Aboriginal Child Language Acquisition Project (ACLA2)

This project will identify how well Indigenous Australian children manage the major change from a home environment, in which Standard Australian English is not the dominant code, to the school environment, in which it is the main code. This will allow us to determine whether, and to what extent, the different codes the children bring from home, and the demands made of them in the school, affect their ability to manage and fully participate in the school environment.

Chief investigators
Professor Gillian Wigglesworth (The University of Melbourne), Professor Jane Simpson (Australian National University)

Other researchers
Jill Vaughan (postdoctoral researcher), Sally Dixon (PhD student), Susan Poetsch (PhD student), Gemma Morales (PhD student)

ARC Discovery Grant (2011-2015)


Visit the ACLA1 research project website


This project, A longitudinal study of the interaction of home and school language in two Aboriginal communities is the second phase of a longitudinal study funded by the ARC. We refer to the project as ACLA2 (the Aboriginal Child Language Acquisition project, phase 2). The first phase of the project How mixed language input affects child language development: case studies from central Australia (or ACLA1) was completed in 2007. In that study, we documented the language input provided to Indigenous children from the age of 18 months in three communities; Yakanarra in the Kimberley, Dagaragu in the Victoria River District, and Tennant Creek. In these multilingual communities children speak a range of languages; the traditional languages, Kriol, and (in Daguragu) a mixed language.

From the ACLA1 project we now have detailed information on the variety and complexity of the language situations in which Indigenous children in remote areas are being raised. More information about ACLA1 can be found on the ACLA1 project web page.

In ACLA 2 we will investigate, over four years, what happens when these children enter the formal school system. Specifically, our research questions are:

  • RQ1: What range of languages, and to what level of proficiency, do the children bring to school (eg Kriol, traditional language, Standard Australian English)?
  • RQ2: How does the full set of languages, registers and linguistic repertoires of Indigenous Australian children develop from age 5 to 9 as they move through the school system?
  • RQ3: During the early school years, what kinds of speech events do these children participate in, at home and in school, and which linguistic codes do they use when participating?
  • RQ4: To what extent are these children able to participate linguistically in the classroom?
  • RQ5: What are the processes for the children of second language/register acquisition, language shift, maintenance and change which may be hypothesised to result from their encounter with the different languages, the language events they participate in both at home and at school, and the language environments in which they operate?
  • RQ6: What are the implications of the answers to research questions 1-5 for the performance of children in the school environment?