LINGUIST List 13.1341

Mon May 13 2002

Diss: Anthropological Ling: Makihara "Bilingualism.."

Editor for this issue: Karolina Owczarzak <>


  1. miki_makihara, Anthropological Ling: Makihara "Bilingualism, Social Change..."

Message 1: Anthropological Ling: Makihara "Bilingualism, Social Change..."

Date: Sun, 12 May 2002 17:20:09 +0000
From: miki_makihara <>
Subject: Anthropological Ling: Makihara "Bilingualism, Social Change..."

New Dissertation Abstract

Institution: Yale University
Program: Department of Anthropology
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 1999

Author: Miki Makihara 

Dissertation Title: 
Bilingualism, Social Change, and the Politics of Ethnicity on Rapanui

Linguistic Field: Anthropological Linguistics

Subject Language: Spanish

Dissertation Director 1: J. Joseph Errington
Dissertation Director 2: Niko Besnier
Dissertation Director 3: Kira Hall

Dissertation Abstract: 

This is a linguistic anthropological study of changing language use
and the politics of ethnicity in the Polynesian-Spanish bilingual
community of Rapanui (Easter Island), Chile during a period of rapid
social change. It is based on three years of fieldwork conducted
between 1991 and 1996. Although the Rapanui language has shown
remarkable resilience in the face of great adversity, over the last
three decades this speech community has been experiencing language
shift from Rapanui to Spanish. At the same time, however, the Rapanui
have been redefining a native cultural identity and some have made
increasingly radical demands for political autonomy and greater
control over land and the tourist economy. The Rapanui language is
important to the political and cultural movements both as a mode of
communication and as a marker of ethnic distinctiveness. In the face
of this language shift, the political and economic significance of
Rapanui and the instrumentality of Spanish are being reconciled by
the development of syncretic communicative practices in which speakers
juxtapose Rapanui and Spanish linguistic resources.

The study documents and analyzes the nature of changing bilingual and
syncretic ways of speaking, and the place of these communicative
practices in the making of modern Rapanui identity and culture. To
analyze variation in speech patterns and evaluations among residents
in different settings, hundreds of interactions were recorded,
transcribed, and examined for patterns and variations in speech
behavior and to study the relationship between these linguistic
phenomena and their interactional and institutional contexts. The
analysis pays attention to actual communicative acts of individual
speakers as well as to the interactionally constructed and
institutionally conferred social values of language varieties. The
modern syncretic way of speaking Rapanui - which draws on speech
varieties of Modern Rapanui, Rapanui Spanish, and Chilean Spanish -
can be viewed as an indication of the Rapanui language's vitality and
of the adaptability of previously independent language systems brought
into contact during a period of rapid social change. It is both
reflective and constitutive of an ethnic minority's negotiation of
identity, its struggle for control over material and symbolic
resources, and internal social conflicts
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