School of Languages and Linguistics - Theses
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Small stories in everyday Mandarin conversations
Small stories approach is a relatively recent narrative research framework. It is proposed to foreground the narrative activities that have been under-represented in the prototypical Labovian research paradigm. By definition, small stories are typically fragmented narratives that are not confined within a single speech event and do not encompass a neat categorization of beginning–middle–end. However, even though small stories approach has gained more and more attention in the field of narrative research, few studies have applied this framework in non-European languages including Mandarin. To address this research gap, the present study aims to provide a preliminary yet comprehensive narrative analysis of Mandarin small stories. More specifically, this research focuses on the prevalence, structures and co-construction of small story narratives in Mandarin. To achieve this aim, 21 Mandarin-speaking Chinese students were recruited in Melbourne, Australia. Each participant was assigned into a three-person focus group to have a conversation about their experiences of living in Melbourne since March 2020. All small stories emerged in these sessions were identified with predetermined codes, discourse markers, story prefaces and temporal related clauses. The results show that small stories do exist in Mandarin, and they constitute 45.75% of the conversational data. These small stories occur in various story types which have previously been reported in English and Greek. Therefore, this study generates a datapoint for future cross-linguistic research on the typology of small stories. The findings of this study also reveal the strategies Mandarin speakers use to introduce small stories, establish temporal settings in the story worlds and perform co-construction of small stories. These detailed structural analyses not only enrich our understanding of small stories in Mandarin but also provide a working template for Mandarin narrative researchers to investigate this phenomenon further. Furthermore, this study opens a novel path for researchers to study those formerly under-represented narratives in Mandarin, and more importantly, to tap into the lived experience underlying them (e.g., identity analysis).
Kinship terms and fan identities in Chinese cyberspace
With more time being spent online, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, online communication is increasingly becoming the norm. As a consequence, the Internet has become a timely and important medium in which to explore the use of language and the construction of identity, particularly in the understudied context of Chinese-speaking cyberspace. While the semantics and pragmatics of Chinese kinship terms have been discussed by scholars, they have not previously been analysed from a sociolinguistic perspective in the context of online communication, where they are used extensively. This thesis addresses this gap. This thesis aims to explore how kinship terms are used in identity negotiation in online communication and their subsequent relationship with gender discourses. Three main research questions are posed: How are kinship terms used as part of the construction of different identities in Chinese-speaking cyberspace? How is fan identity represented and constructed in Chinese-speaking cyberspace? How does communication in Chinese-speaking cyberspace reflect broader discourses of gender and sexuality in China? The thesis focuses on the use of a specific kinship term in cyberspace, ‘wife’ (老婆), which has not been discussed in past studies. The thesis investigates how ‘wife’ is used in the discourse of fans to address the main character in a popular Chinese martial arts TV series, ‘Word of Honor’（山河令）. The thesis draws on third wave sociolinguistic theory and multimodal discourse analysis to undertake this analysis and qualitative data was collected through online ethnography. By analysing fan-created videos and comments about these videos, the thesis argues that the kinship term ‘wife’ is characteristic of a particular ‘fan style’. By examining the diverse social meanings of this kinship terms in different contexts, the thesis further argues that kinship terms gain contextualized meanings through repeated stylistic practices. A potential indexical field of ‘wife’ is generated, and identity categories, such as fans and Ni Su fans emerge and are reinforced through these repeated stylistic practices. The thesis also explores the relationship between fan identity and gender discourses, arguing that the ‘big D’ gender discourses reflected in the ‘small d’ discourse of fan communication reflect heteronormativity and an inherent gender binary, while at the same time, dynamic understandings of gender is increasingly accepted, so that ‘wife’ is increasingly used by female fans to address other female fans to signal solidarity, closeness, humour and a somewhat subversive view of sexuality, which might otherwise be considered taboo in other Chinese-speaking contexts.
