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Documenting incipient obsolescence: a multi-pronged approach to Dhao, eastern Indonesia

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Title:Documenting incipient obsolescence: a multi-pronged approach to Dhao, eastern Indonesia
Authors:Grimes, Charles E.
Contributors:Grimes, Charles E. (speaker)
Date Issued:14 Mar 2009
Description:A visit to the island of Ndao, where they speak the Dhao language (Ethnologue/ISO code nfa; 5,000-7,000 speakers), at first gives the impression of vigorous use by all ages in almost all contexts, including in many local government interactions and church meetings. Periodic contact and research spanning ten years, however, reveals cracks appearing in this seemingly healthy picture. By working with various social segments of Dhao society for linguistic analysis, community-based dictionary-building (, community-based text collection, and community-based translation efforts, we can document which groups know and use the “original” vernacular Dhao words, which use long-established loans from various sources that have assimilated to Dhao phonology, which only know recent loans that haven't yet assimilated to Dhao phonology, and which grammatical constructions seem to be getting lost or conflating to simpler forms. This paper discusses the discovery process, provides numerous examples of who is using what, shares comments on perceptions of trends and concerns of language use by Dhao speakers themselves, and reports some surprising trends when comparing social segments of society living on Ndao with those in the diaspora living elsewhere. It turns out that some of the younger generation in the diaspora have reasons that motivate them to learn and preserve Dhao (learning Indonesian and Kupang Malay are a given for them), whereas some of the younger generation on Dhao put their greatest efforts into learning and using Indonesian to have a chance to succed in the wider world, while they are not even aware of the ways they reduce the kinds of social contexts in which they are exposed to other-than-normal uses of Dhao.
Rights:Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections: 1st International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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