Deadly reckoning: changes in Gurindji children’s knowledge of cardinals

Meakins, Felicity and Algy, Cassandra (2016) Deadly reckoning: changes in Gurindji children’s knowledge of cardinals. Australian Journal of Linguistics, 36 4: 479-501. doi:10.1080/07268602.2016.1169973

Author Meakins, Felicity
Algy, Cassandra
Title Deadly reckoning: changes in Gurindji children’s knowledge of cardinals
Journal name Australian Journal of Linguistics   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1469-2996
Publication date 2016-05-12
Year available 2016
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1080/07268602.2016.1169973
Open Access Status Not Open Access
Volume 36
Issue 4
Start page 479
End page 501
Total pages 23
Place of publication Melbourne, VIC, Australia
Publisher Routledge
Collection year 2017
Language eng
Abstract Dramatic language change has been underway among Gurindji people since European colonization. One major shift has occurred in the use of cardinal directions (N–S–E–W) to express spatial relations. Where older Gurindji adults use 28 inflected forms for each cardinal to describe large and small-scale space, young adults use four forms and only for large-scale space. This paper examines Gurindji children’s knowledge of cardinals to determine whether this change is continuing or has stabilized. The ‘Which-way-is’ task was devised and administered to 53 children and 56 adults. While adults gave 95% correct responses, children gave fewer correct responses (50%) and showed no significant improvement across age groups, although their ability to give a correct response improved significantly if they were asked to point to a location rather than to name the cardinal (78%). These results are interpreted as indicative of loss in the knowledge of the cardinal system rather than an extended acquisition period. However we argue that it is overly simplistic to analyse these results solely in terms of obsolescence. Children gave significantly more correct responses on the east/west axis which suggests continuing attention to geocentric cues but that a transformation in the expression of spatial relations is underway.
Keyword Cardinal Directions
Language Change
Language Shift
Spatial Relations
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
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School of Languages and Cultures Publications
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