‘Language as relationality’ in Online Australian Indigenous Language Programs: A Case Study
Due to the deeply important role of language in connection to Country, culture and ancestors, many Indigenous peoples in Australia are working to maintain and revitalise their traditional languages through language learning programs. However, mainstream approaches to language teaching may neglect the Indigenous concept of language as relationality. Language as relationality refers to the inseparable connections between people, language, and Country. While online language programs may offer increased accessibility for learners, particularly in the wake of COVID-19, the place-based embedding of language may be neglected or undermined. Thus, this paper explores two research questions. Firstly, how is the concept of language as relationality expressed in the design of fully online Australian Indigenous language programs? Secondly, how do collaborative relationships between Indigenous language holders and academic institutions support embedding of relationality in program design? These research questions are investigated through a case study of two fully online Australian Indigenous languages programs, namely Bininj Kunwok and Noongar. The design elements which connect the learner to the language holders, language and Country are mapped out, including the use of the Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) approach. Furthermore, one of the program creators for the Bininj Kunwok program is interviewed to find out more about the collaborative design process. Results indicate that language as relationality in the Bininj Kunwok and Noongar programs is expressed through culturally and contextually grounded course content, multimodal design features and a CLT approach. Relational design is facilitated by collaborative relationships between Indigenous language holders and academic institutions. These findings have implications for pedagogy in illustrating the compatibility of CLT with language as relationality, especially in structuring the program around culturally significant content, as well as highlighting the benefits of multimodal integration. Implications for the process of online program design foreground the significance of equitable partnerships with language holders.
The Expression of Location in Wumpurrarni English: Continua and Coherence in an Australian Contact Language
This thesis investigates the expression of static and dynamic location in Wumpurrarni English, a contact language spoken in central Australia which is derived from English, Warumungu, and other nearby contact languages. First, it offers a description of the morphosyntax and semantics of ‘locative phrases’ in the language – phrases which express location and contain a noun phrase plus optional locative markers – and discusses this in comparison to the source languages. Then it analyses the co-occurrence of morphemes in a locative phrase relative to the language they derive from, finding some degree of ‘lectal coherence’ but also a wide range of variation; the usage-based framework of schemas and constructions is applied to understand these findings. The results support the existence of a continuum in Wumpurrarni English but suggest it should be understood as multidimensional rather than linear.
Children’s verbal inflection development in Pitjantjatjara: an acquisition sketch
This thesis reports on a small-scale, naturalistic corpus study of children's verbal inflection development in Pitjantjatjara, an Indigenous language of Central Australia. To date few studies have documented the acquisition of Australian languages, all of which are endangered, and of which only a fraction are currently being learnt by children. This study is grounded in a novel approach recently proposed as a way of reducing barriers to child language documentation in endangered, minority, and under-studied languages, prioritising sketch descriptions at a small scale over the intensive corpora typically required of studies in English and other well-resourced languages (Defina, Hellwig, Allen, Davidson, Kelly, & Kidd, 2021). The data consists of five hours of naturalistic Pitjantjatjara caregiver-child interaction, selected from a larger corpus recorded by Rebecca Defina and several families in Pukatja, South Australia. The recordings feature five focus children (4 boys and 1 girl) in a ‘cross-lagged’ arrangement, with two children recorded at each six month interval between 2;0 and 4;0 years of age, and each interval spanned by at least one child. From this sample, the thesis aims to provide a preliminary characterisation of the nature of the developmental path followed by Pitjantjatjara learners, in relation to the rich, large, yet extremely regular verbal inflectional paradigm. Description is guided by two research questions: ‘What broad trajectory is apparent with regard to the timing and sequence of verbal inflection use?’ and ‘To what extent do children’s inflected verbs show adultlike characteristics, across the span of the sketch corpus?’ Results relating to the trajectory of acquisition suggest a relatively clear pattern in the broad sequence of emergence, with a ‘core group’ of inflectional categories observed early and frequently. These comprise the perfective imperative, present, and past perfective forms. Three broad stages are apparent, with the youngest children’s verbs observed to be few in number and predominantly in the imperative, followed by an expansion in lexical variety and lexeme-specific inflectional ranges (within the core group), from Mean Length Utterance (MLU) 2.0. The rest of the paradigm then begins to be observed from MLU 3.4, or roughly 3 years of age, in low type and token counts relative to the core group. One notable exception is the action nominaliser, an inflectionally integrated nominalising suffix, which is observed with comparable frequency to the core inflections in this third broad stage. Results regarding adultlike characteristics comprise analyses of both function and form. In terms of function, the sketch outlines the range of usages in which children are recorded to use verbs in past perfective, present (imperfective), and future forms. These results largely align with cross-linguistic tendencies: the focus children are seen to use the past/present distinction in relation to complete versus ongoing events before later making temporal distinctions, and they primarily talk about future events with verbs in ‘present’ form (conventionally conveying ‘certain future’ in adult Pitjantjatjara), before later beginning to add the future (potential) marker to their repertoire. The functional analysis also illuminates the particular constructions driving the intriguing prominence of the action nominaliser in the dataset: namely verbal negation constructions (in assertions and prohibitions), and insubordinated purposive clauses (as a ‘requesting’ strategy). In terms of form, results show that overgeneralisation between inflectional verb classes is very rare. Of 451 total verb tokens, only two examples of overgeneralisation are identified once the effects of systematic phonological substitutions are accounted for. Verbs overwhelmingly correspond to inflected forms from the earliest sample, and there is no observed period characterised by omission of suffixes. While a small number of uninflected stem tokens do occur, their nature is ambiguous at this scale, compatible with both prosodic and morphological accounts. A second pattern of omission is also observed, with word-medial stem augment syllables absent from longer words, in a distribution suggesting interaction with emerging metrical structures. Overall, it is hoped that these results will provide a preliminary indication of children’s typical learning pattern in relation to the Pitjantjatjara verbal paradigm, and contribute to the documentation of children’s communication and development in Australian Indigenous languages more broadly. It is also hoped that they add some new data to the existing cross-linguistic literature on how children learn to make use of rich morphology.
