptible to containment within a particular nation-state or other entity that
may be isolated for the purposes of discussion but that in truth always remains
embedded in a larger context. Rather, the language plan may cause a ripple ef-
fect in proximate communities, in nation-states, and across a region (or in other
smaller or larger entities).(Kaplan & Baldauf, 1997, p. 267)

As languages interact with and affect one another both within and across polities
(Kaplan & Baldauf, 2008, p. 43), LPP needs to step outside the nation-state focus
and consider language issues across national boundaries. In this section I aim to
demonstrate that micro planning can also have a transnational character.
Chapter 9. Micro-level language planning

9.2.4 Cyberspora Internet diaspora

As diaspora communities become increasingly deterritorialised and uprooted

from time and space through communication technologies (Bida, 2009, p. 33),
new forms of diaspora, which I have termed Cyberspora or online diaspora, are
developing. Appadurai (1996) used the terms ethnoscapes, technoscapes, fin-
anscapes, mediascapes, and ideoscapes to describe the globalised reality, char-
acterised by seminal shifts in the way contemporary communities experience time
and space (Giddens, 1991). Bernal (2006) reported how the Eritreans in diaspora
use the Internet as a transnational public sphere where they produce and debate
narratives of history, culture, democracy and identity. She claims that the Internet
in fact is the quintessential networking tool:
The fact that cyberspace has no physical location mirrors the displacement of
Eritreans in diaspora, and the networked sociality of cyberspace resonates with
their dispersed social networks. In this way, the Internet may be the quintes-
sential diasporic medium because it builds upon, reinforces and extends social
networks (Bernal, 2006, p. 168)

An example for an emerging Cyberspora and a transnational LPP initiative in the

Sudanese context is the Agola Kapuk association. This association was established
to support the Agola tribe, one of the seven clans in the Acholi community from
the Pajok Village area. Agola means all of us and kapuk means many. The
name reflects the communitys strong solidarity across national borders.. The As-
sociation consists of an international network with branches in the United States
e.g. see the Agola Kapuk association of Portland at
kapuk-portland. The aims of the association include maintaining Agola Kapuk
cultural values and passing them on to the next generation.
The Agola Kapuk association in Toowoomba was formed in 2009, just three
months prior to the research interviews. Their leader, a young Acholi speaking
woman, talked enthusiastically about their initiative to set up an organisation
which would connect them across different states in Australia. Coming from a
regional (as opposed to an urban) setting, she was particularly proud that their
organisation was formed ahead of the Brisbane group (major urban area). Their
openness to all ethnic groups gave them a cosmopolitan ethos. While their
broad aim was to help with the successful integration of Acholi refugees into
Australian communities, one of their key goals was the maintenance of Sudanese
cultures and languages. They organised such cultural events as traditional dance
functions that have assisted them in promoting Sudanese languages and cultures
to the younger generation. They made their own costumes from locally available
materials and replicated the traditional outfits. The main benefit that members of
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

the group enjoyed from these events was that they were able to connect with
their own cultural heritage and teach traditional dances to their own children (see
Excerpt 64).
Excerpt 64
Interviewer 1. So tell me (..) what motivated you to do this
2. This is quite a big initiative isnt it
3. What was your main motivation
Respondent 4. Our grandparents were doing it [that is teaching the local
language] in Africa you know
5. us the refugees you know
6. if you like (...) you know we are now in Australia (...)
7. but ah (...) you know (...) we reflect back at our home
8. we do good things with parents who are helping back you
9. (...) initially we wanted to really promote this one as a cul-
ture to our own generation
10. and then from there they can keep them
11. so that (...) you know (...) let them not forget
12. you know all of what they were doing
13. like our parents were doing you know
Interviewer 14. Right
Respondent 15. So that they can keep doing that
16. while this is really we wanted to upgrade the kids
17. because like if we leave them like that they can forget
18. Even they dont know our traditions and the way things were
The network did not only connect the Acholi community, (see Excerpt 65), but
engaged other cultural and ethnic groups. While those children who were born in
Sudan were able to speak their local dialect, others who were born in Australia
found the language very hard (Excerpt 65, Line 18). The parents wanted to teach
their children their local African language, in order to keep their ethnic identity.
As one respondent said, nobody will believe that they (i.e. the children) were
born in Australia if they speak their native tongue (Excerpt 65 Line 22).
Excerpt 65
Respondent 1. we bring all the members from different areas together
2. and share the cultural values
Interviewer 3. Mm.
Chapter 9. Micro-level language planning

Respondent 4. Not only with Acholi members but also with the wider com-
Interviewer 5. Yes Yes
Respondent 6. Yes and also we see that carrying out these activities
7. it will let our young generation not forget
8. because we know were in a::h (...) the second place
9. but still we need to maintain our cultural heritage
Interviewer 10. So thats very important for you then
Respondent 11. Very very important
Respondent 12. Not only that because we have to teach
13. them our own dialect
Interviewer 14. Right
Respondent 15. As were in the community we have to teach them
16. because weve got children they came here
17. they know the dialect but others who were born here
18. sometimes it very hard
19. but were trying very hard (.) so that they get it from the grass
20. Like my kids (...) I got four kids born in Australia here
21. but if they can speak Acholi now
22. NOBODY could believe they were born here
Excerpt 66 exemplifies the ways in which members of the Agola Kapuk society
connect internationally and build their diasporic connections across the globe.
Their mother tongue is the main vehicle through which such connections are es-
tablished and maintained.
Excerpt 66
Respondent B We got our own forum where all members share their ideas
When there is anything we do make a tele-conference =
Respondent S = Tele-conference.
Interviewer Oh is that right
Respondent B Yeah we do make that but =
Interviewer = In Acholi language
Respondent B Yes yes =
Respondent S = Yep in Acholi language we can (.) they can give us the code
number here we can (.) we can =
Respondent B = Link from America to here
Respondent S To call from Australia
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

