Abstracts: Fall 2017

Aone van Engelenhoven Language Folklore and Language Ideology in Exile: The Moluccan Migrant Community in The Netherlands

This presentation discusses language folklore and language ideology in the Moluccan Migrant Community in The Netherlands. Language folklore in this presentation is defined as a set of ideas and opinions about a language that one is familiar with, whereas language ideology is defined as a set of ideas and opinions about a language that one is familiar with.

First a concise overview will be given of the migration history of the community, its ethnolinguistic composition and some background information about the Free Republic of the South Moluccas (Republik Maluku Selatan, RMS).

Although Dutch  becomes more and more prominent, Malay is still the main vernacular in the community. Malay has been the main trade language on the Central Malukan islands since at least the 15th Century Ce and was promoted as the lingua franca among the islands first by the Dutch East India Company and the Dutch colonial government. Consequently, the community’s ideological viewpoint on Malay has been molded by 19th Century Dutch perceptions on what a ‘correct language’ is. Ambonese Malay – the mother tongue of most Malukan migrants – and ‘Malay Here’ – the variant spoken by Malukan youth – are dismissed as candidates for a national language for an independent republic. Although modern Indonesian is also dismissed as ‘language of the enemy’,  it is used in writing, albeit in the Soewandi Spelling that prevailed during the 50-ies and 69-ies of the 20thCentury.

The main drive in the RMS philosophy appears to be the ‘Alifuru Concept’: the idea that notwithstanding the seemingly diverse ethnolinguistic and cultural diversity in the community there is in fact only one people that speaks one language and originates from one place on Seram Island. This concept ultimately determines the folkloristic perception on the so-called ‘languages of the land’ – the indigenous languages in the motherland. A closer look at language use in the community shows that in fact there are three ethnolinguistic groups discernable that each display their own type of language use. Whereas most Southwest Malukans (3% in the community) tend to conceal their indigenous language, most Southeast Malukans (21% in the community) rather maintain their indigenous language. Among Central malukans (75% in the community) there is a tendency to revive the indigenous language. The renaissance of the Nusalaut language will be discussed in this contribution as a case of language folklore.

George Saad | Variation and shift in a Papuan speech community

This talk will sketch out a detailed overview of the Abui speech community found in the Eastern Indonesian island of Alor and discuss the dynamic forces at play affecting the language use patterns of various age-groups. From a bird’s eye view, the Abui speech community is undergoing a shift away from the native Abui and towards the regional lingua franca, Alor Malay. This is evidenced from the family planning strategies: children are now being brought up in Malay as opposed to Abui, and this is a process which has been ongoing since the early 1990s. This is a common trend all over Eastern Indonesia, where government and school officials have pushed for an increase in Malay to facilitate literacy and education in rural areas.

However, if we take a more nuanced approach, derived from carefully tracking language development beyond adolescent years and into marriage reveals that as, Abui speakers near their mid-twenties, their fluency begins to accelerate as speakers enter adult status within the community.

Taking this into account, this talk examines the effects these processes have on the Abui language: to what extent is Abui undergoing simplification in the direction of Malay?

To answer this question, quantitative results emerging from a variationist study of 66 Abui/Malay bilinguals are discussed. The linguistic variable chosen for this study is the use of the third person reflexive (e.g. He carried his (someone else’s) child vs. He carried his (own) child).

The methodological topics addressed here include the sampling and demarcation of a speech community into smaller groups. The language contact topics include the longstanding debate of whether and when language variation leads to change. 

Gulnaz Sibgatullina Construction of “sacredness” and piety in Islamic Russian”

For Muslims in late imperial Russia, Arabic was the sacred language of Islam that was used exclusively for performance of ritual prayers. Whereas ethnic vernaculars of Muslim minorities, like Tatar, Uzbek or Kumyk, served as languages of Islamic communication, thought, and publishing. In the aftermath of the Soviet Union, the acquisition of these ethnic vernaculars continues to decline, and Russian that used to be the religious language of the Russian Orthodox Church takes over as a new lingua franca for Russia’s Muslims. The accommodation of Russian as an Islamic language results in creation of two distinct variants of this religious language. In the first variant, the original Arabic and Persian Islamic terminology is fully translated into Russian, where Church Slavonic words substitute for “sacred” Arabic terminology. Speakers of the second variant, to the contrary, employ almost an unlimited number of Arabic loanwords, integrating them into the morphosyntax of Russian. In this presentation, I examine linguistic features of these two variants and analyse how they function on the background of the unequal power relations between the Christian majority culture and Islamic minority cultures in Russia. 

