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Review of  The In-Between People

Reviewer: Timo Lothmann
Book Title: The In-Between People
Book Author: Dennis Lee Malone
Publisher: SIL International Publications
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Language Acquisition
Subject Language(s): English
Issue Number: 16.3018

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Date: Mon, 17 Oct 2005 11:50:54 EDT
From: Timo Lothmann < >
Subject: The In-Between People

AUTHOR: Malone, Dennis L.
TITLE: The In-Between People
SUBTITLE: Language and Culture Maintenance and Mother-Tongue
Education in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea
PUBLISHER: SIL International
YEAR: 2004

Timo Lothmann, Department of Synchronic English Linguistics, RWTH
Aachen University.

Dennis L. Malone's book is a revised and updated version of his
previously unpublished doctoral thesis. With "The In-Between People",
he presents a remarkable study at the interface between sociology,
ethnography, linguistics, and education. The author examines how the
Kaugel-speaking people of the Highlands of Papua New Guinea
witness and at the same time shape an ongoing process of social
change. The massive, nationwide popularity of Western lifestyle,
especially among the younger generation, as well as an increased
mobility have affected all aspects of everyday life to a significant
extent. Thus, traditional culture, including customs, moral values and,
last but not least, the linguistic heritage are being eroded and tend to
be superimposed by social achievements (and languages
respectively) that are considered more prestigious, as it were. A crisis
unparalleled in the history of the local communities, including the
Kaugel community, evolves from this.

As regards the hot spots of existing social conflict, the author identifies
the generation of parents as agents who play a vital role. It is this
generation that have fallen between two stools -- they, i.e. the "in-
between people" as Malone calls them, are characterized by a
traditional background and an open-minded orientation towards the
future. Thus, they want to provide their children with the benefits of
both the old (traditional) and the new (Western-influenced) cultures.
During his long-term fieldwork on the spot, Malone was witness to the
load of problems that are related to the cultural clash these parents
are facing. However, the lively account of their increasingly becoming
aware of their responsibility vis-à-vis the danger of loss of local
culture, i.e. their ethnic identity, is only a side dish of the main course
that the reader is served by the author.

Malone's study focuses on an examination of a mother-tongue pre-
primary education programme which has been established in the
Kaugel area in 1985. In seven chapters plus appendices (248 pages
in total), he aims at conveying an understanding how this programme
has been expanded and kept alive by individuals. Moreover, in
particular by taking the parents' attitudes towards education into
account, the author describes how members of the community tackle
the existing tension between mother tongue maintenance and their
children's succeeding in secondary schools where the dominant
language of teaching is English. In this respect, language contact and
shift are topics that run like a thread through the study.

In chapters 1-2, the author sets the stage: He introduces the Kaugel
setting as well as the key concepts and terminology that are relevant
for the study. In making reference to selected secondary literature and
theories related especially to language planning, language shift, and
education in multicultural settings, the reader becomes acquainted
with the research aims and the qualitative methodology used. In
chapters 3-4, the various local and supra-regional contexts in which
the Kaugel mother-tongue pre-school programme is embedded as well
as the programme itself are described. In doing so, the author
compares traditional and non-traditional means of education. In
chapter 5, the topics bilingualism, culture, and identity are analysed in
detail in order to gain an insight into the attitudes of the parents and
the Kaugel community as a whole towards formal education in English.
In chapter 6, the language use in a classroom of one of the mother-
tongue pre-schools is examined. With respect to this, the author
identifies the primary literacy materials that are being used by the
teachers as valuable instruments. Samples of these materials are
included in the appendices. The study is concluded by a discussion of
possibilities and responsibilities of the "in-between people" in order to
resolve the existing tensions for the benefit of their children.

Malone's study represents an important contribution to the current
post-colonial discourse. It is a snap-shot of attitudes and efforts of
individuals witnessing the rapid social change (or rather: revolution) of
their traditional living together within a multicultural Papua New
Guinea. The "in-between people" are portrayed as negotiators of the
exchanges between two cultural entities. In bringing out the concerns
of the Kaugel parent generation, the author reaches to let the reader
partake in the social life of the village, as it were. This is achieved
especially by providing detailed information on the background and
everyday activities of certain individuals who have been involved in
maintaining the mother-tongue pre-schools in the Kaugel area.
Occasional anecdotes, episodes and interviews support this
perspective. Further, the author wants to share his special affinity for
the pre-school programme with the reader. With respect to this, he
points out the critical importance of culturally relevant teaching
materials. By reporting his classroom observations (that fail to
consider adequately the well-known observer's paradox) with the help
of indigenous collaborators, he reveals the potential for improvement,
in particular as regards the consistency of language use vs. code-
switching, the meaningful treatment of traditional vs. new cultural
elements, as well as teacher payment and funding in general. The
qualitative analysis of recorded speech data serves as basis and
support of the author's argumentation throughout the study.

By and large, Malone judges the maintenance of the community-
based mother-tongue pre-school programme as an important factor
that, on the one hand, can effectively function as a building block of
the Kaugel children's identity. On the other hand, the programme
raises the communal awareness of the advantages of careful
language (and thus culture) planning. As the schools have become
esteemed institutions (at least locally), recent research supports the
author's findings: Early education in the locally restricted mother
tongues of Papua New Guinea does not hinder the children's success
in secondary schools where formal instruction, due to national policy,
is done in English. On the contrary: The prior acquisition of literacy in
such a local language may even contribute to positive results in later
educational stages.

In the Kaugel area (as in many areas of the post-colonial world),
language has always been a crucial marker of the cultural identity of
the local community. With linguistic/cultural traditions shifting, social
continuity is being endangered. In this regard, many factors form a
fragile mosaic of preferences and prestige. Church activity and the
usage of the lingua franca Tok Pisin, for instance, are highly influential
nowadays and contribute to what has occasionally been termed a
newly emerging "Melanesian identity". Unfortunately, Malone refrains
from stressing these topics in more detail. Nevertheless, the author
convincingly shows how the "in-between people" are on the horns of a
dilemma: How to reconcile the best of both worlds, i.e. tradition and
modernity, for the benefit of their children and, thereby, of the
community as a whole? English education is still more or less
unanimously perceived as the ideal and unavoidable road to (material)
success -- but, at the same time, an increasing urbanization and
striving for imported goods deprives the traditional communities of
their social cohesion. Of course, reliable predictions for the future are
hard, if not impossible, to make. In an undeniably idealistic way,
however, Malone sets himself up as an expatriate spokesman for
these “in-between people”. On a macro-level, his interdisciplinary
study is intended to serve as an optimistic exhortation.
Correspondingly, on a micro-level, it is intended as a tool for the
Kaugel community itself so that the generations constituting it may
interact, negotiate and thus actively face the threats that have been
identified by them -- against all the odds.


Timo Lothmann, born in 1976, studied English Linguistics, History, and
Economics at the RWTH Aachen University, Germany. After having
received his MA grade, he took up the work on his PhD thesis dealing
with sociolinguistic factors of Tok Pisin with special reference to
existing religious literature in Papua New Guinea. The thesis will be
submitted in October 2005. He is lecturer and academic assistant at
the Department of Synchronic English Linguistics of his Alma Mater.
His research interests include especially Pacific pidgin and creole
languages, translation, and Biblical studies. He is author of
communications in international conferences and (forthcoming)
contributions to scientific journals and other publications.

Format: Paperback
ISBN: 1556711476
ISBN-13: 9781556711473
Pages: 262
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