It has been interesting to see both the differences and similarities between the religious speech communities which we have studied. It was especially interesting to see the slight differences between the two Jewish Synagogue/community centres seeing as they belong to the same wider speech community. This study supports our hypothesis that speech communities tied to religion would be like a petri dish for multilingualism and diversity in language. “Divine communication” (Spolsky) has shown to be a different spectacle than communication in other contexts, proving to be of large importance in almost all holy texts and prayers.

The thought-provoking finding from our research has been that the two Synagogues and the Hindu Temple Saiva Manram have a much larger focus on languages other than that spoken locally by much the congregation. This is contrasted by the Greek and Coptic Orthodox churches, which seemed to run services either in English or Greek, whichever most its members understand. The Temple and Synagogues on the other hand, all ran services in the language which is connected to the religion – in the Temple’s case Hindi, and the Synagogues in Hebrew. This shows a difference in the connection between language and identity as well as culture when it comes to a specific religion.

It was common throughout all the sites studied that instructional signage and information was most commonly in English, and at the sites which had most speakers of languages other than English, a transliteration or translation into their predominant language. At the speech communities which had their congregants pray different languages specific to their religion (Hini and Hebrew), there was a consensus throughout the interviewees that this allowed for a deeper connection to the text, the history and the culture of the religion. Speaking in languages specific to each person and language community showed that this brought about a stronger sense of belonging and identity to individuals rather than a group.

This study has shown how diverse the religious community of Sydney truly is and how many languages are being practised within these speech communities. Perhaps these are the places where language study and documentation needs to occur.


Tamar Hoffman