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LINGUIST List 18.89

Thu Jan 11 2007

Diss: Socioling: Landweer: 'A Melanesian Perspective on Mechanisms ...'

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        1.    Martha Landweer, A Melanesian Perspective on Mechanisms of Language Maintenance and Shift: Case studies from Papua New Guinea


Message 1: A Melanesian Perspective on Mechanisms of Language Maintenance and Shift: Case studies from Papua New Guinea
Date: 10-Jan-2007
From: Martha Landweer <Lynn_Landweersil.org>
Subject: A Melanesian Perspective on Mechanisms of Language Maintenance and Shift: Case studies from Papua New Guinea


Institution: University of Essex
Program: Department of Language and Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2006

Author: Martha Lynn Landweer

Dissertation Title: A Melanesian Perspective on Mechanisms of Language Maintenance and Shift: Case studies from Papua New Guinea

Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics

Subject Language(s): Anuki (aui)
                            Doga (dgg)

Dissertation Director:
Enam Al Wer
David Britain
Peter Patrick
Gillian Sankoff

Dissertation Abstract:

The Pacific region contains 1,310 languages - some 19% of the world's
linguistic repertoire. Of this number, 820 (62.5%) are found in Papua New
Guinea, the largest island nation within the Melanesian context. While
broad-stroke generalizations assuming language endangerment for Melanesia
are relatively common, e.g., Robins and Uhlenbeck (1991), Wurm (1996),
Muhlhausler (1996), Nekitel (1993) and Nettle and Romaine (2000), specific
case studies of Melanesian language endangerment are rare. In fact a
review of literature on endangered languages reveals that 98.7% (308/312)
of their case studies are on languages found outside of the Melanesian context.

It is not surprising therefore, that current protocols for assessing
language vitality do not fit the language situation of Melanesia, e.g., the
Ethnolinguistic Vitality Construct designed by Bourhis, Giles and their
associates, Fishman's Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale, Crystal's
Postulates, Yamamoto's Factors and Edwards' Typology. Faced with the task
of assessing the relative viability of some 400 undocumented languages in
Papua New Guinea, the author first developed the Indicators of
Ethnolinguistic Vitality (IEV) as a means for that assessment. However,
the implementation of the IEV requires significant knowledge of the
cultural milieu within which one is working, knowledge of sociolinguistic
principles, and considerable resources in terms of time, personnel and
funding. Thus, the search began for a mechanism of assessment that would be
less costly but would reflect language viability. Building from the
sociolinguistic principles that were foundational to the IEV, the writer
isolated 11 quantifiable sociolinguistic features. These were subsequently
used to document the language use characteristics of two contrasting
communities: the Gabobora (speaking the currently viable Anuki language)
and the Doga (speaking the declining Doga language). Not only did this
work identify productive quantifiable variables, but these case studies
demonstrate that there is a distinctive Melanesian perspective to language
maintenance, shift and death.



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