Interviewer Fantastic
Respondent S Those who are in Canada (.) those who are in USA (.)
those who are in (.) you know (.) everywhere
You can just talk and you give your views
and chairman have to take minutes
We told the executive later and
then they write it on the net the same...
Respondent B The Forum.
Respondent S On the forum.
Interviewer So youve got a website also
Respondent B Yeah website is not yet but we just have a social forum
(extract from interview with Leader 08)
Such activities and goals are good examples of micro planning, but this planning
is micro only in the sense that it is community-based (grass-root), but goes be-
yond the micro in the sense of locality, as it is part of an international movement
reaching out to other Acholi communities globally. Locality, in this sense, tran-
scends geographic boundaries. These actions of planning, therefore, do not neatly
fit into the traditional micro-, meso- and macro distinctions and call for a new
paradigm. In the next section I turn to an online learning initiative, Cyberspora,
as another example of transnational language planning.

9.2.5 Cyberspora the online literacy classes

The Internet offers new opportunities for the maintenance of heritage languages
by enhancing their status, acquisition and use, and these opportunities have also
been recognised by UNESCO. At the General Conference (15 October 2003, Paris)
UNESCO adopted a recommendation concerning the Promotion and Use of Mul-
tilingualism and Universal Access to Cyberspace, stating that Cyberspace is open
to all languages of the world, since its infrastructure is not subject to a central au-
thority which can decide how it should be used (Diki-Kidiri, 2008, p. 7). The
UNESCO manual for language documentation emphasises that the Internet and
relevant information and communication technologies (ICTs) play a crucial role
in linguistic transformations worldwide, by, for example, providing a vehicle for
communication across geographically distant or into isolated linguistic communi-
ties. On the other hand, the UNESCO document warns that information tech-
nologies can potentially cause small languages to be even more marginalised.
According to the UNESCO document, even though there are 6,000 languages
in the world, 98% of Cyberspace content is provided in only 12 languages, and
English accounts for 2% of all the webpages (Diki-Kidiri, 2008). The UNESCO
Chapter 9. Micro-level language planning

Communicative and Information webpage, entitled Multilingualism in Cyber-

space (access from, also emphasises the important so-
cial benefits associated with having ones language represented on the Internet by
stating that access to information is a crucial determinant of wealth creation, so-
cial transformation and human development.
African communities are on the unfavourable side of the digital divide;
they are even more disadvantaged when they lack literacy skills in English, the
main language of the Internet (Osborne, 2004). One solution is use of African
languages in information and communications technologies (ICTs) (Osborne,
2004). This digital divide, combined with a general decline of traditional social
networks in modern society, poses challenges to immigrant communities as it
is difficult for them to maintain their traditional ways of connectedness. As
the introductory remarks to the International Communication Association
(Singapore 2010) stated:
Since the late 1980s, scholars have voiced serious concerns about the erosion of
public life and sense of community, suggesting the rise of television as well as dis-
appearance of traditional sites of informal sociability as the chief culprits for this
phenomenon. Among the key concerns has been the apparent disappearance of
social capital and the associated decline in civic and political participation. (cited

Given this tendency to move away from physical (face-to-face) social connected-
ness and towards virtual connectedness through online media, immigrant com-
munities with limited financial and language resources (e.g. limited or no literacy
in L1 or English, a lack of computer literacy, a lack of even local language literacy),
are at risk of even more severe forms of isolation and disengagement.
While UNESCOs documents are mainly concerned with the revitalisation of
poorly endowed languages, such as those lacking a developed orthographic sys-
tem, an accessible grammatical system, and lacking a substantial number of speak-
ers, the idea of using Cyberspace for language planning is equally relevant in the
context of diaspora language communities.
Speech communities are increasingly connected through Cyberspace for so-
cial networking and other purposes, and these networks offer new opportunities
for language maintenance and revitalisation. For example, young people in Mexico,
and in the Philippines are using local, endangered languages in text messaging
because theyre drawn by the allure of communicating via words not many people
can understand4 (Extract from the article: Texting and rap songs may save endan-
gered languages, 8 July 2011accessed 27 Oct 2011 from http://www.dailyglobal.

4. For a discussion focused on language, globalization and popular culture see Pennycook
(2007) Global Englishes and transcultural flows.
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

com/2011/07/texting-and-rap-songs-may-save-endangered-languages/). YouTube
also carries a short video entitled Enduring Voices (a rap song in Aka, an endan-
gered language) sung by two young men from India5. In the diasporic context, for
example, Samoan and Tongan second and third generation immigrants around
the globe participate in online discussions about race and identity (Franklin 2003).
Such activities, facilitated by online and ICT technologies, call for new approaches
to the study of language planning in the postmodern world.
An example of the online presence of the Sudanese Australian community is
the Adhiok Society Association in Australia (ASA) ( This
association is one of many Sudanese organisations operating Australia-wide. The
idea of setting up the organisation as a national body grew out of a discussion
forum convened in Toowoomba in 2005; ASA has been operating locally from
Toowoomba since 2004.
The main objective of the organisation is to unite, prepare and organise the
Adhiok people to achieve education, employment, participation in social activi-
ties, and participation in community programs, as well as to find possible ways of
integrating into the diverse cultures of Australia and also to identify and inform
their relatives back home in Sudan. The ASA members intend to build and create
community avenues and forums to empower future generations. According to the
ASA website, the existence of the forum has helped many members of this com-
munity to integrate into Australian society by successfully finding employment
and access to training and higher education. To accomplish these achievements,
an advisory committee of elders provides counselling services to young people.
The committee also organizes semi-annual conferences, meetings and events. The
motivation behind these initiatives is described by the ASA President in the fol-
lowing words (see Excerpt 67):
Excerpt 67
The long war in Sudan had frustrated and traumatised the Sudanese people
emotionally, educationally, economically, socially, religiously and politically,
therefore, this brought a concerned look for alternative ways to embed the
disadvantaged refugees who had made their ways to Australia and welcome by
the Australian government. They decided to have this forum for their culture
maintenances/restoration and to ensure the positive future of their children.
The website is written in English with a few words in Dinka; the site includes
numerous photos which testify the rich traditional cultural activities of the Dinka

