[Lingtyp] linguistic endogamy worldwide

Ruth Singer rsinger at unimelb.edu.au
Mon Nov 17 01:10:07 UTC 2014

Hi Michael,

My impressions are that obligatory exogamy as documented in Amazonia is not
really comparable to traditional practices in Australia. Where I do
research, it is acceptable to marry somebody who identifies with the same
language. The widespread tradition is clan exogamy not linguistic exogamy.
The village of course, is not a useful point of reference, as people were

Where I do research, in north-west Arnhem land it is obligatory to marry a
person from a different clan. Languages are usually spoken by more than one
clan, so it would have always been acceptable to marry somebody with the
same language identity. I work mainly with speakers of the language Mawng,
who traditionally married speakers from nearby clans, who spoke 5-6
different languages, including Mawng. People who identify with the Mawng
language certainly marry one another now, and it is seen as unremarkable. I
would estimate the proportion of marriages among 50-60 year olds that could
be described as endogamous is around 30-50%. Marriages among that age group
were still mostly arranged by elders.

In north-east Arnhem Land speakers identify clan level 'languages' but from
a linguists perspective these 'languages' are related to one another on the
variety or dialect level - differences can be quite minimal.

A useful reference for north-west Arnhem land is:
Garde, Murray. 2008. Kun-dangwok: “‘clan lects’” and Ausbau in western
Arnhem Land. *International Journal of the Sociology of Language* 191.

See also Nick Evans' publications:
Evans, Nicholas. 2007. Warramurrungunji Undone: Australian languages in the
51st millennium. In Matthias Brenzinger (ed.), *Language Diversity
Endangered*, 342–373. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
 Evans, Nicholas. 2010. *Dying Words: Endangered Languages and What They
Have to Tell Us*. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

I discuss multilingualism in north-west Arnhem land in this paper I am
still revising:
Singer, Ruth & Harris, Salome. forthcoming. What practices and ideologies
support small-scale multilingualism? a case study of unexpected language
survival in an Australian Indigenous community. *International Journal of
the Sociology of Language*.

There are also publications on north-east Arnhem Land and Cape York that
would be relevant. And work by Alan Rumsey and Francesca Merlan on language

I think it's fair to say that the worldwide picture of small-scale
multilingualism, including how it is connected to marriage traditions,
still needs a lot of work!


On Sun, Nov 16, 2014 at 12:33 AM, Michael Daniel <misha.daniel at gmail.com>

> Dear all,
> this may seem a slightly off-topic query for this mailing list. (And it
> is.) Yet as many of the subscribers work in traditional societies, I
> thought this would be a rather direct way to find what we are looking for.
> Could you let us know of languages (or linguistic areas) where linguistic
> endogamy is practiced. By linguistic endogamy I mean the practice of
> marrying to the speakers of the same language (the same village). I am only
> interested in such cases for minority languages (especially one-village
> languages or lects).
> It would be also very helpful if, in addition to answering this query, you
> could provide us with a reference to the discussion of the relevant facts. In
> fact, this seems a very evident question for language ecology, yet we are
> unaware of studies focusing on linguistic endogamy. There is a lot of
> recent discussion of linguistic exogamy, e.g.: Aikhenvald 2003, Franҫois
> 2012 - among others. For linguistic endogamy, we are only aware of Comrie
> 2008
> Aikhenvald, Alexandra Y. 2003. Language contact and language change in
> Amazonia. In: Aterdam studies in the theory and history of linguistic
> science series 4 (2003): 1-20.
> Comrie 2008. Linguistic Diversity in the Caucasus. Annual Review of
> Anthropology 37: 131-143.
> François, Alexandre. 2012. The dynamics of linguistic diversity:
> Egalitarian multilingualism and power imbalance among northern Vanuatu
> languages. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 214, 85-110.
> The reason behind this question is as follows: in Daghestan, language
> communities we have data for used to practice a more or less strict
> linguistic endogamy, including one-village languages. Reports of other
> areas of great density that we happened to hear lately - which are however
> confined to Pacific and Australia - describe situations with a more or less
> consistent linguistic exogamy. We would be interested in getting a more
> world-scale picture of the distribution of these patterns, and eventually
> to look into the patterns of neighbour bilingulism in endogamous speech
> communities and to compare them with what we know about Daghestan.
> Michael Daniel
> also on behalf of Nina Dobrushina
> _______________________________________________
> Lingtyp mailing list
> Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
> http://listserv.linguistlist.org/mailman/listinfo/lingtyp

Dr Ruth Singer
DECRA Postdoctoral Fellow
Linguistics Program and Research Unit for Indigenous Language
School of Languages and Linguistics
Faculty of Arts
University of Melbourne 3010
Tel. +61 3 90353774
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