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  • Consequences of contact: Language ideologies and sociocultural transformations in Pacific societies
  • Niko Besnier
Consequences of contact: Language ideologies and sociocultural transformations in Pacific societies. Ed. by Miki Makihara and Bambi B. Schieffelin. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Pp. ix, 234. ISBN 9780195324983. $34.99.

For most linguists, the term 'contact' invokes in the first instance a meeting of linguistic codes, resulting in borrowing, calquing, and mixing, or the emergence of simplified codes, code attrition, and language endangerment. When faced with the same term, in contrast, social and cultural anthropologists think primarily of colonialism, missionization, labor migration, tourism, the spread of capitalism, the rise of the nation-state, and the spread of formal schooling. The contributors to this volume explore the 'contact zone' between these two interpretations of contact through ethnographically informed analyses of various situations in the world's linguistically most diverse area, the Pacific Islands. The late Tongan intellectual Epeli Hau'ofa famously characterized the region as a 'sea of islands' (1994), namely island societies connected to one another across water, rather than a vast ocean dotted with small isolated clusters of human population. [End Page 234] Contributors to this volume engage seriously with this idea, as they present contact situations not as a dyadic encounter, but as the coming together of multiple parties, some local in a strict way, others local in a more general way, and still others from elsewhere altogether.

Focusing in particular on agents of change, ranging from colonial officials to Bible translators, teachers, spirit mediums, return migrants, tour guides, and activists in indigeneity politics, the authors analyze contact situations through the lens of linguistic ideologies, seeking connections between ideologies about language and the structural encoding of ideology in language. The linguistic-ideology analytic paradigm, which emerged in linguistic anthropology in the 1980s, offers an attractive set of tools for the exploration of the continuities between linguistic structures and the social, political, and historical contexts of communicative practices. What people think about language is often about much more than language: it is about belonging and otherness, the place of the self in the social order (or disorder), conceptions of knowledge and truth, and the world at large.

Not surprisingly, colonialism and postcolonialism are prominent concerns for several contributors. CHRISTINE JOURDAN's chapter, 'Linguistic paths to urban self in postcolonial Solomon Islands' (30–48), traces the change from a precolonial Solomon Islands linguistic market, in which reciprocal multilingualism among local varieties of equal status prevailed, to that of the colonial era, characterized by linguistic hegemony and hierarchy, to the postindependence present moment, in which multiple codes overlap and compete. The code profusion of the contemporary market indexes new social relations, differentiating urban folk from their rural relatives, women from men, and middle-class people from working-class people. MIKI MAKIHARA's analysis of 'Linguistic purism in Rapa Nui political discourse' (49–69) focuses on the rise, in the 1990s, of indigeneity politics on Rapa Nui (Easter Island) after a century of colonial browbeating under the control of Chilean authorities. Accompanying this politics is a new prescriptivism about the indigenous language, which some speakers attempt to rid of loan words from Tahitian, Spanish, and English, and now treat as cultural property, alongside land. Politicized islanders employ the purist code when Chilean and other extraneous audiences may be present. In other contexts, they use a syncretic code, replete with borrowings and code-switching.

Two chapters add a twist to the analysis of language ideologies in colonial situations. In the Marquesas Islands, part of the Overseas Territory of French Polynesia, the setting of KATHLEEN RILEY's 'To tangle or not to tangle: Shifting language ideologies and the socialization of Charabia in the Marquesas, French Polynesia' (70–95), the colonial language is not only French but also Tahitian, which has been systematically displacing minor languages of the territory as people migrate from outlying island groups to seek employment and education, particularly during the economic boom years of French nuclear testing. Now that this boom is over, labor migrants are returning to their islands of origin, and partly as a result of these returning migrants, the Marquesas have undergone revitalization. At the same...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1535-0665
Print ISSN
0097-8507
Pages
pp. 234-237
Launched on MUSE
2010-03-29
Open Access
No
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