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Being Mono-Mā'ohi: Negative self-identity and language endangerment in French Polynesia

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Title:Being Mono-Mā'ohi: Negative self-identity and language endangerment in French Polynesia
Authors:Walworth, Mary
Contributors:Walworth, Mary (speaker)
Date Issued:03 Mar 2017
Description:The geopolitical region of French Polynesia exhibits a high-level of linguistic diversity and represents an area at high-risk of language loss. There are an estimated 20 indigenous Polynesian languages in French Polynesia (Charpentier & François, 2015), all of which are endangered or severely endangered. In the last 20 years, local policy-makers have made strides to increase indigenous language in education and government sectors (Saura, 2009), however, due to the region’s centralization in the island of Tahiti, these efforts have been primarily focused on Tahitian, the indigenous language of Tahiti (Author, 2015). The political movement to support Tahitian as the indigenous language of French Polynesia has effectively prioritized Tahitian over all other indigenous languages in the region. This prestige of Tahitian has negatively affected the mental well-being of entire non-Tahitian indigenous speech communities and has led to the rapid decline of their non-Tahitian indigenous languages. Drawing from extensive language attitude surveys and interviews conducted by the author on multiple islands throughout French Polynesia over the last 4 years, this paper describes the negative attitudes that non-Tahitian Polynesian language speakers have toward their own dying languages. This paper then explores how the movement towards a mono-mā'ohi (Tahitian for ‘indigenous’) linguistic culture has increased this negative self-identity amongst members of non-Tahitian indigenous language speech communities and thus has steadily contributed to the rapid endangerment of these languages. Furthermore, and contributing to more global discussions, this paper demonstrates the direct correlation between negative linguistic self-identity and language endangerment. References: Charpentier, Jean-Michel and Alexandre François. 2015. Linguistic atlas of French Polynesia. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton Saura, Bruno. 2009. Tahiti mā'ohi: Culture, identité, religion et nationalisme en Polynésie Française. Tahiti: Au Vent des Îles. Author. 2015. Trickledown Endangerment: The Role of Tahitian in French Polynesia. Paper presented at the New Zealand Linguistic Society Annual Meeting. Dunedin, New Zealand, December 2015.
Appears in Collections: 5th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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