The pronominal system of Yaraldi
The aim of this work is to provide a detailed description of the pronominal system of Yaraldi, an Australian language traditionally spoken around the lower reaches of the Murray River and the Lakes area of South Australia. In this language, pronominals occur both as free forms and as clitics, and a major part of the thesis is occupied by an examination of the syntactic characteristics of pronominals in these two environments. The thesis also includes a description of the morphology which occurs on pronominals in Yaraldi, and some remarks on the functions of pronominals and on discourse factors affecting their distribution. A number of previous authors, including Capell (1956) and Yallop (1975), have proposed analyses of various aspects of the Yaraldi pronominal system, but these descriptions have been less thorough than might be desirable, partly due to lack of data. The publication of a large collection of Yaraldi texts by Ronald and Catherine Berndt in 1993 has made possible the current study. Where appropriate, the analysis proposed by this thesis is compared with those put forward by earlier writers. Although the focus of the thesis is on pronominals, some introductory analysis is also provided of Yaraldi morphology and syntax, and other features of the language that are relevant to an understanding of the pronominal system.
The sustainability of technology integration in English for academic purposes (EAP) programs
Blended approaches to teaching and learning in academic English programs often demand the provision of substantial investments in professional development, curriculum change and technological resources. Given the intense effort required for successful language programs, focus has turned increasingly on the sustainability of blended learning in higher education. However, despite its long history (Schmandt, 2010), and application in multiple contexts (Stepanyan & Littlejohn, 2013), as recent studies show (see Bennett, Lockyer, & Agostinho, 2018; Niederhauser et al., 2018), sustainability is yet to be fully understood, particularly in the field of applied linguistics (Blin, Jalkanen, & Taalas, 2016). Further, little research to date has focused on interrogating sustainability frameworks in the context of higher education (Gruba, Cardenas-Claros, Suvorov, & Rick, 2016). The aim of this thesis, then, is to investigate the sustainability of technology integration in the context of language programs. To achieve this aim, I undertook an 18-month longitudinal study of a blended EAP (English for Academic Purposes) language program situated within a university pathways course. Grounded in participatory action research (Patton, 2015; Somekh, 2006) with an ethnographic orientation, the data collection techniques employed in this study draw on observations, interviews, document analysis, and personal reflections. Framed by the model of sustainable blended learning (Blin et al., 2016) and the argument based approach (Gruba et al., 2016), this participatory action research investigated three case studies representing conceptualisations of technology as they emerged from the site. In line with qualitative approaches, each of the three case studies presents a view of technology through the metaphors of device, system and application respectively. Results of the study point to the socio-cultural complexities of blended language programs and the importance of attending to concerns of pedagogy rather than technology for sustainable blended learning approaches. Importantly, the study findings also highlight the need for a proper understanding of program context in the implementation of technology related initiatives. Implications of the study propose that change management concepts be applied to better introduce, implement and most importantly, sustain change involving educational technology integration. From a pedagogical perspective, sustainability is dependent on pedagogically motivated decision making, investment of time for proper curriculum development, and promoting opportunities for collaboration, particularly amongst teachers. As for professional development, the study postulates that pedagogical and professional development initiatives need to be ongoing and targeted to the needs of the curriculum. Based on the outcomes of this study, it is hoped that this thesis will contribute to a better understanding of the factors that influence the sustainability of educational technology innovations through an in-depth study of language programs in blended contexts.