5. access video at

Chapter 9. Micro-level language planning

Another example of how Sudanese Australians engage online and develop

their social networks, is the Abek Community Association of Australia (ACAA)
( which was founded in 2004 in Melbourne. This Associa-
tion aims to consolidate the Sudanese communitys visions for the future in the
diaspora such as by enhancing educational achievements; in addition, the group
wants to uphold, adhere and maintain cultural values and traditions of Jieng
(Dinka) as they would, with time, face serious erosions (
The ACAA website contains information in English and Dinka; as a result, people
can download songs in Dinka language. A third example is the website of the
Sudanese Lost Boys Association of Australia (
Finally, the Dinka Language Institute website6 is dedicated specifically to the
maintenance and teaching of Dinka literacy in the community. The institute is a
non-political, non-religious, non-profitable association founded in Victoria, in
1999. Its members are Dinka literacy workers, linguists, language development
workers and Dinka language information technology (IT) specialists who work
together for the maintenance, preservation and development of the Dinka lan-
guage. The website also refers to the original Dinka Language Institute which had
been founded in Egypt in 1995 in order to develop programs for the maintenance
of Dinka language and culture. The institute has its roots in the Dinka Cultural
Society established in 1990 in Khartoum, Sudan. As the website states, the Soci-
etys primary objective is the preservation and maintenance of Dinka language and
culture; it explicitly refers to making use of the Internet and IT to preserve Dinka
language and culture and foster linguistic, anthropological and sociological re-
search ( ~agamlong/language/index.en.html accessed
02.08.2012). The Institute aims to preserve and develop the Dinka language
and develop Dinka literacy programs (
Technology, however, should not be treated as an easy problem solution in
LPP. Sceptics have warned that there is usually a large gap between what experts
and what communities want or are prepared to do for their language (Eisenlohr,
2004). Also, I would argue that it would be naive to think that language planning
through electronic mediation can avoid all the barriers that more traditional forms
of activism face. For example, language planning activism through cyberspace is
also influenced by the wider context of linguistic and cultural ideologies of com-
munity and identity (Eisenlohr, 2004); particularly, language planners need to
make decisions about the semiotic representation of a given ethnic community
and select which linguistic forms (such as dialects) to include in electronic media.
On the more pragmatic level, the usual barrier is access to the Internet and

6. ( ~agamlong/language/index.en.html accessed 02.08.2012.

Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

computers or the lack of adequate skills and literacies. Another danger lies in re-
stricting cyber language planning to language documentation, often resulting in
nothing more than antiquarian curating (Silverstein 2003 cited in Eisenlohr,
2004, p. 27). Nevertheless, by using modern technology language activists have the
opportunity to enhance the prestige of languages which are usually associated with
backwardness and remedy their spatiotemporal lag which separated them from
modern life (Eisenlohr, 2004, p. 32):
It seems that much of the appeal of electronic mediation practices, in particu-
lar in their digital forms, lies precisely in their potential to minimize experiences
of spatiotemporal distanciation in a way not afforded by the circulation of print
[...]. (T)he reindexing of such varieties by ideologically moving them away from
peripheral, rural, and obsolete positions in space and time through the use of
electronic mediation is a way to contest ideologies of contempt and to formulate
alternative ways of ideologically mapping linguistic differentiation on time and
space. (Eisenlohr, 2004, p. 33)

Christensen (2012) draws useful parallels between created languages, such as Navi
(the language created for Avatar) and endangered languages in terms of opportu-
nities for image and prestige planning. While she recognises that their contexts are
sharply different, for example, created languages as opposed to endangered lan-
guages are not tied to a particular ethnic group or identity and enjoy global focus
from the media, she claims that endangered language communities can learn from
created language communities. Indeed, the Web can be a virtual speech commu-
nity, a constructed immersion setting where members of the speech community
meet, interact and communicate in the native language (Buszard-Welcher 2000
cited in Christensen, 2012, p. 342).
In Table 39 I have summarised the main points of what I would call strong and
weak forms of language planning using electronic media. These notes are partially
based on (Eisenlohr, 2004). The table is only a schematic representation of some of
the contrasting tendencies. The features listed exist in a variety of combinations,
and language planning in cyberspace does not fit a black and white picture. The
table, therefore, is offered only as a guide in terms of a critical review of some of
the tendencies that can occur in such planning contexts.
The approach that I advocate here is a strong form of cyber language planning
which works from the bottom up engaging community members. This approach
does not limit language planning to the collection of linguistic artefacts, but keeps
the focus on both real and virtual communities. While strong forms of cyber lan-
guage planning lead to enhanced image and prestige of the language and the
speech community as seen both by its own members (insiders) as well as outsiders,
weak forms of planning, in my view, have limited effect on the image of the
Chapter 9. Micro-level language planning

