Performing Pasifika English in New Zealand
The case of bro’Town
bro’Town is a popular animated comedy whose language is that of stylized performance. It deals with the adventures of a group of five teenage Pasifika boys growing up in Auckland, New Zealand, and showcases performances of the Englishes spoken by Polynesian immigrants and their descendants. A range of varieties are performed on the show by a handful of actors. We analyzed several linguistic variables in the speech of three of the main characters — the 14-year-old twins Vale and Valea, and their father Pepelo. Pepelo produces high levels of the vernacular features of DH-stopping and TH-fronting, consistent with his biography as a second-language speaker whose pronunciation is influenced by his native language, Samoan. His sons, as second-generation speakers, have these features too but at lower frequencies. The twins also differ from each other, with the streetwise Valea, who is more aligned with Pasifika youth culture, producing higher levels of the variables than the studious Vale. Pepelo produces unaspirated initial /p/s, again a Pasifika language feature, while his sons do not. Linking-/r/, however, appears to index a youth identity but not adult immigrant status. We conclude that performed varieties can reflect the linguistic production of a community in their selection of specific features. The quantitative patterns can be quite variable, but here succeed in indexing salient identities for their audiences.
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