Street movements as media vehicles of the Brazilian New Right
The right-wing movements that dominated the streets in Sao Paulo, Brazil, from 2014 to 2018 are often viewed through a political lens. This thesis, which primarily focuses on Movimento Brasil Livre, VemPraRua and NasRuas (‘the movements’), takes a different approach and examines them from a media perspective. It exposes how the movements’ online discourses helped to form publics of the New Right through the popular sharing of their Facebook posts among their followers. These online discourses and publics have shown to have influenced the election of far-right president Jair Bolsonaro. By analysing the movements’ 2017 Facebook posts, interviewing their leaders and carrying out ethnographic fieldwork at street protests and other political events during the 2018 electoral period, this thesis reveals how the movements play a vital role in producing political commentary and constructing right-wing narratives, all which help to shape political debate in the public sphere. Through their usage of social media and production of online content, the movements act as media and propaganda vehicles of the New Right. Following an analysis of the movements’ Facebook posts, three broad discourses are identified including issues relating to corruption, economic arguments, and social and cultural debates, which make up the chapters of the thesis. The popular sharing of the movements’ Facebook posts among their followers signifies the formation of publics in line with the rhetoric they employ, including anti-corruption, neoliberal, punitive, conservative and anti-elite publics. However, detailed examination of the posts and ethnographic data reveal how these discourses are used strategically to engage in power struggles and cultural conflicts. Indeed, the movements are at once media, corruption accountability, cultural, as well as political institutions. This view of the movements, which focuses on their use of social media, increases understanding about them, their influence on public political debate and the formation of right-wing publics in Brazil.
Automated video difficulty assessment
Automated assessment of text difficulty has been recognized as one method for assisting language teachers, textbook publishers, curriculum specialists, test developers, and researchers to make more informed decisions when selecting texts for use in instruction and assessment. While there is a substantial body of work on written and spoken texts, research on videotext difficulty is very scarce. Through a series of studies, the aim of this research program was twofold: to investigate what makes a videotext difficult for language learners and to develop automated measures to help predict difficulty in videotexts. Constructed to be used in this thesis, the Second Language Video Complexity (SLVC) corpus contains 320 academic lectures and 320 government advertisements which were annotated by 322 intermediate language learners. In Study 1, the relative contribution of verbal complexity to videotext difficulty was examined. The results demonstrated that videotext difficulty was predicted by variation in pitch, lexical frequency and sophistication, and syntactic complexity. Study 2 sought to investigate the impact of visual complexity on learners’ perception of videotext difficulty. To this end, innovative computational measures to gauge visual complexity in videotexts were developed and integrated into the Automated Video Analysis (AUVANA) software. The findings of the study suggested that visual complexity contributes to videotext difficulty and their impact is on a par with that of verbal complexity. Moreover, the result of principal component analysis demonstrated that visual complexity is more likely a multifaceted and multidimensional construct, rather than a unitary construct. While Study 1 and Study 2 looked at verbal and visual complexity independently, Study 3 focused on the integration of multimodal complexity features into ensemble machine learning models. The findings showed that ensemble multimodal models outperformed unimodal models in predicting difficulty in both video genres. Finally, Study 4 sought to develop an unsupervised approach for forecasting video segment difficulty in real-time. Through leveraging more advanced and sophisticated AI algorithms, several neural network models were trained to forecast difficulty in a corpus of 34,363 video segments. Quantitative and qualitative analyses showed that the trained model performed very well in forecasting difficulty in unseen video segments. Taken together, this thesis makes clear contributions to the investigation of videotext difficulty assessment. In short, the findings of this thesis revealed the usefulness of automated measures for assessing and predicting videotext difficulty. Also, introduced and developed in this thesis new measures of videotext complexity and computational tools for analyzing, computing, and visualizing complexity in videotexts which may help researchers to perform fine-grain analysis of videotext complexity.
