- Leo Pasifika: Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Oceanic Linguistics
The first three conferences in this series having been held in Vanuatu, Fiji, and New Zealand, the fourth convened in the tiny self-governing territory of Niue. (The fifth was held in Australia in January of this year—2002.) [End Page 248]
Following a preface by the first editor, a foreword by the second (who was also the convenor of the conference), and a welcome address in Niuean by Atapana Siakimotu (Niue Consul-General in New Zealand), the volume consists of Andrew Pawley's keynote address followed by twenty-five other papers arranged alphabetically by author's surname. The papers fall into the following categories: comparative-historical linguistics, eight papers; descriptive studies on Oceanic languages (discourse, syntax, phonology, language and culture, etc.), ten papers; language survival/revival and the status of Oceanic languages, five papers; pidgins/creoles, two papers; and other (pottery), one paper. Perhaps as a result of the location of the conference, there was a very strong Polynesian bias, with 18 out of the 26 papers being on Polynesian topics.
It is obviously impossible to discuss all twenty-six papers in this brief review. I will try instead to highlight a few general themes that I feel are of interest, and to discuss briefly some individual contributions to these themes. One theme that is obvious even from a perusal of the table of contents is the current plight of the Niuean language. Census figures from the mid-1990s showed about 2,000 Niueans living on Niue compared with about 20,000 living in New Zealand (Head, 142).1 The language is being swamped by English, especially in New Zealand, but also on Niue, though there are efforts being made in both places to foster its use (Taonefoou Falesima and Lisa Fuemana-Foa'i). All of the Niuean contributors express pride in their language, and some also in being bilingual (Jocelyn Tauevihi), but the sheer volume of papers on this same theme suggests that the Niuean language may be destined for oblivion unless current attitudes and practices change.
Language contact is another theme found in quite a few papers. Wolfgang Sperlich disposes of a number of suggestions made by other writers that there is a Samoic and/or Eastern Polynesian substratum in Niuean. Darrell Tryon's sketch of Ngatikese Pidgin is brief but interesting, making available data on this little-known Pacific pidgin. Another even less well-known contact language, Bonin English, is the subject of a paper by Daniel Long. He discusses the influence of Pacific languages on a contact variety of English used (alongside Standard English, Standard Japanese, and Ogasawara Japanese) in the Bonin or Ogasawara islands of Japan, to the north of the Marianas. Bonin English seems to have borrowed significantly from Polynesian languages, but also shows many characteristics of other Pacific pidgins/ creoles (e.g., stop = 'stay', postverbal yet = 'still', been + verb = past tense, etc.). I question, though, his statement that one would not expect an l/r contrast as a result of contact with Pacific languages (Long, 213): although this might be true of contact with Polynesian languages, there was also contact with Micronesian and Western Austronesian languages (Long, 202), as well as with one or more varieties of Pacific Pidgin English, the majority of which show an l/r contrast.
As is usual with these conferences, there is a strong comparative-historical component. Andrew Pawley's keynote address on taxonomies has a distinct historical perspective. He tries to define the referents in Proto-Oceanic (POC) of the reconstructions *manuk, *ikan, and *sisi[q], whose meanings are quite variable in [End Page 249] daughter languages—for example, reflexes of *manuk range from 'bird' or 'bird + other flying creatures' in some languages to 'any living creature except humans' in others (and even including humans in at least one language).2 As well as being an exercise in terminological reconstruction, however, Pawley...