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Austronesian Youth Perspectives

February 24, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Mānoa Campus, Room 2118, John A. Burns Hall, East West Center, 1601 East-West Road

This presentation focuses on youth perspectives of language shift, language endangerment, the reclamation of ancestral/heritage languages, and late modern linguistic identity. I frame this paper in the academic discourses about language endangerment and revitalization, the transmission of language between generations, and the changing late modern landscapes in which youth linguistic identity emerge. I draw upon an assembly of pilot survey interviews in the Federated States of Micronesia, longitudinal participant-observation of both Mortlockese and Filipino immigrant diasporas, and various experiences of my cohort at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa to discuss these intertwining topics. Because of the array of the languages I discuss in the case studies I present—wikang Tagalog (Tagalog), kapsen Mwoshulók (Mortlockese), na vosa vakaViti (Fijian), ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i (Hawaiian), te reo Māori (Māori), Tekoi er a Belau (Palauan), Truku Seediq (Seediq), te gagana Tokelau (Tokelauan), and others—an Austronesian youth perspective emerges. I especially encourage the audience to share their experiences and perspectives of language shift: reasons why such shifts happens, what those transformations mean to the youth—from their points-of-view, not from those of their elders or academic “outsiders”—and what can be done if such shifts are perceived to be “problems” (i.e., future generations losing access to their ancestral/heritage languages). The realization that language shift is happening in one’s own community can be a powerful impetus for action. My discussion, then, is a call for members of my generation to speak up and share their perspectives about these topics in not only the academic discourse, but also in conversations with their own cohort, as well as with their own families—their parents, their siblings, and their (future) children.

Emerson Lopez Odango is a PhD student (ABD) in Linguistics at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and an East-West Center Student Affiliate. Prior to his graduate studies, he was a Peace Corps Volunteer, serving on Pakin Atoll in Pohnpei State, Federated States of Micronesia (2006–9). His dissertation focuses on a morphophonological account of noun and verb inflectional suffix patterns in Pakin Lukunosh Mortlockese, one that incorporates discourse analysis and the ethnography of communication. His other research interests include in situ and diasporic language shift, local ecological knowledge, fieldwork methodology, epistemic stancetaking, and the pragmatics of Tagalog morphosyntax.

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East-West Center, Mānoa Campus

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Mary Hammond, (808) 944-7766,

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