Language attitudes as stance-taking: A discourse analytic study of intergenerational language transmission among Native Hawaiians

Higgins, Christina
Higgins, Christina
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This paper outlines a discourse-based approach to the study of language attitudes and ethnolinguistic vitality by analyzing 25 hour-long interviews conducted with residents of Hawai‘i who identify as Native Hawaiian. In the process of asking participants to recount and reflect on their families’ language maintenance, acquisition, and loss of Hawaiian over three generations, they expressed their language attitudes in the form of stance-taking (Du Bois, 2007). Their stances revealed the various ways that they categorized and assessed the ethnolinguistic vitality of Hawaiian in their families and communities, and what role their family members’ attitudes towards Hawaiian played in their own maintenance of the language. Given the multilingual nature of Hawai‘i, their language attitudes towards Hawaiian were also frequently conveyed through taking up stances towards English and Hawai‘i Creole, two languages which are sometimes characterized as competing with Hawaiian in terms of sociolinguistic domains. The paper argues that research methodologies for the study of language attitudes can benefit from discourse analytic approaches that treat attitudes as dynamic (Liebscher & Dailey-O'Cain, 2009) and which show how language ideologies are strongly shaped by individuals’ interactional experiences over time with their family members. The analysis examines how individuals align or disalign with sentiments expressed (via reported speech) by family members about language in interview data. By making use of coding based on appraisal theory (Martin & White, 2003), the study shows how we can achieve a holistic understanding of an individual’s language attitudes while also attending to the discursive construction of varied dispositions toward family languages. In addition, since many participants reported what might be called “partial” language competence in Hawaiian, the paper contributes to recent scholarship on “new speaker” populations who make use of complex linguistic repertoires to construct ethnolinguistic identities (O’Rourke, Pujolar & Ramallo, 2015). While primordial associations between languages and cultures are often expressed in the interview data, some participants do not always identify with their parents’ and grandparents’ varieties of Hawaiian or ways of being Native Hawaiian. Instead, these speakers maintain Hawaiian in the form of codemixing and through Neo Hawaiian (NeSmith, 2005), a more recent variety of the language that has resulted from immersion schooling and language learning in higher education. Du Bois, J. W. (2007). The stance triangle. In R. Englebretson (Ed.) Stancetaking in discourse: Subjectivity, evaluation, interaction (pp. 139-182). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Liebscher, G., & Dailey‐O'Cain, J. (2009). Language attitudes in interaction. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 13(2), 195-222. Martin, J. R., & White, P. R. (2003). The language of evaluation. London: Palgrave Macmillan. NeSmith, R. K. 2005. Tūtū’s Hawaiian and the Emergence of a Neo Hawaiian Language. ‘Ōiwi Journal3—A Native Hawaiian Journal ( O'Rourke, B., Pujolar, J., & Ramallo, F. (2015). New speakers of minority languages: The challenging opportunity–Foreword. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 231, 1-20.
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