Making a Case for Tongan as an Endangered Language

Otsuka, Yuko
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University of Hawai'i Press
Center for Pacific Islands Studies
This paper examines the sociolinguistic situation in Tonga and discusses its relevance to language maintenance in Polynesia. The environment surrounding Tongan is not visibly ominous: it is an official language of an independent state and is spoken by a sizable population in a predominantly monolingual community. Tongan represents an instance of language shift as a result of globalization, wherein a speech community voluntarily gives up its indigenous language(s) for another, more socioeconomically beneficial language, in this case, English. The paper proposes that language endangerment should be understood in terms of a unit larger than the nation-state. This is particularly relevant in the Polynesian context, in which international borders are obscured by transnational migrants. The paper also discusses some positive roles the diasporic communities may potentially play in language maintenance.
Tongan, Polynesian, endangered languages, globalization, diaspora, language shift, language maintenance
Otsuka, Y. 2007. Making a Case for Tongan as an Endangered Language. The Contemporary Pacific 19 (2): 446-73.
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