Table 39. Contrasting strong and weak forms of cyber-planning

Strong form of cyber-language planning Weak form of cyber-language planning

People in the centre Technology in the centre

Community driven, bottom up Technology driven, top down
Language use Language preservation, documentation
Process-focussed Product-focussed
Community building, empowering Language building
Norms are flexible, negotiated, decided by Prescriptive, norm-based
the communities
Greater control of self representation Limited control of self representation
Result: sociality, but not necessarily Result: cultural artefacts, does not necessarily
through the lesser used language lead to the increased use of the lesser used
Real speech communities + virtual speech Focus on virtual speech community
community > multilayered
Image and prestige planning > enhanced Image and prestige planning > often limited
image of speech community as viewed by effect, image planning is more efficient in
insiders as well as outsiders expert circles, not necessarily among commu-
nity members.

community as the resources created are often used only by experts or researchers
interested in the lesser used languages. In the former approach, communities have
a greater control over their online representation an important consideration
for language planning (Schreyer, 2011). In the next section I will discuss one ex-
ample of activism that aspires to fit this theoretical framework.
As part of the research project, an online learning facility was organized in
collaboration with the Sudanese community. A website, called Cyberspora
( was created to advertise the online Dinka literacy classes.
Wiz-IQ an online learning management platform was used for the purpose of
creating the fortnightly classes.
The philosophy behind the language program was that language planning can
only be successful if it is done from bottom-up, engaging the community from day
one of the planning. That means that community members were invited to con-
tribute to the project through a variety of activities, including preparing picture
stories in Dinka and in English which fit the concept of identity texts (Cummins
& Early, 2011). Families were also encouraged to collect traditional songs, poems,
Dinka Bible verses and hymns from members of the community for the purpose
of including these among the online learning materials.
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

Picture 3. Dinka girls preparing their bilingual picture books

The online lessons were delivered through the WizIQ learning platform which can
be used for teaching purposes for a small yearly fee. This platform allowed the
volunteer teachers to connect with the students from different parts of Australia
and to conduct synchronous communication and learning activities. The platform
allows an unlimited number of learners to enrol into the class. (Each attendee
needed to register for a free WizIQ account.) The teachers were able to organize
the class content prior to the synchronous session. The platform offered the op-
portunity to record the lessons, and this was particularly useful as some students
were not able to attend every session. The recording also allowed teachers to re-
view the lessons and to make improvements in the teaching strategies. One Dinka-
speaking teacher and one English-speaking Australian teacher were involved. The
students were able to see the teachers through a webcam and were able to converse
with them either orally or through a live chat function. The main part of the com-
puter screen displayed a whiteboard where teachers could write and use various
pointing strategies to explain the words and their spelling. The teachers also used
PowerPoint lectures which were prepared in advance.

Picture 4. Teaching online through WizIQ

Chapter 9. Micro-level language planning

In terms of deciding on the language content, one of the main challenges involved
a standardization issue7, as various dialects were in use in the community. Even
though the dialects of Dinka do not differ to a great extent in speech, in writing
some characters are used differently across dialect groups. Members of the Dinka
Bor and Dinka Rek groups felt particularly strongly about these differences. There
were also some technical issues, such as a reliable Internet access and the absence
of such other equipment as microphones that were not typically available in
Sudanese homes. It was also important to support childrens motivation and to
ensure the sustained engagement of parents and volunteer teachers.
The pilot project demonstrated that it was possible to teach Sudanese children
L1 literacy skills online for the cost of only $50 (registration fee for the platform).
The program, however, requires thorough planning and active community build-
ing preceding the language planning intervention. It is important that the literacy
project is owned by the community and that community members are engaged
from the earliest stages of the design and the goal-setting for the project. The main
advantage of the online environment lay in the unlimited number of students who
could access the learning materials and the lessons from their own homes. This
availability allows diaspora members to connect interstate within Australia, and
internationally. These new technological developments make available unprece-
dented language planning opportunities that cross national borders, consequently
needing to be conceptualised through a new prism. As I have stressed, a cosmo-
politan outlook offers a useful new perspective in LPP contexts.

9.3 Modelling language planning as community development

Cyberspora was designed to be a bottom-up LPP project; therefore, community

development theories were used for the design to ensure that community mem-
bers were engaged in the process of planning from the initial stages. Hamilton
(1992) suggested a model according to which community development would
be involved in the following stages: (1) Arousal-Learning-Initiation, (2) Organizing-
Learning-Planning (developing an action plan, educating the community about
issues, disseminating information, allocating tasks); (3) Action-Learning-Evaluat-
ing (implementation of action plan); (4) Increasing Independence-Empowerment
(increased horizontal bonds between core group and other members); (5) Spin-off
Developments (alternative directions in community issues, forming coalitions
with resource rich organisations). In the current research this model was used as a

7. See Tulloch, S. (2008) for a discussion on speakers attachment to dialects in the context of
grass-root planning of endangered languages.
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

guide in designing the program. The various stages are highly applicable to bot-
tom-up language planning projects. In the next section I will outline the four stag-
es as a general guide for grass-root LPP projects.

9.3.1 Stage 1 Diagnosis and setting goals

In the language planning context the first stage (Arousal-learning) involves diag-
nosing the language issues in the community. Such diagnosis is often carried out by
external bodies such as government departments but, as I have stressed previously,
engaging the community members in the language planning process from the very
first stage is crucial to the success and sustainability of the project. Researchers can
set up a focus group for the core members of a Language Council. This core group
will work under the guidance of the external expert (researcher). Some of the ac-
tivities that the core group may engage in may include the following:
Diagnosis: diagnosing language issues (language shift, language attrition, lin-
guicism, barriers to learning the dominant language, barriers to maintaining and
transmitting the mother tongue)
Setting goals: based on the diagnosis and the community aspirations and needs,
goals are set in consultation. What levels of proficiency are aimed at? For what
purposes are the language skills most needed?

