Article published in:Developments in Diglossic Settings in the Asian Pacific Region
Edited by Marinus van den Berg
[Journal of Asian Pacific Communication 30:1/2] 2020
► pp. 34–59
A restudy of postcolonial Palau after two decades
Changing views on multilingualism in the Pacific
This paper reports results from a reinvestigation of multilingualism in postcolonial Palau, conducted twenty years after the first study. The first-ever ethnographic language survey conducted in 1997–1998 highlighted the diglossic nature of Palau where English replaced Japanese as the ‘high’ language, while indigenous Palauan remained as the ‘low’ spoken language. It indicated three possible future scenarios: (a) shift from multilingualism to bilingualism after the older Japanese-speaking generation passes away; (b) stability of diglossia with a clear social division between an English-speaking elite and a predominantly Palauan-speaking non-elite; (c) movement towards an English-speaking nation with Palauan being abandoned. The restudy conducted in 2017–2018 provides real-time evidence to assess the direction and progress of change, whilst the ethnographic analysis of recent changes in language policies and the linguistic analysis of teenagers’ narratives reveal the unpopularity of Palauan as a written language and the emergence of their own variety of English.
Keywords: diglossia, postcolonial English, postcolonial Japanese, language policy, real-time
Published online: 30 June 2020
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