From Afropea to the Afro-Atlantic: A study of four novels by Léonora Miano and Fatou Diome
Recent research in the field of Francophone African literature has suggested that contemporary Sub-Saharan authors living and writing in Europe present in their works a fundamentally devalorising image of their continent of origin. This is said to be reflective of their inherently negative rapport with their Africanicity, a degraded collective identitarian perception that finds its roots in the French colonial project South of the Sahara. Other scholars have argued that Africa no longer features, as it did in the works of previous generations of Sub-Saharan authors, as an important reference point for contemporary African authors who have turned their literary attention towards their own individual lives and to those of other African migrants in Europe. These writers are, according to some, relatively disinterested in their continent of origin and in the people who live there. This thesis considers the textual representation of the African continent and Africanicity in the novels of two contemporary Sub-Saharan authors writing in French on Africa from Europe – Leonora Miano from Cameroon and Fatou Diome from Senegal. Although these two authors are readily making names for themselves in the French and African literary scenes, they remain less studied in academia than many Francophone African male writers and other Francophone African women writers who have been writing for longer. The study seeks to determine whether Diome and Miano present in their texts a devalorising image of Sub-Saharan Africa and Africanicity more broadly or, conversely, whether there is evidence in their fiction of a commitment to a project of collective Afro-identitarian revalorisation. This study demonstrates a marked evolution across four novels by Miano and Diome through the theoretical concept of Afro-diasporic consciousness informed and developed upon by theory drawn from postcolonial, diaspora and feminist literary studies. It comparatively analyses Diome’s Le Ventre de l’Atlantique (2003) and Miano’s L’interieur de la nuit (2005) followed by Diome’s Celles qui attendent (2010) and Miano’s Les aubes ecarlates: Sankofa cry (2009) to reveal the authors’ increasingly ardent commitment to rehabilitating and revalorising contemporary Africanicity through fiction. This revalorisation is shown to be dependent on movement beyond the bounds of binary and colonially-referential Afropea and towards transnational engagement with Africa’s Black Atlantic diaspora. The study ultimately suggests that Africa remains very much present in the literary and affective sensibilities of Miano and Diome.
The discursive construction of risk in Vietnamese communities
The concept of risk has become more central to contemporary societies, as we struggle to manage a range of perceived threats based on our understandings and associated practices under the discourses of risk. Studies of risk discourses, however, are often based on Western assumptions of rationality and individuality, which have not been deeply examined outside of Western cultures. Situated in the literature of risk and discourse, the study aims to investigate the discursive construction of risk in the contexts of non-Western societies. To fulfil this aim, the study examines how the discourse of risk is constructed in the media and in everyday life of Vietnamese communities via three case studies set in Vietnam. The case studies focus on the construction of risk discourses in the media and in the lived experiences of members of Vietnamese communities, with a particular focus on the experience of women vis-a-vis gender expectations in daily lives. In the case studies, I use the methodologies of multimodal discourse analysis based on Systemic Functional Theory, while drawing from ethnography and autoethnography to understand the situated meanings of risk as embedded in the lived experiences of Vietnamese women. Findings of the study highlight sociocultural values and practices in the construction of risk in Vietnamese communities, which extend beyond Western-centric epistemologies which currently dominate the field. The study informs new theories in risk discourse, forges new approaches to discourse research and holds significance for further work in risk communication.
‘For noble and valiant France’: French-Australian relations, French Australian identities during the First World War
This thesis investigates the perception, projection, and mobilisation of French identity in Australia during the First World War. Australia’s participation on the Western Front from 1916 onwards meant that more Australians than ever before had a tangible connection with France, and it became a place of trauma as well as fascination. Yet, from the beginning of the conflict, French identity, language, and culture took on a heightened significance in Australia. French-Australians and their networks of francophones and francophiles played an important role in shaping this mobilisation of identity and culture, despite their numerically small proportion of the population. Drawing on a wide variety of French and Australian sources, this thesis examines the responses of French-Australians to the war and analyses how French identity was expressed in both civilian and military contexts. This thesis represents the first study to incorporate an extensive use of French sources to examine Australia’s First World War experience, and to analyse the role played by French-Australian relations. The French sources, notably the French diplomatic archives, demonstrate that the discourse regarding French identity was driven by a diverse range of people, in multiple spheres, and on many levels of society. French-Australian connections and networks based on social, political, cultural, and linguistic identities reveal a transnational influence which is not widely known. From diplomats and government officials, to businessmen, soldiers, charity workers and the ordinary man on the street, many people took part in, and were influenced by, the discourse. In the public domain, French national identity, French cultural imagery and essentialised images of France and French people were linked to the rhetoric of patriotism and were used to influence public opinion and support for the war. On the home front, the French-Australian fundraising organisations drew on transnational connections and successfully combined cultural representations with patriotism and fundraising. In the military sphere, French national identity had implications for men of military age who were subject to French military service obligations, and their experiences reveal a wide range of opinions and attitudes towards French identity. Examining how French identity was projected and mobilised, by whom, and for what purpose, provides a new perspective from which to understand this pivotal period of Australian and French shared history.