Mangarevan - a shifting language

Manuireva, Ena
McNeill, Hinematau
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Master of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

This thesis has been undertaken in order to identify causes and consequences of the phenomenon of language shift and attempt to provide means to minimise its impacts. The Mangarevan language has been exposed to other language influences since the mid-19th century - as a result of the colonial experience. Consequently French, and to a lesser degree Tahitian, have had an impact on the vitality of the Mangarevan language. This is demonstrated by the use of borrowed words, transliterations and more significantly on language loss amongst the young generation. In addition the French nuclear testing in the mid-20th century led to mass migration of the native population from Mangareva to Tahiti. As a consequence of depopulation, the majority of the younger (<30years) Mangarevans now speak French as their first language. Interestingly and depressingly, French is perceived by Mangarevans as a high status language. This phenomenon is the catalyst for language shift and in particular the issue of intergenerational language transmission. Reversal language shift will involve collaboration and commitment, a process imperative for the language to survive. Integral to this process is promoting and valuing Mangarevan language amongst the native population. The fieldwork explored the attitudes of Mangarevan people towards the language and the culture. All of the participants are residents of Mangareva and most have lived on the island all their lives. The findings from the fieldwork suggest that the Mangarevan community’s endeavour to contain language shift is not without challenges. However, it is anticipated that the research findings will help inform the strategic direction for language shift reversal initiatives and thereby stem the erosion of our native language. The dream is for future generations to inherit a stable and safe language, e atoga (a treasure).

Language revitalisation , Langugae shift , Language death , Mangarevan , Insider/Outsider , Breadfruit
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