Accepted Paper:

The orthography of identity: signs of revitalization among the Koita of Papua New Guinea?  
Michael Goddard (Macquarie University)

Paper short abstract:

Noting some small but significant recent orthographic and terminological developments in the language of the Koita of Port Moresby, PNG, this paper makes some linguistic and social observations towards an understanding of the politics of land, language and culture in a contemporary urban context.

Paper long abstract:

Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, has grown and spread during the past century and a quarter across the traditional territory of two ethno-linguistic groups, the Koita and Motu, who nowadays identify themselves jointly as the 'Motu-Koitabu'. An increasing loss of land to the city and its overwhelmingly migrant population in recent decades has generated a sense of cultural atrophy by the Motu-Koitabu, who have addressed it through political advocacy and cultural revival projects. These strategies, however, have tended to emphasize Motu, rather than Koita, history, traditions and artefacts. Moreover, the early colonial administration's favouring of English and a pidgin form of Motu language contributed to a diminution of the Koita language in Port Moresby, and by the late 20th century urban Koita had no fluency in it.

In recent years I have noticed some small but significant orthographic and terminological developments specific to Koita, rather than to Motu, language. These have been coterminous with intensified Motu-Koitabu attempts to regain control over their land, and therewith their cultural identity. This paper makes some historical linguistic and social observations towards understanding articulations of politics of land, language and culture in a contemporary urban context in Melanesia.

Panel P33
Language movements: endangerment, revitalisation, and social transformation