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Variationist sociolinguists have now collectively spent decades gathering vernacular language data, enriching linguistic theory through detailed empirical analysis. What the field is yet to offer are reflective accounts of how partnership with communities and participatory research models can begin to decolonise the field. In this paper we reflect on the Indigenous-led fieldwork that allowed us to document Australian Aboriginal English in urban Nyungar country, Southwest Western Australia. We discuss how Indigenous leadership allowed us to choose appropriate data collection methods (the Indigenous cultural form of conversation and storytelling known as ‘yarning’). Our analysis of premonitory yarns about the death of youth in the community reveals a rich performative style which shows linguistically entrenched ties with traditional Aboriginal Australia, and which provides original material for sociolinguistic analysis. Our work has great potential for social transformation in the inclusion of Indigenous epistemologies, and through ‘hearing the voices’ of speakers rarely featured in sociolinguistic research.
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