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Italian as a Language of Communication in Australia before Mass Migration: The Case of Western Australia

John J Kinder


When do we date the beginning of the history of Italian language and dialects in Australia? Statistics on the presence of Italian and other languages before 1950 rely on counts of birth place in more or less reliable censuses. This article argues for an examination of the archival record in order to access the use of Italian in the century before mass migration. A case study examines a sample of personal correspondence written by Italians in Western Australia to other Italians also resident in Western Australia. Examples range along the continuum of a linguistic repertoire from formal, written Italian of an intermediate register through regional and popular Italian to Italianized dialect. The heritage of former diglossia explains why all letters examined are in Italian, not dialect.

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Spunti e Ricerche. Rivista d'italianistica.
ISSN (Print): 0816-5432.
ISSN (Electronic): 2200-8942.