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Review of  Consequences of Contact


Reviewer: 'Alexandra (Ally) Burguieres' ['Alexandra (Ally) Burguieres'] Alexandra (Ally) Burguieres
Book Title: Consequences of Contact
Book Author: Miki Makihara Bambi B. Schieffelin
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics
Sociolinguistics
Anthropological Linguistics
Book Announcement: 19.450

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Review:
EDITORS: Makihara, Miki; Schieffelin, Bambi B.
TITLE: Consequences of Contact
SUBTITLE: Language Ideologies and Sociocultural Transformations in Pacific Societies
PUBLISHER: Oxford University Press
YEAR: 2007

Ally Burguieres, School of English, Queen's University in Belfast

SUMMARY
Miki Makihara and Bambi B. Schieffelin's volume is a collection of ten chapters
that together make a case for the importance of considering language ideologies
as central to an understanding of Pacific history and culture. The volume begins
with a historical overview by Makihara and Schieffelin, followed by a microstudy
of Honiara by Christine Jourdan. Makahara then explores linguistic purism in
Rapa Nui and Kathleen C. Riley covers shifting language ideologies in the
Marquesas of French Polynesia. Rupert Stasch examines the concept of otherness
in relation to Korowai metalanguage. Joel Robbins studies language and exchange
in Urapmin culture, while Schieffelin and Coutrney Handman provide distinct but
interlocking views on missionization in Papua New Guinea. The studies conclude
with Susan U. Philips considering the changing use of Tongan language honorifics
over time. The volume includes a postscript written by J. Joseph Errington,
which is designed to unify the works under the single theme.

EVALUATION
Makihara and Schieffelin make clear in the introduction that their concerns in
this volume are exclusive to the Pacific, which bodes well for the depth of
research and insight they are able to achieve. Even if only in the introduction,
however, the editors might have done well to include a general indication of
more broad historical, cultural and linguistic research. An unfortunate effect
is the editors' insinuation that the Pacific is not only unique in the richness
of its linguistic history and environment but is the only place where such
nuances of contact could occur. Certainly it would be more productive to
appreciate the singularity of the Pacific experience while also considering the
potential for global applicability.

Following the editors' introduction is Christine Jourdan's microstudy of the
Solomon Island's capital city, Honiara, and the linguistic lives of its
residents. Jourdan's keen insights are both aptly observed and eloquently
stated. Her observation that Honiara is characterized by ''a form of exacerbated
otherness that leads residents to be almost obsessively interested in knowing
people's cultural origins'' (37) typifies the depth and maturity of her account.
Jourdan also makes perceptive deductions about the role of age in linguistic
expression, concluding, for example, that the insertion of vernacular lexical
items in the Pijin or English of young speakers is an agentive use of language
designed to index specific ethnic identities.

Makahara's exploration of political discourse and newfound linguistic purism in
the Rapa Nui (Easter Island) communities follows smoothly from Jourdan's study.
Using political speeches as data and reprinting these data in the chapter,
Makihara evinces a solid and sophisticated grasp of the political and cultural
nuances of actors in the community. Through observation and discussion with
informants, her conclusion is that purist Rapa Nui is used virtually only in
situations where the audience is known to include outsiders (Chilean or
otherwise), and that the Rapa Nui she calls ''syncretic'' (a mix of varieties of
Rapa Nui and Spanish) is the true default of both everyday life and ''real
discussions of substance in political discourse'' (64).

Makihara's presentation of concrete data is very welcome and her analysis is
skilled, yet in her conclusions she does some politicking herself, declaring
that language ''should be managed and planned by its rightful owners,'' and
further editorializes on the language use of specific individuals. She describes
one speaker as ''choosing his words carefully but eloquently in purist Rapa Nui
... painting an image that depicted the language as enjoying an autonomous
existence and agency that stood apart from everyday language use'' (62). Makihara
clearly has a high respect for how the Rapa Nui use purist registers as a show
of solidarity against outsiders, but her penchant for editorializing risks
diminishing the quality of her academic conclusions.

In recording shifting language ideologies in the Marquesas of French Polynesia,
Kathleen C. Riley demonstrates a firm grasp of community dynamics, drawing on
observations and study conducted during visits in both 1993 and 2003. Riley's
exploration of code-switching between mainly 'Enana and French (but including
English and Tahitian), and the attending ideologies, is an easy yet ample read.
Riley tells the story of shifting beliefs in almost narrative form, displaying a
humanistic sensibility and skill with storytelling that is rare in academia and
which complements her scholarly observations.

Rupert Stasch examines Korowai metalanguage to analyze how otherness is
constructed in talk about the Indonesian language. In doing so, he presents a
sketch of both the Korowai language and world-view, ultimately making a
convincing argument for the Korowai's reflexive conceptualization of otherness
and their multifaceted relationship with other languages and cultures. Stasch's
chapter is both insightful and intriguing, and is persuasive in its argument for
the value of studying Korowai both in its own right and as a means to illuminate
linguistic practice in other communities.

