Language Maintenance and Language Shift 


Local communities in Singapore and Asia

The multilingual nature of the Singaporean ethnic groups is the focus of a number of sociolinguistic studies within LMS. The increasing dominance of English has displaced various languages, including the other three official languages Mandarin Chinese, Malay and Tamil. These studies explore the shifting position of English vis-à-vis official languages and other vernaculars. In particular, these studies focus on various Chinese communities and their commitment to the upkeep of bilingualism, the relationship between SES and language shift in Malay communities as well as language shift issues in Tamil and Telegu speaking communities. Research on language maintenance and shift in the Division is also carried out in the wider Asian and world contexts.

Selected Publications

Cavallaro, Francesco (2005). Language maintenance revisited: An Australian perspectiveBilingual Research Journal, 29(3), 509-530.

Cavallaro, Francesco. Milde, A. and Sercombe, P. (Eds.) (2009). Language, culture and identity in Asia.Special Issue of The Linguistics Journal.

Cavallaro, Francesco. and Rahman, Tania (2009). The Santals of Bangladesh. In Cavallaro, F. Milde, A. and Sercombe, P. (Eds.), Language, culture and identity in Asia, (pp. 192 – 220). Special Issue of The Linguistics Journal.

Cavallaro, Francesco and Serwe, Stefan (2010). Language use and shift among the Malays in Singapore. Applied Linguistics Review, 1(1), 129-170.

David, Maya K., Cavallaro, Francesco. and Coluzzi, Paolo (2009). Language Policies – Impact on Language Maintenance and Teaching: Focus on Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines. In Cavallaro, F. Milde, A. and Sercombe, P. (Eds.) Language, culture and identity in Asia, (pp. 155 – 191). Special Issue of The Linguistics Journal.

Ng, Bee Chin (2008). Linguistics pragmatism, globalization and the impact on the patterns of input in Singaporean Chinese homes. In P. Tan, & R. Rubdy (Eds), Language as commodity: Global structures, local marketplaces (pp. 71-88). London/New York: Continuum Press.

Ng, Bee Chin (2009). “Where do the old folks go?” Evolving multilingual contexts, language displacement and elderly Singaporeans. 7th International Symposium on Bilingualism, 8-11 July 2009, Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Tan, Sherman and Ng Bee Chin (2011) Three generations under one roof: A study of the influence of the presence of grandparents on language shift, identity and attitudes. TRANEL (Travaux neuchâtelois de linguistique).


Italians around the world: focus on Australia 

The linguistic diversity and dynamics of one section of the Italian community in Australia are the focus of this investigation. More specifically the research is a middle ground between Rubino’s ethnographic work on data collected within a Sicilian family (1993) and Rubino and Bettoni's (1996) statistical work on data collected with questionnaires widely distributed across the community. The study focuses on how second generation Sicilian-Australians use their linguistic repertoire. That is, which of the three languages spoken by a Sicilian-Australian are actually used when interacting with other Sicilian- and Italo-Australians in different domains, and what are the motivating factors that lead to the choice of one particular language over another. In addition, the factors which promote or impede the maintenance of the dialect or of Standard Italian are investigated. An in-depth analysis of the methodology in sociolinguistic research is also conducted.

Selected Publications


Cavallaro, Francesco (2003). Italians in Australia: Migration and ProfileAltre Italie, 26, 65-88.

Cavallaro, Francesco (2006). Language dynamics of an ethnic minority group: Some methodological concerns on data collectionThe Linguistics Journal, 1(3), 34-65.

Cavallaro, Francesco (October, 2010). Transgenerational language shift: From Sicilian and Italian to Australian English. The Italian Australian Institute. La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia ~ 350 pages.

Cavallaro, Francesco (In Press 2010). Italians in Australia: From Triligualism to Monolingualism? International Journal of the Sociology of Language. Vol. 2010, Issue 205.