Italian Studies seminar (Online) | Multilingualism and identity amongst Australian-Italian youth – School of Languages and Cultures Italian Studies seminar (Online) | Multilingualism and identity amongst Australian-Italian youth – School of Languages and Cultures

Italian Studies seminar (Online) | Multilingualism and identity amongst Australian-Italian youth

Department of Italian Studies Research Seminar Series

Multilingualism and identity amongst Australian-Italian youth

Assoc Prof Antonia Rubino, University of Sydney

Update: This seminar has postponed to Monday 9 November, 12.30–2pm.


In this paper I present some findings of a project that explores the trilingualism (English, Italian and dialect) of Australian-Italian youth, aged 18 to 30. The Italo-Australians are the second largest non-English speaking ethnic group present today in Australia, with over one million people reporting Italian ancestry in the latest (2016) Census and over 271,000 home speakers, representing the fifth most spoken home language in Australia. The Italo-Australian context is characterised by high vitality and a relatively high intergenerational language transmission, as 44% of those reporting home usage of Italian were born in Australia. Since much research has focused on post-war Italian migrants or their children, this project fills a notable gap by investigating Australian-Italians (i.e. those with parents born in Australia), a crucial cohort in terms of language maintenance.

The data was gathered through an online survey and conversational interviews exploring language experiences and perceptions of language use, amongst other issues. In this presentation I focus on the findings from the survey (224 respondents) which, in addition to detailed sociodemographic and sociocultural information, elicited the respondents’ self-assessed competence in each of the three languages: English, Italian and dialect; their attitudes towards the languages; and self-reported language use with a range of interlocutors and in a wide selection of communicative situations. I also discuss findings from some open-ended questions of the survey, where respondents were asked to give examples of Italian or dialect words that they particularly like; to report and exemplify language mixing practices; and to attribute specific meanings to Italian and dialect. As will be discussed, the responses to these open questions were particularly detailed and greatly enriched the quantitative findings, yielding some precious insights into the linguistic practices of these young Italo-Australians, particularly within the extended family.

About the speaker

Associate Professor Antonia Rubino lectures in the Department of Italian Studies at the University of Sydney. Her main research interests are in multilingualism, with a focus on exploring the linguistic practices of Italo-Australians in various sites, the relationships between different migrant cohorts, and language maintenance/shift amongst different migrant generations. Amongst her recent publications, Trilingual talk in Sicilian-Australian migrant families: Playing out identities through language alternation (Palgrave, 2014), “Authenticity, agency and mobility in the discourse of Italian migrants in Australia” (in Multilingualism, (im)mobilities and spaces of belonging, Multilingual Matters, 2020), “Language competence, choice and attitudes amongst Italo-Australian youth (Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 2019), “Multilingualism in the Sydney landscape: The Italian impact” (in Multilingual Sydney, Routledge, 2019) and “Constructing pseudo-intimacy in an Italo-Australian phone-in radio program” (Journal of Pragmatics, 2016).

For more information about her research, check out her recent appearances on:
Sydney Centre for Language Research podcast – Italian Language and Identity in Sydney (Apple Podcast)
Insula Europa – Interview with Paolo Silvestri (page in Italian)

Join online via Zoom.

For more information, contact: Associate Professor Francesco Borghesi –


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The event is finished.


Nov 09 2020


12:30 PM - 2:00 PM


Online (Zoom)


Italian Studies

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