Accepted Paper:

Local-language acquisition and social transformation in the Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea  
Alan Rumsey (ANU)Francesca Merlan (Australian National University)

Paper short abstract:

Based on long term field study of parent-child interactions in the Ku Waru region of highland PNG, we discuss fluctuations between 2011 & 2015 in the use of Tok Pisin vs Ku Waru and their implications for understanding the relations among language use, language ideology and social transformation.

Paper long abstract:

Since 2001 we have been studying children's learning of Ku Waru, a Papuan language of Highland PNG. Most Ku Waru speakers are also fluent in the main national lingua franca Tok Pisin. During 2001-11 all of the children we recorded spoke almost entirely in Ku Waru in the sessions, as did their parents. In 2013 there was a shift on the part of some parents to using Tok Pisin along with Ku Waru when addressing their children, and a corresponding earlier onset of fully bilingual language learning. The parents told us that their shift in language use had been motivated in part by a national shift in language policy away from bilingual education back to the English-only policy that had been in place until 1997. They believed that their early use of Tok Pisin at home would facilitate the children's eventual learning of English. Here we present comparable language acquisition data from the same children during 2014-2016. Rather surprisingly, these data show a decrease in use of the Tok Pisin by all of the children who had been using it in interactions with their parents, and very little use of Tok Pisin by the children when interacting with each other. We offer an ethnographically based account of the overall language ecology in which these patterns are found, and develop its implications for understanding the relations among language use, language ideology and social transformation.

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