The Fate of Small Island Languages in a Globalized World

By Marit Vamarasi.

Published by The Global Studies Journal

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Inhabitants of small islands, especially those found in the South Pacific, were once the envy of the western world. They seemed to have it all - beautiful palm trees and white sand beaches, and lives that were free of the world’s worries. But in the 21st century the world’s worries have become the worries of the islander, and, as a result, greater and greater numbers of islanders are leaving their paradises for the metropolitan cities of the West. As they do so, their languages are disappearing, under pressure from English. This paper focuses on one small island, Rotuma, which is a Polynesian outlier of the Fiji islands. Three-fourths of the Rotuman population now lives overseas in five different countries and two continents, having left their island for education and jobs. Not only are the original migrants not returning, but their parents are now leaving, in order to be near their children and grandchildren. The obliteration of such languages and cultures, along with the processes of assimilation and homogenization, should concern all who value cultural preservation and diversity.

Keywords: Migration, Endangered Languages, Small Islands

Global Studies Journal, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp.117-122. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 520.136KB).

Dr. Marit Vamarasi

Professor, Linguistics Department, Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago, USA

She holds a B.A. and M.A. from the University of North Dakota and a Ph.D. in Linguistics from Cornell University. She worked with the Summer Institute of Linguistics in Irian Jaya, Indonesia for several years. She has taught at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale and, since 1990, at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. Her research interests include teaching and learning vocabulary, the teaching and learning of endangered languages, and the Rotuman language. She has written a grammar of Rotuman, published by Lincom Europa, and has developed a Rotuman language learning website for overseas learners. She has also published in Pacific Linguistics and the International Journal of the Sociology of Language.

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