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Academic Paper


Title: Linguistic Purism in Rapa Nui Political Discourse
Author: Miki Makihara
Email: click here to access email
Homepage: http://qcpages.qc.cuny.edu/ANTHRO/makihara/makihara.html
Institution: Queens College (CUNY)
Linguistic Field: Anthropological Linguistics; Sociolinguistics
Subject Language: Rapanui
Rapanui
Abstract: In recent years, new discourses and ideologies of language rights and endangerment have emerged in the context of rising indigenous and minority movements around the world, attracting increased political and academic attention to the changing sociolinguistic situations of ethnolinguistic minority communities. This paper provides a case study of political discourse in the bilingual, indigenous Polynesian community of Easter Island, where the local language, Rapa Nui, has in the past been marginalized and endangered by Spanish, the dominant, national language of Chile. My objective is to provide an analysis of the ideologies of language maintenance and revalorization practiced in verbal interaction and embedded in the ideologies and politics of Rapa Nui ethnic identity in a community where a large number of people are actively involved in indigenous movements. I focus on the development of purist ideology and practice and in particular the ways in which purist codes and ideas have been constructed and accommodated in relation to other codes and ideas in the communicative acts of political leaders and individual speakers. To this end, I identify and contrast two salient linguistic styles found in Rapa Nui political discourse – syncretic and purist – and relate these to the interactional and institutional contexts which inform and invite their use as discursive strategies. I show how Rapa Nui speakers have not only constructed syncretic, and more recently purist, speech styles, but also how they deploy these speech styles as linguistic registers for political ends to perform stances and voice different but complimentary sets of values – those of democratic participation and those of primordialism and ethnic boundary construction. As such this case study illustrates the ways that the users of an endangered ethnolinguistic minority language have contributed to revalorizing and maintaining their language by establishing new linguistic registers, thereby adding extra sociolinguistic meanings to speech styles and increasing the linguistic heterogeneity of their language. This contrasts with studies of language under shift and loss that have found that language tends to exhibit declining variability under the dominating influence of the spreading language.
Type: Individual Paper
Status: Completed
Publication Info: In Consequences of Contact: Language Ideologies and Sociocultural Transformations in Pacific Societies, edited by Miki Makihara and Bambi Schieffelin, pp.49–69. New York: Oxford University Press.


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