Language, literacy and code-switching in a Papua New Guinean village

Detta är en avhandling från Stockholm : Stockholm University

Sammanfattning: This thesis is about the language and sociolinguistic practices of a small group of people living in a village called Gapun in the Papua New Guinean swamps. Gapun has traditionally been a highly multilingual society, but today two languages dominate the villagers’ verbal repertoire, the lingua franca Tok Pisin and the local vernacular Taiap.The papers that make up the thesis focus on various aspects of how villagers have creatively responded to the present-day situation of linguistic and cultural contact. One paper details some salient structural characteristics of the Taiap language. Another paper explores how multilingualism is distributed in the village, specifically with respect to how Tok Pisin has been incorporated into village speech, the social uses to which villagers have put it, the manner of its structural interaction with the local vernacular, and the question of individual variation in code-switching patterns. The two remaining studies expand upon a framework for working with contact phenomena that emphasizes the desirability of taking a consistent sociolinguistic perspective on language contact. These papers argue that in order to understand how code-switching is used in the community, and why Gapuners have incorporated literacy into their verbal repertoires, it is necessary to embed an account within an ethnographically sensitive analysis of the context in which language contact occurs. In Gapun, this means taking account of indigenous conceptions of language, and villagers’ understandings of the role of speech in the construction of the social order and in the symbolic presentation of personhood.The most important implication of the thesis as a whole is to argue that work which ignores the cultural embeddedness of language contact obscures the complexity and variation of the phenomena, and misrepresents the active role of speakers in the linguistic constructions of their social realities.