9.3.2 Stage 2 Designing an action plan

In this stage a detailed plan about actions is drawn up in consultation with com-
munity members. It is important that the plan is negotiated and is agreed upon by
all members and representatives of various community groups. However, the ex-
ternal expert needs to guide the negotiations and provide advice about some of the
potential problems: for example care should be taken to consider the qualifications
and literacy levels of the proposed language teachers as well as the dialects they
speak, write and represent.
Pooling resources: What resources are available in the community; and what re-
sources can the community access from external sources?
Action plan: Who will do what and when? How can the success be measured? How
will members of the group communicate within the group and with the broader
community? How will people from the broader community be mobilised and
Chapter 9. Micro-level language planning

9.3.3 Stage 3 Implementation (pilot)

During this stage the proposed language planning activities can be trialled, and the
action plan can be implemented. It is important to keep the communication open
and to have regular feedback sessions where participants can share their experi-
ences and express any concerns about risks to the success of the plan. For example,
if sustained attendance at the language classes is an issue, this matter needs imme-
diate action as it can seriously threaten the chance of success. In the Saturday class-
es, as mentioned, regular attendance was a major issue as children did not have
access to transport; therefore, the volunteer teachers had to take turns and to pro-
vide pick-up and drop-off services to the children. This problem, however, signifi-
cantly increased the time and effort teachers had to provide to keep the program
going. Eventually, this problem constituted a major obstacle to program delivery.
This transportation problem could have been resolved had the program been
planned originally by a core group rather than by individuals. When a group com-
mits to the cause of planning (and more broadly to community development),
there is a greater chance of success as the group takes ownership of the project and
tries to resolve the problems. Success contributes to the groups empowerment and
self-esteem. It has tremendous implications for self-growth, confidence, and trust
in the collective ability to improve the quality of some facets of community life
(Hamilton, 1992, p. 98).

9.3.4 Stage 4: Increasing independence and empowerment

As Hamilton (1992) argues, after the initial success of the group effort, the sense of
identity as a group increases, having a significant flow-on effect on the likelihood
of the continuation of the activities or on the taking up new initiatives and ex-
panding the project. Similarly, the group effort is also the case with language plan-
ning projects. In such projects the community is well informed about the success
of the pilot project and sees it as a worthwhile activity that belongs to them rather
than something which is imposed upon them. Therefore, community members
trust the project and keep their interests up. At this fourth stage it is important to
shift the leadership of the project from the external expert to the community and
to allow them to take full control. Such a shift of leadership ensures the sustain-
ability of the project.
Micro-level language planning, therefore, utilises a self-help approach where
the emphasis is on the horizontal lines rather than on the vertical lines of technical
or expert support (Hamilton, 1992, p. 102). Solidarity is a key component of the
concept of community. According to Bhattacharyya (2004, p. 1) any social con-
figuration that possesses shared identity and norms is a community and the
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

Modelling micro-level language planning

What are the language Who should do

issues concerning the what to achieve the goals?
community? What resources are
How can we raise available in the community?
awareness of these What resources can
issues in the be accessed from outside
Stage 1: Stage 2:
community? sources?
Diagnosis and Designing an
setting goals action plan

Stage 4:
Stage 3:
Who should take on the independence
leadership? and What are the barriers to
How can horizontal empowerment success?
community lines be expanded? How can these barriers
How can the planning be removed or their
activities engage more members? impact be minimised?

Figure 9. Modelling micro language planning

purpose of community development is the pursuit of solidarity and agency by

following the principles of self-help, felt needs and participation (Bhattacharyya,
2004, p. 30). Such self-help, agency and participation can only be achieved though
a common language or some common languages. Without a language which gives
communities a voice and a networking tool, agency and self-help cannot be rea-
lised in practice.
Exploring micro-planning, researchers need to pay adequate attention to who
does what and how in the planning process. A schematic representation of the
model proposed here is provided in Figure 9.
These four stages of planning provide a generic guide for community-level
language planning and they are applicable to indigenous as well as immigrant


Language planning from bottom-up may play a crucial role in the maintenance
and intergenerational transmission of the mother tongue in immigrant commu-
nities. Micro planning initiatives, however, need to be examined in the broader
context of macro policy (Hatoss 2008) as well as in the processes of community
development. The interviews with key language activists have demonstrated a
Chapter 9. Micro-level language planning

great deal of pride, attached to mother tongue and to ethnic identity as well
as to long-term vitality. Community members engaged in language planning
initiatives felt that these activities gave them a new purpose and empowerment.
Top-down policies should, therefore, bring these micro-level initiatives to the
forefront of language planning and not just treat them as marginal, secondary
and self-centred.
Diaspora communities are local and global at the same time (Canagarajah,
2005) as IT technology offers new ways to connect internationally. Through these
international and transnational connections, micro planning is no longer confined
to a locality or a national level, but rather takes on an increasingly transnational
character. This trend, however, does not mean that nation-states have less power in
influencing language ecologies. Existing frameworks of national LPP need to be
complemented, rather than replaced by transnational perspectives. The traditional
vertical dimension of LPP studies ranging from macro to micro needs to be re-
examined with a cosmopolitan perspective. Researchers with such a view in mind
should add the horizontal scales of the local, regional, national, transnational con-
nections to their ontologies.

