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The Project

The CIARA project will provide the first large-scale exploration of conversational style in Australia. The project investigates everyday conversation, comparing social interaction across different languages, cultures and geographic locations. Using modern Conversation Analytic/Interactional Linguistic techniques, we aim to re-examine claims that Aboriginal Australians conduct conversations in different ways to Anglo-Australians. We will record and transcribe Australian English multiparty conversations in remote Kimberley and rural Victorian towns, and compare these with multiparty conversations conducted in four endangered Aboriginal languages (Gija, Jaru, Garrwa and Murrinhpatha) and in Kriol, from remote communities in WA and the NT. These corpora will provide a new evidence-base for investigating Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal conversational norms and contribute to the scientific study of social interaction.


Differences in expectations surrounding interactional norms have led to disadvantage for certain Aboriginal people within legal, educational and medical settings. We aim to identify possible differences in communicative styles that could lead to intercultural miscommunication. We will disseminate the findings of our research to service providers within these sectors, to Aboriginal communities and to Aboriginal organisations, in the hope of improving the quality of intercultural engagement.

The project will focus on three crucial aspects of the way people engage with others as they manage the local organisation of social relations within everyday culture. These areas constitute the three CIARA subprojects, each of which attends to a specific research question:




action sequences

How and when do people negotiate when they should take a turn at talk and what they should say next, particularly in multiparty interactions?


Knowledge Management

How and when do people negotiate their rights and responsibilities with respect to knowledge, in order to communicate what they know?



How and when do people take opportunities to talk in a longer way about their experiences, and how do others receive such accounts?

Additionally, the conversational corpora will provide databases for the documentation of the four endangered Aboriginal languages, as well as for the under-documented Remote and Rural varieties of Australian English. These corpora will be archived for posterity, providing future generations with a snapshot of language use in the early 21st Century. The Aboriginal language corpora will be used for linguistic documentation and language revitalization efforts within the relevant remote communities.

Field research on the Murrinhpatha, Jaru and Garrwa corpora, as well as the 'Remote' and 'Rural' English corpora, have been funded by the ARC Discovery project DP180100515 'What is distinctive about Australian Aboriginal Conversational Style?'. Field recording for the Gija corpus funded by the Macquarie University New Staff grant 'Multiparty conversation in Gija, an endangered language of the East Kimberley, WA' has now been completed. Further funds are being sought to continue the development of this corpus.

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