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Endangered LanguagesBeliefs and Ideologies in Language Documentation and Revitalization$
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Peter K. Austin and Julia Sallabank

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780197265765

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197265765.001.0001

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Language Shift in an ‘Importing Culture’:

Language Shift in an ‘Importing Culture’:

The Cultural Logic of the Arapesh Roads*

(p.125) 7 Language Shift in an ‘Importing Culture’
Endangered Languages

Lise M. Dobrin

British Academy

In the Arapesh communities of northern Papua New Guinea, where language shift to Tok Pisin is now advanced, villagers express regret about the loss of their local language. However, they do not seem motivated to actively reclaim it. This chapter illustrates how the ideological stances that bear on this situation derive from a distinctively Melanesian cultural logic that assigns value to, and works to attract, items and activities that are associated with distant others, via what has been called an ‘openness of attitude’, or an ‘importing culture’. For Arapesh people, this desire for importation is elaborated through talk about and practices involving ‘roads’, which are both real physical pathways and metaphors for social interaction and exchange. The Arapesh case points to the importance of exploring the full range of cultural ideas that lead even people who positively value their languages to nevertheless act in ways that diminish their use.

Keywords:   New Guinea Sepik, language shift, Melanesia, Arapesh language, ethnolinguistic identity, ethnography, multilingualism, relational personhood, possessive individualism, cultural appropriation

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