In this monograph, I have attempted to provide empirical evidence of the broader

ecology of language maintenance and shift in an immigrant context. As I have ar-
gued in the beginning, language ecologies need to be examined with due attention
to all aspects, such as linguistic, social, psychological. While in the past, language
maintenance and shift studies have worked within a positivistic paradigm and fo-
cussed on causal factors that led to LM or LS, in this volume, I took a different
approach and shifted from a factor-focussed causative paradigm to an ecology-
focussed approach which gives voice to ethnolinguistic emic perspectives through
the exploration of discourse data.
This new research paradigm moves away from seeing speech communities as
monolithic and LMLS research as unidirectional. Firstly, contrary to seeing speech
communities as homogenous, this study has attempted to highlight diversity with-
in. As we have seen, the Sudanese Australian community has shown a great diver-
sity in their linguistic repertoire, their language use patterns, their circumstances
and their attempts to maintain their mother tongue. Secondly, in line with
Fishmans criticism of studies which foster the view that language is a dependent
or an independent variable, rather than grasping it in its ubiquitous embeddedness,
in its part-whole functioning within both society and culture (Fishman, 2002,
p.273), the study presented in this volume has treated languages as embedded in
bidirectional social, cultural and psychological ecologies. There is a continued
need to reverse the directions of LMLS studies and instead of looking at unidirec-
tional causal relations, researchers need to investigate the current linguistic ecol-
ogy of communities, and establish how the rich linguistic repertoires function on
a daily basis: e.g. which codes are available and used for what purposes, what eco-
logical conditions enhance or impede immigrants social and economic participa-
tion within their immediate community as well as more broadly in society. New
directions in LMLS research should also continue to explore how members of the
ethnolinguistic community renegotiate and construct their social status, their so-
cial, cultural, ethnic and ethnolinguistic identity through the operation of the lan-
guage resources that are available to them. In other words, identity construction
should not be seen solely as a factor in language maintenance. Instead, research-
ers should recognise that the relationships between language use and identity con-
struction are inseparable and their dynamics as evident in discursive practices
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

provide insights into the evolving, constantly changing social adjustment patterns
in immigrant communities. As Fishman (2002, p. 5) put it, language is part and
parcel of the bulk of any culture and as cultures are dynamically changing over
time, so are ethnolinguistic communities.
Identities are complex and are negotiated in everyday discourse. Racial identi-
ties, however, continue to be assigned by mainstream community members. This
contributes to everyday racism and linguicism in contemporary Australian society.
As this research has shown, such experiences occur in the school as well as work-
place settings. There is clearly more work to be done through multicultural policies
and community programs in order to do away with such negative attitudes.
This research has also shown that in diasporic communities of a globalized
world, attitudes to language and language maintenances are shaped by scales of
spatial and temporal coordinates. While for the benefit of maintaining relations in
the adopted community (in the here and now), English is the focal language, for
reasons of possible repatriation (possible future there), local African languages
as well as African linguae francae are equally seen as important. Language atti-
tudes, therefore, should not be viewed as static and monolithic, rather as context
dependent, shaped by dimensions of past, present and future.
Multilingualism plays an essential role in the wellbeing of the community and
contributes greatly to the communitys social capital. Through the use of a variety
of languages, including local African languages, Arabic, Kiswahili and English,
Sudanese refugees maintain and build diverse social networks within their African
community as well as with the Australian community. However, gaining profi-
ciency in English is the main tool for social integration, but this tool is hard to
achieve through the government programs. Refugees continue to strive for equal
opportunities whilst lacking basic education and language skills whilst they con-
tinue to support family members left in Sudan. The social costs of intergenera-
tional language shift are threefold: (1) It is to the detriment of the individual;
(2) the broader host society as opportunities of international collaboration are
missed, and (3) for the home country of origin as important human capital cannot
be utilised for development. As Chapter 8 has shown, returning to Sudan for work
is compromised by limited fluency in the mother tongue.
Ethnolinguistic communities are in constant transition. The political factors
and opportunities for jobs which constantly change not only in the country of
migration, but also in the source country, continue to mobilize different attitudes
to migration and a possible return to the home. As we have seen in this volume,
refugees who arrived from war-torn Sudan closely follow the political changes in
their home country and consider their return in the future. To capture the exact
affects of these factors is highly problematic and requires a non-essentialist re-
search approach. Instead, a more dynamic and ecology-based model of language

maintenance and shift using discourse methods has been offered here as an alter-
native. This approach does not see language as a dependent variable, but as a part
and parcel of the broader integration process in terms of resource, identity and
social capital.
The examples based on discursive data have provided an opportunity to ex-
plore the complexities of language regimes through multiple scales of space and
time. This discursive approach is a fruitful research approach for further work in
examining language choices in multilingual diasporic contexts. Secondly, sociolin-
guistic research should not lose sight of the broader social phenomena which mo-
tivate and govern language choices on the one hand, and the social consequences
of language choices on the other hand. As Blommaert et al (2005) have argued:
Globalization phenomena compel us to seek a better integration of sociolinguistics,
discourse analysis and social theory. We strongly believe that such integration re-
quires an empirical program that addresses language diversity and interaction in their
situated co-occurrence as well as language hierarchy and systemic processes holding
across situations and transcending localities. (Blommaert, et al., 2005, p. 198)

Finally, sociolinguistic research should not be restricted to the focus on macro-

level language planning based on the nation-state ideology. Instead, as I have ar-
gued in Chapter 9, we need to have a cosmopolitan focus which moves beyond the
state boundaries and examines language planning on multiple levels, including
micro-, meso-, macro, and supranational. Such an approach is perfectly commen-
surate with an ecological ontology of language maintenance and shift. It is my
hope that this volume will provide inspiration for future studies into the complex
ecology of language maintenance and shift in diverse ethnolinguistic contexts.

