The story of Old Man Frank

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In this chapter I present a story that was told to me in the early 1990s by Goodie Massey, an Atambaya man who grew up at Injinoo in northern Cape York Peninsula. The story is set in the early years of the settlement at Injinoo, at a time when children began to adopt the new regional lingua franca, Torres Strait Creole, as their everyday language. As a background to the discussion of this story I explore the historical and linguistic context of the colonial era in northern Cape York Peninsula and posit some explanatory accounts of language shift in Injinoo. I argue that, while language shift can be seen as a function of hegemonic pressures, Goodie Massey’s story offers more nuanced insights into the complex linguistic and social landscape of his childhood.


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