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Dealing with (socio) linguistic inequalities: critical & cross-disciplinary perspectives


Elatiana Razafi

Session presentation

This panel welcomes critical approaches of inequality, seen as both a social construct and an inevitable phenomenon. When defined as a perception, inequality appears to be an interpretative tool used in an effort to reconcile diversity and social order. It conveys ethics, moral values, a sense of (in)justice. In parallel, it evokes social differenciation therefore identification. This engenders given forms of otherness and social exclusion.
Oceania’s linguistic landscapes stage these two understandings of inequality within a unique setting of social heterogeneity. Linguistic diversity however, particularly in postcolonial contexts, comes with a history of monolingual ideologies. Contributors are invited to question various forms of (socio)linguistic inequalities through cross-disciplinary perspectives e.g. comparative linguistics, sociolinguistics, anthropology, history, political sciences, language didactics, arts, visual studies, ethnomusicology.
When multilingualism brings together “endangered” and “globalised” languages, what do systemic comparisons reveal? What can we learn from situated experiences of institutionalised inequalities? How do inclusive pedagogies apply when it comes to already hegemonic languages within diglossic contexts? What do the ongoing dialogues between language didactics and arts have to offer against (socio)linguistic inequalities? Beyond being characteristic of Oceania, can linguistic diversity become the common practice of its institutions?

Paper submissions are closed

Accepted papers

Inequalities without standards? Conceptualizing sociolinguistic difference and inequality in rural Papua New Guinea

James Slotta (University of Texas at Austin)

Sociolinguistic study of language variation has been dominated by consideration of the socioeconomic stratification of language in industrialized mass societies. As a result, models of sociolinguistic diversity largely presume the inequality of linguistic varieties. What is more, they presume a particular form of inequality: one in which the value of linguistic varieties is measured against the baseline of a standard register. But what of speech communities without standard registers? Is inequality an organizing framework that proves useful in understanding sociolinguistic diversity in such cases? And if so, is the kind of sociolinguistic inequality found in standard language regimes the same as that found elsewhere? To address these question, I look at linguistic diversity in the Yopno valley of Papua New Guinea, where a wide array of dialects of the Yopno language are spoken, in addition to some Kâte, Tok Pisin, and English. Here, we find ideologies of sociolinguistic equality (for instance among dialects of Yopno). And, we find a conception of sociolinguistic inequality quite distinct from that found in standard language regimes—specifically, a view of linguistic value and inequality grounded in the communicative networks different languages are capable of sustaining. This conception of linguistic value has shaped the kinds of multilingualism prominent at different moments in the linguistic history of the valley as well as the value placed on multilingualism itself.

Language ideological issues among Kiribati migrants in New Zealand: A field report

Petra Maria Autio (University of Helsinki)

There are currently a little over 2000 Kiribati migrants in New Zealand. According to the existing studies and reports the maintenance of Kiribati language and custom is an important but not unproblematic issues for the migrants.

In this paper I will discuss preliminary findings from anthropological fieldwork which will be conducted end of July to end of September 2018. Fieldwork and interiew questions deal with language maintenance practices and lanaguage ideological questions. I anticipate there to be social differentiation in the way people use both Kiribati and English languages. On the other hand, in Kiribati society there are persistent forms of so called 'social undifferentiation' and different forms of relative equality, which I also expect to be reflected in language issues. In the paper I will present the first tentative analyses of data gained in fieldwork.

Linguistic & Sociolinguistic Discriminations

Elatiana Razafi (University of New Caledonia)

Challenging hegemonic monolingual discourses through Pacific/English translanguaging in Aotearoa/NZ schooling

Rae Si'ilata (The University of Auckland)

Hegemonic privileging of colonial languages over indigenous Pacific languages has occurred within the Pacific since Schouten first led an unprovoked attack on a Tongan tongiaki (double-hulled canoe) in 1616 off the Niuas. Subsequent colonial partitioning of the Pacific’s multilingual ‘sea of islands’ resulted in the linguistic and cultural separation of extended families who had previously resided on related neighbouring atolls. Many indigenous peoples of the Pacific migrated to New Zealand (NZ) in the 1950s and 60s due to constitutional relationships and workforce labour shortages, with some Pacific families having resided in NZ for two or three generations. Most children of these Pacific migrants attend English-medium schooling, where the historical legacy of an English-only discourse continues to have a devastating inter-generational impact on family language practices. Amongst Pacific language speakers there are significant signs of language shift and accompanying stories of educational failure. Recently the NZ Ministry of Education’s stance changed to include validation of family language resources. This presentation reports on a professional learning and development project with schools and their communities that focused on using bilingual books to enable Pacific children to use their languages to support their learning at school. The impact of these translanguaging pedagogies on family language practices and children’s educational experiences will be discussed.

Revolutions and the war over linguistic resources: The case of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya

Reem Bassiouney (The American University in Cairo)

This research addresses issues pertaining to unequal access to linguistic resources at times of political conflicts in three African countries. It also addresses the role of linguistic performance in conflicts as well as the role of talk about language and access to linguistic codes as devices used during dormant or active conflicts. The article will use data from Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. The political situation of these three countries is different, however, they all witnessed upheavals, and during these upheavals linguistic forms and codes played a crucial role as a symbol of power and a tool to dominate. That is, while there was an actual civil war in Libya, there were two revolutions in 2011 in Egypt and Tunisia. I will concentrate on media and public discourse drawing on the work conducted on these places and assessing the relation between language and conflict. I will theorise these findings and re-evlatuate them in relation to linguistic theories including the concept of indexicality, performance and metalinguistic discourse.
Building on the work of Hymes (1970), Gal (1989), Fairclough (2001) and Heller (2011), this work argues that linguistic codes are resources for individuals. I argue that as such access to linguistic codes and use of codes are also a point of contention during or after conflicts. In Egypt, Tunisia and Libya linguistic codes were contested and the authentic identity of revolutionaries during the three revolutions were always questioned by the pro