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A beliefs and norms 34 diglossia 27

Accent 32, 33, 76, 140 Bemba 115, 116, 174 Dinka xvii, 64, 65, 67, 72
acculturation 3941 bilingualism 14, 24, 26, 29, 57, Dinka Bor and Agar dialects 72
acculturation strategy 16, 40, 54 80 disciplining 55, 182, 184, 186
Acholi xvii, 48, 50, 65, 151, 192, bonding spaces 19, 127, 140, 153 discourse analysis 35, 235
217220 Bourdieu 131 discursive community xvii, 10
Addis Ababa 6769, 71 bridging spaces 19, 127, 134, 153 disinvention of languages 16, 39
additive vs subtractive domain 27, 28, 127, 128
bilingualism 14 C dual ethnic identities 160
Adhiok 165, 222 Canada 3, 30, 33, 34, 77, 85, 132,
Afro-Asiatic language xvii 196 E
agency 7, 8, 40, 85, 186, 208, canonical narrative 103 elicitation techniques 32, 54
211, 230 census-based language data 26 elicitation techniques 54
Agola Kapuk 20, 203, 217, 219 Chi-Square test 107 elicited and non-elicited
Aka 222 citizenship (concept of) 208 narratives 86
allochthonous 5, 6 classicality 206, 210 emic perspective 54
AMEP 81, 139 code-alternation 31 empowerment 70, 227, 229, 231
Amharic 125 code-switching 4, 30, 31, 53 endangered language 222, 224
ancestral heritage 157 colonial language 6, 33 Equatorial region 37
ancestral language 37, 141, 184 colloquialism 140 essentialism 207
ancestral territory 25, 26 communities of practice xvii, Ethiopian Civil War 92
Anderson 11, 204 15, 41, 91, 153, 177 ethnic churches 212
Anglo-conformist (policy) community development 230 ethnicity xvii, 3, 8, 14, 40,
Appadurai 217 compartmentalization 27 155159, 175
Arabic xvii, xviii, 37, 40, 53, Comprehensive Peace ethnic languages 18, 20, 41,
6472, 149152 Agreement (CPA) 68 77, 169
Arabicisation 83 Condominium 18, 65, 66 ethnic language schools 18
Arabisation 64, 69, 71 Condominium or Anglo- ethnicity (primordial)
assimilation 75, 77 Egyptian rule 18 ethnographies 129, 130, 158
assimilationist policy 40, 75, 77 conversation analysis 16 ethnography 56, 128, 130
assimilationist strategy 39 core values 1517, 27 ethnography of speaking 128
attitude 32 cosmopolitanism 203208 ethnolinguistic fieldwork 16, 57
attrition 23, 24, 107, 179, 228 co-tellings 87 ethnolinguistic vitality 17, 24,
autochthonous 5, 6 Cyber-language planning 225 25, 28, 29, 41, 52
autochthony 6 Cyberspora 217 ethnoscapes 217
Azande 48, 50 European languages 69
D evaluation (in narrative)
B Darfur 2, 50, 71, 106, 194 evaluative stance 89
Bahr El Ghazal 49, 106 deictic shifts 89, 99 everyday racism 20, 40, 163, 234
Bari 48, 50, 64, 65, 82, 194 dialect xviii, 37, 50, 51, 53, 72, exogamy 25, 26
Barth 40 223
Basque 33 diaspora 2, 3, 8 F
Bedawi 64 dictation test 76 Face (concept of)
Belanda 48, 50 digital divide 221 feared self 170, 174, 176
Displacement, Language Maintenance and Identity Sudanese Refugees in Australia

