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Academic Paper

Title: Heterogeneity in Linguistic Practice, Competence and Ideology: Language and Community on Easter Island
Author: Miki Makihara
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: Queens College (CUNY)
Linguistic Field: Anthropological Linguistics; Sociolinguistics
Subject Language: Rapanui
Subject LANGUAGE Family: Austronesian
Abstract: This paper offers an ethnographic and linguistic analysis of the sociolinguistic situation of Easter Island, a multilingual, ethnolinguistic-minority community in Chile. The original language, Rapa Nui (Polynesian), has become endangered as a process of language shift toward the dominant state language, Spanish, has picked up pace in the last four decades. Most Rapa Nui children today are native speakers of Spanish and there is a wide heterogeneity in language competences and practice amongst youth and adults. At the same time, however, a successful local indigenous political movement has led many community members to reflect critically on the loss of their ancestral language and some language revitalization initiatives have been launched. I describe the heterogeneous and changing nature of linguistic ideology, competence, and practice in this speech community. Local, state, and global ideologies of language and its valorization have clashed and intersected to create new frameworks to inform community members’ understanding of, and attitudes toward, heterogeneity and linguistic practice and change. I analyze how cultural conception of language have variously shaped past developments in, and academic and community descriptions of, the sociolinguistic situation on Rapa Nui and how they may influence current language revitalization efforts. Cultural conceptions of language discussed include notions of language decadence and contamination, language hierarchy and (d)evaluation, ‘natural’ acquisition of ‘native language’, subtractive bilingualism, and linguistic syncretism and purism. I conclude with a discussion of the challenges of revitalization efforts in endangered language contexts highlighting the need to balance community efforts to institutionalize and standardize, and accepting and even encouraging heterogeneity in linguistic practices as a means to fostering liveliness of language in everyday life.
Type: Individual Paper
Status: Completed
Publication Info: In The Native Speaker Concept: Ethnographic Investigations of Native Speaker Effects, edited by Neriko M. Doerr, pp.249–275. Mouton de Gruyter.

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