Presentation by Prof Phil Benson (Linguistics, Macquarie University)
Census data in sociolinguistics
25 July 2017
Phil Benson – Macquarie University, Department of Linguis=cs
Census data in sociolinguis/cs
• Language demography (Clyne 2003)
• Demolinguis=cs (Extra 2010)
• Study of sociolinguis=c issues in
popula=on data (survey/census)
• Europe (Extra & Yagmur 2004; Ludi 2008),
South Africa (van der Merwe & van der
Merwe 2008), Canada (De Vries 1990), United
States (Veselinova & Booza, 2009)
– Many countries do not have censuses
– Many have censuses but do not ask language
– Australian census gives rela=vely good data
Australian census studies
• Language concentra=ons in Melbourne and
– Clyne & Kipp 1998; Clyne, Hajek & Kipp 2008
• Language shi[
– Clyne 1991, 2003; 2011 etc; Forrest & Dandy,
2017; Karidakis & Arunachalam, 2016; Rubino,
Studies by census year
– Clyne 1991, 2003, 2011; Clyne & Kipp 1998; Kipp
2008, Rubino, 2010)
– Clyne, Hajek & Kipp 2008,
– Forrest & Dandy, 2017; Karidakis & Arunachalam,
Australian census ques=ons
• Language ques=ons (Current language use)
– Language other than English (LOTE)
– English proﬁciency (Eng)
• Proxy ques=ons (Earlier language use and
– Place of birth (PoB)
– Parents’ place of birth (PPoB)
– Ancestry (Anc)
Language other than English (LOTE)
Problems with the LOTE ques=on
• Ignores proﬁciency
• Ignores use outside the home, use in wri=ng
• 25% of people in single person households
• Only one language can be selected
• But considered best of several alterna=ves
(Clyne 2003; Extra 2010)
English proﬁciency (Eng)
23. Reasons include ‘Diﬃculty with English language’
Place of birth (PoB)
Parents’ place of birth (PPoB)
(to 1996 and 2016 - not 2001- 2011)
Parents’ place of birth (2001-2011)
• Gender, age, year of arrival, occupa=on
• Educa=on level
• SES variables
• Housing variables
• Sta=s=cal areas (Levels 1-4), State/Territority
(STE), Australia (AUS)
– SA1 = smallest unit: 54,000 in Australia
– SA2 = suburb in urban areas
• Language shi[ occurs when a person loses
language x in favour of language y;
intergenera=onally when descendants of a
speaker of language x, lose or do not acquire it
• At the community level = % of speakers of
language x on arrival (or their Australian born
descendants) who do not report language x as a
– PoB is proxy for language on arrival
– PPoB/Anc is proxy for parents’/ancestors’ language on
Calcula=ng rates of language shi[
• 1st gen – LOTE + PoB (-Aus)
• 2nd gen – LOTE + PoB (+Aus) + PPoB (-Aus)/Anc
• 3rd+ genera=on – LOTE + PPoB (+Aus) + Anc
Calcula=ng rates of intergenera=onal
• 2001-2011 – 2nd Gen can only be based on Anc
(PPoB does not predict language)
• 1996 / 2016 – 2nd Gen can also be based on
PPoB (which predicts language)
• 1996-2016 – 3rd+ Gen can only be based on
Anc (no data on grandparents’ PoB)
Findings from 2011 studies
• High levels of language shi[ in 1st Gen and
especially 2nd & 3rd Gen
• But variability according to Ancestry with
rates of reten=on from 1% to 30%-70% for
• Also interac=on among factors, e.g., religion;
mother or father born in Australia for 2.5 Gen
Changes from 2011-2016
• Few studies have inves=gated change from
census to census since 1996-2006; poten=al to
inves=gate change from 2011-2016
• Factors that may lead to change in rates of
– Online and social media
– Community language maintenance (Oriyama
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