finanscapes 217 intergenerational transmis- language planning 30, 63,

Fishman 2528 sion 141, 142, 146, 230 203-206
flashbacks 36, 89 International Second Language language policy 31, 38, 208211
flexible citizenship 208 Proficiency Ratings language regimes 197, 201, 202,
Frames 4, 11, 41 (ISLPR) 52 235
Framing 35, 86, 88 intra-generational shift 23 language-religion-ideology 212
Fur 48, 50, 64 intrinsic and extrinsic language revival 80
motivation 30 language socialization 28, 40
G Iranian refugees 91 languages of Sudan 63
Gal xv, 23, 24, 33, 3638, 47, 73, irrealis 93 language variation 32, 37, 53
155, 158, 176 Islamization 64, 71 life story method 53
Galbally report 78, 81 linguae francae 17, 32, 234
gender 62, 70, 86, 119, 125, 180, J linguicism 40, 128, 228, 234
201, 213 journey of escape 88 linguistic human rights 6
Giddens 157, 217 Jieng 223 linguistic markets 131
globalization 14, 6, 7, 16, 38, Juba Arabic 37, 48, 53, 65 linguistic paranoia 128, 136,
127, 203206, 208, 221, 235 150
Goffman 89, 90, 129 K Lith 165
Graded Intergenerational Kakuma 92 Likert scale 52, 179
Disruption Scale (GIDS) 28 Kanakas 76 Lo Bianco Report 79, 80
grass-root 37, 203, 216, 220, Kapoeta 9294, 97, 98, 100 locality 5, 13, 24, 43
227, 228 Kiswahili 19 Lokichoggio 92, 93, 99
Kuku 48, 50, 193, 194 Lost Boys 8587
H Kuttabs 67 LOTE 82
Habermas 188
habitus 20, 131 L M
Hausa 64 Labovian narrative 91, 100 macro-planning 211
historical present 36, 89, 103, landscapes 18, 88, 89 Madhist movement 64
104 Lango 48, 50 Madi 48, 50, 65
human capital 10, 234 language as a barrier 19, 139 marginalization 70
Hymes 128 language as a resource 19, 78 markedness theory 31
language attitudes 3135 matched-guised technique 33
I language barriers 127, 136, 153 Measuring language
ICT technologies 222 language boundaries 198 attitudes 17, 33
ideal self 17, 31, 170, 173, 176 language choice 10, 28, 30, 31, mediascapes 217
identity labelling 20, 165 54, 55, 177, 183, 186 methodological
identification 63, 103, 158 language community xvii, nationalism 204206
ideoscapes 217 2527, 132 Mexico 221
imagined communities 204 language death 23, 73 micro-planning 20, 203, 216,
Immigration Restriction Act 76 language documentation 220, 230
incommensurable social 224 mini-narratives 156
settings 156 language ecology 1215, 38, 39, minority languages 5, 6, 27,
indexicality 4, 5, 37, 157 41, 125 32, 212
indigeneity 5 language education 18, 38, 75, monoculture 75, 77
India 222 114 moral responsibility 38
imagined (communities) 11, 204 language games 188 Moru 48, 50
in-group solidarity 37 language ideologies 23, 3638, motivation 2931, 34, 39, 53,
institutional control 25, 26 83 54, 94
instrumental motivation 31 language labels xviii motivational model (language
Interactive Acculturation language loss, 23 planning)
Model 39 language maintenance xviii, multiculturalism 18, 72, 75,
interethnic communication 19, 1018, 2330, 233235 7779, 204
37, 149, 156 language shift 1618, 24, 28, multiculturalism 18, 72, 75,
intergenerational shift 23 39, 43 7779, 204

multicultural policies 75, 83, poststructuralist interpretative spatio-temporal references 85,

128, 160, 234 epistemology 54 100, 103
multilingual self 20, 155, 168, poststructuralist ontology 157, speech acts 35
170, 171, 173, 176 170 Speech communities 1, 3, 5, 10,
multiplexity 27, 44 prestige (of languages) 40, 76, 14, 24, 37, 47, 132
224 Sprachinseln 25
N standardization 227
Nairobi 110, 111 R stereotypes 32, 33
Nairus 92, 94, 97, 98, 100, 102 race 14, 138, 156, 176, 222 story-world 88, 93, 164
Naivasha 13, 67, 68, 195 racial boundary 162 subtractive bilingualism 14
narration 90 racism 20, 40, 163, 234 Sudanese Lost Boys Association
narrative modes of dis- reactivity 60 of Australia 223
course 19, 88 repatriation 9, 234 super-diversity 3
narratives as a social practice 91 reversing language shift (RLS) 28 symbolic functions
narrative structure 19, 100 revitalisation 80, 221 (of language) 159
nationalism 67, 75, 83, 204207 role of schools 80 Swahili (also see Kiswahili) 17,
nation-state 175, 204210, 216, 19, 37
235 S
Nilo-Saharan languages xvii Samoan 222 T
Nilotic groups 107 scales 4, 5, 151154, 170 talk-in-interaction 30, 91
Nobiin 64 scales of indexicalities 165 technoscapes 217
canonical and non-canonical schooling and literacy 70 tellability (in narratives) 103
(narrative) 86 second language learning 29, telling (act of) 91
norms 34, 37 31, 80, 170 Tongan 222
Nubian 48 second order positioning 55 traditionalism 7
Nuer xvii, 48, 50, 64, 65, 82, 151 secret language 147, 152 translocality 1
Nyanthieth 165 self 39, 8991, 168, 170 transnational relationships 207
self-categorisation 39, 16 tribe 9, 63, 102, 117, 161, 217
O self-determination 30 Turco-Egyptian invasion 64
objective measures of self-esteem 46, 229 Turkana 92
ethnolinguistic vitality 24 self-identification 10, 207 Twic 165
one-parent-one language self-worth 30
strategy 26 Shilluk 64, 65 U
ontology of identity 157 slang 4, 140 UNESCO 1, 70, 71, 220, 221
orthographic system 221 small stories 86, 90 unsolicited narratives 90
othering 155, 156, 162, 163, 165 social capital 10, 127, 139, 156 Upper Nile 37, 49, 106
ought to self 170, 173, 176 social connectedness 8, 14, 20, USA 3
overt and covert (planning) 211 140, 221
social desirability bias 33, 56 V
P social identity theory 28, 39 vernacular xvii, 19, 65, 66, 143,
Pachalla 92, 97, 102 Social Interactional Approach 144, 146, 172
pan-Sudanese identity 151 (narratives) 91 virtual connectedness 221
Panyodu 97, 98 social membership categoriza- vitality 2429, 33, 159
parental authority 55, 188 tions 39
parenting 26, 184 social network(s) 27, 29, 217 W
Perceived Benefit Model 30, 31 social practice xvii, 35, 91, 172 Welsh, Welshness 2
Philippines 221 sociology 16, 157, 205, 206, 210 White Australia 7678
populate or perish 77 solidarity 37, 157, 208, 210, 217,
populate or perish policy 77 229, 230 Z
positive social identity 39 Southern Kordofan 50, 106 Zambia 115, 116, 174
possible self 31, 170, 176 Spanish 33, 74, 82 Zande (also see Azande) 64, 65
possible selves 31, 176 space 4
positioning in discourse 55, spatial and temporal
56, 85 orientation 88