|Title:||Bilingualism, Social Change, and the Politics of Ethnicity on Rapanui||Add Dissertation|
|Author:||Miki Makihara||Update Dissertation|
|Email:||click here to access email|
|Institution:||Yale University, Department of Linguistics|
|Linguistic Subfield(s):||Anthropological Linguistics;|
|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.