Joel Robbins' chapter discusses the ideology of exchange as it relates to both
language and material in Urapmin culture. Robbins cites evidence that the
pre-Christian Urapmin society placed uniquely high value on material
gift-giving, while the new constraints of Christianity call for speech (and not
materials) to be regarded as the highest and most truthful form of exchange.
Robbins provides an impressive and thorough exploration of contemporary Urapmin
culture, using the intersection of language and religion as a vehicle to
illuminate current tensions in Papua New Guinea fostered by the meeting of
traditional ideas and Protestant dogma.

The next two chapters both explore missionization and bible translation work in
Papua New Guinea. In her chapter on the language ideology of the Bosavi
community, Schieffelin paints a comprehensive and absorbing picture of the
restructuring of Bosavi language as a result of Christian influence -
specifically, changes to the Bosavi attitude toward reporting the thought and
speech of others. Schieffelin relates that prior to missionary influence, it was
unheard of or taboo in Bosavi culture to speculate on the thoughts and internal
states of others. The new lexical additions making this possible, Schieffelin
contends, index a modern Christian identity among the Bosavi who employ this
speech register. By focusing on this specific ideological interplay while also
considering other concerns of language and culture, Schieffelin provides a
thorough yet focused study of Bosavi's changing linguistic landscape.

The second piece on bible translation, from Coutrney Handman, concerns the
objectives of the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL). The SIL's core
objective is to translate the New Testament into every language, and Handman's
chapter is an exploration of the specific situation of the SIL in Papua New
Guinea. Unfortunately, in contrast to Schieffelin's scholarly tone and approach,
Hardman's article reads at times like an extended brochure for the SIL. Careful
to note that she is not connected with the SIL, her descriptions of SIL activity
seem nonetheless fundamentally biased towards appreciating its goals, describing
SIL members as ''hard workers'' faced with ''demanding requirements''. Hardman's
workers are gallant individuals who recognize ''the enormity of their task'' but
''vowed to continue their work'' and to make ''a success of Vision 2025'' (Vision
2025 is the SIL project whereby New Testament translations will be started for
every language ''lacking'' one). In Handman's prose, changes are ''envisioned''
despite the ''tall order'' of the project, and the people of Papua New Guinea are
the ''people [SIL members] work with and try to help''. Handman also speaks of
Papa New Guinea residents as having a ''need for the translators'', and
rhetorically asks why one group is ''just as deserving'' as another of a New
Testament translation. To ask this question is to presuppose that a New
Testament translation is a positive prize to be earned; an assumption that may
not appeal to the sensibilities of all readers. Hardman's chapter has some
interesting insights, but to achieve an academic reading necessitates holding
the article and its author's seeming partiality at arm's length. Handman's
insights, thus, might be no more compelling than those gleamed from a scholarly
and secular reading of missionary literature.

The final chapter, in which Susan U. Philips considers the changing use of
Tongan language honorifics over time, is complex and multifaceted but, despite
this, methodologically sound and sure. Philips provides a detailed introduction
in easy but informative prose, using examples from English and Korean to clarify
and contextualize the subsequent Tongan data. In doing so she provides an
interesting picture of culture, politics, and history as it relates to the
Polynesian nation-state. By far the most thorough and conclusive article in the
volume (Philip effectively argues for honorific change being a result of
European colonialism), Philip's work forms a fitting conclusion to Makihara and
Schieffelin's collection.

The Postscript, written by J. Joseph Errington, is an effort at contextualizing
the collection. Errington sets out to describe how the chapters relate to each
other and to the global literature of language and contact, a consideration that
is deeply needed considering its omission in the introduction. The intent is
excellent, and Errington displays a wonderful grasp on all the topics and
cultures explored in the volume; the prose, however, is dense, and instead of
providing an easy recap or reformulation of the volume, the postscript forms one
of the most opaque and complicated sections of the book. While Errington does
provide new perspective, it seems the best information can be gleaned from the
chapters themselves.

Even if relying solely on the strength of its chapters, however, _Consequences
of Contact_ contains great insight, and the depth of detail it is able to
achieve by focusing exclusively on Pacific Societies makes it an important
collection. Makihara and Schieffelin have compiled a volume indispensable for
anyone seeking a deep and comprehensive understanding of modern Pacific language
change.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Alexandra (Ally) Burguieres received her master's in linguistics from Georgetown
in 2007 and a master's in journalism from the University of Oregon in 2007. She
is currently working on a PhD in Linguistics with Queen's University in Belfast,
Northern Ireland. Her research interests include international media discourse,
language and identity, and conversation analysis.
 

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