Language Attitudes and Sociolinguistic Variation in Hawai'i

Sato, Charlene J.
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Sociolinguistic research that acknowledges the importance of viewing language as a human problem attempts to reconcile the facts of linguistic variation with those of social identity and inequality (Hymes, 1973). To date, this question has not been of primary concern to creolists, partly because of their deeper interest in language universals and the linguistic nature of pidginization and creolization. Neglect of sociolinguistic phenomena in creole communities has also resulted from the relative independence of pidgin/creole studies and the sociolinguistic and social psychological study of language attitudes in multiethnic settings (e.g., Milroy, 1982; Ryan and Giles [eds.], 1982). However, recent research (by, e.g., Le Page, 1980; Le Page and Tabouret-Keller 1985; Rickford 1985) has bridged these areas through systematic study of the relationship between linguistic variation in creoletypically, decreolizing-communities and the social evaluation of language by different groups of speakers in these communities. In this paper I present a case study of Hawai'i which examines this relationship in a Pacific English creole continuum and, more specifically, calls attention to its dynamic nature. I begin with a historical sketch (for fuller accounts, see Bickerton and Odo, 1976; Carr, 1972; Day, 1987; Reinecke 1935/1969; Sato, 1985) and a description of sociolinguistic variation in Hawai'i. I then review recent public controversies surrounding the role of Hawai'i Creole English (HCE) which have revealed competing sociolinguistic trends in the Islands: (1) a continued adherence to stereotypical attitudes toward Hawai'i Creole English (HCE) and standard (US mainland) English (SE) by some segments of the community, and (2) a growing militancy in other segments of the community concerning the legitimacy of HCE use in institutional contexts. Finally, I tum to the question of how these trends may influence linguistic variation and the course of sociolinguistic change in Hawai'i's post-creole continuum.
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