Te Tīmataka Mai O Te Waiatataka Mai O Te Reo
As the world places increasing pressures on the survival of minority languages, there is a growing urgency for the development and application of strategies concerned with language maintenance and preservation. This thesis will expand the literature relating to language revitalisation efforts of minority Indigenous languages within the context of my tribe, the Kāi Tahu people of the South Island of New Zealand and address the question, what new approaches are there to the assessment and development of minority language revitalisation strategies.
The thesis title, Te tīmataka mai o te waiataka mai o te reo, has been adapted from the title of an 1849 manuscript written by an esteemed tribal leader, Matiaha Tiramōrehu, who details the origin of the world according to the Kāi Tahu worldview and the immediate events that followed that helped shape it into that which he and his people knew. This title draws upon that unique worldview and applies it to the context of the heritage language of my people.
An analysis of the development of Kāi Tahu language and its emergence as a distinctive dialect along with its relationship to identity development and maintenance within the tribe, will help establish an understanding of the current Kāi Tahu language experience. I will argue that our Kāi Tahu dialect requires a tūrakawaewae (place to stand; ancestral lands), through research into its origins, its efforts to persist and survive and its relationship to the past, current and future identity of our people.
The perspectives of key individuals, both Kāi Tahu and non-Kāi Tahu Māori who have had a close relationship with the Kāi Tahu language revitalisation movement, will be integrated into this thesis in order to provide a broad view of the historical language revitalisation efforts and to help position the future direction of Kāi Tahu tribal language development.
A further contribution to language revitalisation studies will be provided through this analysis as an example of indigenous minority languages who no longer have a generation of native speakers to support intergenerational transmission of the language in the home. This experience will be discussed alongside research on minority language maintenance and perspectives on raising minority language bilingual children in the home. A personal narrative approach will be used in order to locate the theories and strategies around minority language bilingualism and revitalisation in the context of my own family, as a second language speaking Kāi Tahu mother who is raising the first generation of native speakers of the language in our family in over 120 years. This personal narrative approach will include reflective analysis of practices and strategies that have been employed in our family and important lessons learnt over the last twenty-five years.
One significant implication of this thesis for the field of language revitalisation studies will be the development of a proposed new approach to the assessment and development of minority language revitalisation strategies. Although this strategic approach will be centred on the Kāi Tahu tribal case study, I will argue that the principles are transferable to other revitalisation efforts in New Zealand and internationally for language communities with similar language experiences and current language status.