Aboriginal English is emerging as the major language variety used by Aborigines in rural areas as the numbers of speakers of Aboriginal languages. pidgins and creoles decline. In a situation of rapidly changing social and cultural environment. it is the medium in which the Aborigines’ adaptation to these changes is expressed.
This thesis is a study of narratives told by elderly Aboriginal men in the Kimberley region of W.A. who have been speaking Aboriginal English all their lives. Through constant retelling they have developed a unique repertoire of stories. In communities which are still largely illiterate, the narrative in Aboriginal English has the important function of maintaining the relevance of history and tradition in the present-day context.
The analysis of the narratives is preceded by an outline of the ethnographic background and a description of the story telling situation.
For the analysis of the overall structure of the narratives. the framework developed by Tzvetan Todorov in his study of The Decameron has been adapted. Todorov's semiotic analysis is based on the hypothesis that individual stories in a culturally coherent body of narratives are made up of elements (propositions), and sequences of elements, of limited number and distribution. The product of the analysis is thus a grammar of a specific set of narratives. The analysis of the Kimberley narratives confirms Todorov's hypothesis; part of the analysis of the narratives is accordingly forulated in Todorovian prepositional sequences. This macro-level analysis is integrated in the thesis with a micro-level analysis of functions. As the narratives unfold~ it is possible to detect alternations among a number of possible functions~ such as the narrative, repetitive and dramatic functions. These functional shifts highlight the boundaries of broader structural units in the narrative as well as making it enjoyable to listen to.
The thesis represents an integrated approach to the study of oral narrative literature. It is hoped that such an approach can contribute to the understanding of the nature and function of I narrative in contemporary Aboriginal life.