22 Feb 2021 12:00pm - 1:30pm ONLINE SESSION (UK Time)


This is an online event hosted via Zoom. To register for this event please email Tom Powell Davies or Dylan Gaffney.


Dr Laura Arnold (British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellow, School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, University of Edinburgh)

Dr Mary Walworth (Co-leader, Comparative Oceanic Linguistics Project, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History)


Laura Arnold: Language vitality and the ‘ten-year gap’ in Indonesian Papua

The Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua are among the most linguistically diverse regions on the planet: 240 languages belonging to some 30 distinct language families are spoken here, as well as a further 18 linguistic isolates. Recent decades, however, have seen this diversity increasingly threatened, as speakers shift to Malay/Indonesian, the contemporary varieties of prestige and power.  

In this talk, I will present the results of a recent and comprehensive overview of language vitality in Indonesian Papua. This survey shows that nearly 70% of these languages are likely to be endangered to some degree, and that at least 10.5% are down to their last few speakers. I will supplement this discussion with case studies from the Ambel, Warembori, and Miere communities. These case studies will illustrate what I refer to as the ‘ten-year gap’: an extremely rapid shift from the local language to Malay/Indonesian, such that the generational gap between those who are fully fluent in the local language, and those who are entirely monolingual in Malay/Indonesian, may be as little as ten years. These rapid shifts appear to primarily be caused by improvements in transportation links, in that once a community becomes more accessible, Malay/Indonesian very quickly takes hold.

Mary Walworth: 'Trickledown' Endangerment in East Polynesia

In this talk, I describe the socioeconomic and political pressures that have produced a history of language shift and cultural endangerment in East Polynesia. I explore how severe language endangerment in the region is a consequence of the promotion of dominant languages (namely, French and English) and the result of prioritisation of specific autochthonous languages, following the centralisation of colonial powers. I discuss this situation as 'Trickledown Endangerment', which I have defined as when a dominant linguistic centre absorbs heavy linguistic influence that diffuses to other areas. Finally, I examine the implications of trickledown endangerment for language conservation and revitalisation efforts in East Polynesia.



An event organised by Risk and Renewal in the Pacific Network
Administrative assistance: networks@crassh.cam.ac.uk

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