Fiona McLaughlin (University of Florida) The materiality of urban Wolof: The sociolinguistics of everyday writing practices in Dakar

In his (1994) study of the graphic environment of Dakar, a conceptual precursor of the field now known as “linguistic landscape,” Calvet points to the seemingly indiscriminate use of Roman and Arabic scripts to write Wolof, French, and Arabic in public space in the Senegalese capital as indicative of a society between orality and literacy.  It is one, he argues, where the relationship between language and script is not yet fixed, implying a trajectory of progression from unfixed to fixed.  Based on an examination of everyday writing practices in Dakar, this talk argues for an alternative perspective on multigraphism, namely that linguistic plurality, including multiple ways of writing, can be an active and useful strategy for participating in social life (McLaughlin 2015:238), and that the choice of a writing system carries social meaning (Sebba 2007:59). This talk is based on a chapter in progress in a larger book project on urban Wolof and language contact in Senegal.

Eduardo Alves Vieira Is the future of Portuguese predictable?

Due to the current economic importance of Portuguese in the world, it is necessary to elaborate strategies to promote the language internationally. This language planning and its policies must be coherent with the multicultural realities of each country that has Portuguese as a mother tongue, second, foreign or as a business language. Hence, in order to evaluate the actions taken by the CPLP community (Comunidade dos Países de Língua Portuguesa – Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries), regarding the promotion of Portuguese as an international language, I analyze the discourse of the community to highlight the pros and cons in such a linguistic expansion process. Furthermore, I focus on the role of one of its members, Brazil, which is the entity’s biggest country, geographically and economically.  By doing that, I offer a better understanding of the CPLP community expectations towards the Brazilian participation in the promotion of Portuguese. Therefore, I offer an evaluation of the linguistic policies for the Portuguese language, its expansion, as well as some of the achievements and drawbacks faced by the community after twenty years of its existence. 

Morana Lukač | Language guardians: The role of mass media in linguistic prescriptivism

The title of a 2014 article published in the Daily Mail reads: “Don’t rely on us for good grammar, says the BBC: Broadcaster is no longer the bastion of correct English, it’s ‘style chief’ admits”. The audience, as the title implies, traditionally attributes the role of the language guardian to the Corporation, which has had an indisputable linguistic influence in Britain. If we look beyond this example, mass media institutions and professionals employed in them everywhere are expected to adhere to prescriptive rules not only by their audience, but also by their community of practice (Albakry 2007, 29; Cotter 2014, 371).

In order to shed light on the role of mass media in linguistic prescriptivism, this paper analyses the interviews conducted with British journalists who act as language authorities, that is, style guide authors and editors. The remaining parts of the paper illustrate what influences the process of accepting changes in usage and lifting sanctions from the linguistic features that have been stigmatised previously and deemed unacceptable in the mass media context.

Maarten Mous Reconstructing the history of the mixed language Ma’á/Mbugu through its lexicon

The language Ma’á/Mbugu (Bantu, Tanzania) is two languages in one grammar. The mixed one is in fact a parallel lexicon sharing meaning and morphosyntactic properties but with two different forms, one of which is “normal” Mbugu, a Pare lect (like the grammar), and the other has different sources. The mixed “language” is a partly conscious expansion in order to recapture their lost language to fulfill the need for a strong expression of identity (Mous 2003). As a next step I take a closer look at this deviant lexicon, correlating etymology with semantic fields in an attempt to discern lexical layers and a more detailed understanding of the history of the language. More in general I try to understand how lexical innovation and lack thereof link with social functions of language.