By Sari Pietikäinen, Alexandra Jaffe, Helen Kelly-Holmes, Nik Coupland
Sociolinguistics from the Periphery "presents a fascinating book about change: shifting political, economic and cultural conditions; ephemeral, sometimes even seasonal, multilingualism; and altered imaginaries for minority and indigenous languages and their users"
Date: Mon, 17 Oct 2005 11:50:54 EDT From: Timo Lothmann < firstname.lastname@example.org > Subject: The In-Between People
AUTHOR: Malone, Dennis L. TITLE: The In-Between People SUBTITLE: Language and Culture Maintenance and Mother-Tongue Education in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea PUBLISHER: SIL International YEAR: 2004
Timo Lothmann, Department of Synchronic English Linguistics, RWTH Aachen University.
Dennis L. Malone's book is a revised and updated version of his previously unpublished doctoral thesis. With "The In-Between People", he presents a remarkable study at the interface between sociology, ethnography, linguistics, and education. The author examines how the Kaugel-speaking people of the Highlands of Papua New Guinea witness and at the same time shape an ongoing process of social change. The massive, nationwide popularity of Western lifestyle, especially among the younger generation, as well as an increased mobility have affected all aspects of everyday life to a significant extent. Thus, traditional culture, including customs, moral values and, last but not least, the linguistic heritage are being eroded and tend to be superimposed by social achievements (and languages respectively) that are considered more prestigious, as it were. A crisis unparalleled in the history of the local communities, including the Kaugel community, evolves from this.
As regards the hot spots of existing social conflict, the author identifies the generation of parents as agents who play a vital role. It is this generation that have fallen between two stools -- they, i.e. the "in- between people" as Malone calls them, are characterized by a traditional background and an open-minded orientation towards the future. Thus, they want to provide their children with the benefits of both the old (traditional) and the new (Western-influenced) cultures. During his long-term fieldwork on the spot, Malone was witness to the load of problems that are related to the cultural clash these parents are facing. However, the lively account of their increasingly becoming aware of their responsibility vis-à-vis the danger of loss of local culture, i.e. their ethnic identity, is only a side dish of the main course that the reader is served by the author.
Malone's study focuses on an examination of a mother-tongue pre- primary education programme which has been established in the Kaugel area in 1985. In seven chapters plus appendices (248 pages in total), he aims at conveying an understanding how this programme has been expanded and kept alive by individuals. Moreover, in particular by taking the parents' attitudes towards education into account, the author describes how members of the community tackle the existing tension between mother tongue maintenance and their children's succeeding in secondary schools where the dominant language of teaching is English. In this respect, language contact and shift are topics that run like a thread through the study.
In chapters 1-2, the author sets the stage: He introduces the Kaugel setting as well as the key concepts and terminology that are relevant for the study. In making reference to selected secondary literature and theories related especially to language planning, language shift, and education in multicultural settings, the reader becomes acquainted with the research aims and the qualitative methodology used. In chapters 3-4, the various local and supra-regional contexts in which the Kaugel mother-tongue pre-school programme is embedded as well as the programme itself are described. In doing so, the author compares traditional and non-traditional means of education. In chapter 5, the topics bilingualism, culture, and identity are analysed in detail in order to gain an insight into the attitudes of the parents and the Kaugel community as a whole towards formal education in English. In chapter 6, the language use in a classroom of one of the mother- tongue pre-schools is examined. With respect to this, the author identifies the primary literacy materials that are being used by the teachers as valuable instruments. Samples of these materials are included in the appendices. The study is concluded by a discussion of possibilities and responsibilities of the "in-between people" in order to resolve the existing tensions for the benefit of their children.
Malone's study represents an important contribution to the current post-colonial discourse. It is a snap-shot of attitudes and efforts of individuals witnessing the rapid social change (or rather: revolution) of their traditional living together within a multicultural Papua New Guinea. The "in-between people" are portrayed as negotiators of the exchanges between two cultural entities. In bringing out the concerns of the Kaugel parent generation, the author reaches to let the reader partake in the social life of the village, as it were. This is achieved especially by providing detailed information on the background and everyday activities of certain individuals who have been involved in maintaining the mother-tongue pre-schools in the Kaugel area. Occasional anecdotes, episodes and interviews support this perspective. Further, the author wants to share his special affinity for the pre-school programme with the reader. With respect to this, he points out the critical importance of culturally relevant teaching materials. By reporting his classroom observations (that fail to consider adequately the well-known observer's paradox) with the help of indigenous collaborators, he reveals the potential for improvement, in particular as regards the consistency of language use vs. code- switching, the meaningful treatment of traditional vs. new cultural elements, as well as teacher payment and funding in general. The qualitative analysis of recorded speech data serves as basis and support of the author's argumentation throughout the study.
By and large, Malone judges the maintenance of the community- based mother-tongue pre-school programme as an important factor that, on the one hand, can effectively function as a building block of the Kaugel children's identity. On the other hand, the programme raises the communal awareness of the advantages of careful language (and thus culture) planning. As the schools have become esteemed institutions (at least locally), recent research supports the author's findings: Early education in the locally restricted mother tongues of Papua New Guinea does not hinder the children's success in secondary schools where formal instruction, due to national policy, is done in English. On the contrary: The prior acquisition of literacy in such a local language may even contribute to positive results in later educational stages.
In the Kaugel area (as in many areas of the post-colonial world), language has always been a crucial marker of the cultural identity of the local community. With linguistic/cultural traditions shifting, social continuity is being endangered. In this regard, many factors form a fragile mosaic of preferences and prestige. Church activity and the usage of the lingua franca Tok Pisin, for instance, are highly influential nowadays and contribute to what has occasionally been termed a newly emerging "Melanesian identity". Unfortunately, Malone refrains from stressing these topics in more detail. Nevertheless, the author convincingly shows how the "in-between people" are on the horns of a dilemma: How to reconcile the best of both worlds, i.e. tradition and modernity, for the benefit of their children and, thereby, of the community as a whole? English education is still more or less unanimously perceived as the ideal and unavoidable road to (material) success -- but, at the same time, an increasing urbanization and striving for imported goods deprives the traditional communities of their social cohesion. Of course, reliable predictions for the future are hard, if not impossible, to make. In an undeniably idealistic way, however, Malone sets himself up as an expatriate spokesman for these “in-between people”. On a macro-level, his interdisciplinary study is intended to serve as an optimistic exhortation. Correspondingly, on a micro-level, it is intended as a tool for the Kaugel community itself so that the generations constituting it may interact, negotiate and thus actively face the threats that have been identified by them -- against all the odds.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Timo Lothmann, born in 1976, studied English Linguistics, History, and Economics at the RWTH Aachen University, Germany. After having received his MA grade, he took up the work on his PhD thesis dealing with sociolinguistic factors of Tok Pisin with special reference to existing religious literature in Papua New Guinea. The thesis will be submitted in October 2005. He is lecturer and academic assistant at the Department of Synchronic English Linguistics of his Alma Mater. His research interests include especially Pacific pidgin and creole languages, translation, and Biblical studies. He is author of communications in international conferences and (forthcoming) contributions to scientific journals and other publications.