Monday, December 20, 2004

Abstract from Easter Island Conference

Rapa Nui and the Marianas: Approaches to a Comparative Analysis.
Steve Pagel, Martin Luther Universitaat

Clarence Darrow once said that history repeats itself, and that this is just one of its failings. Taking up this hypothesis, this paper will contrast the current language contact on Rapa Nui with a simliar historical situation at the opposite end of the Pacific: the Marianas. In 1898 an era of spanish hegemony came to an end on these islands that had lastet nearly three centuries, a timespan in which the intensive contact with the colonial power left its profound marks on both the islands' culture and language. Rogers (1995), for instance, states a hybrid culture for the major island Guam at the end of the 19th century which had entirely absorbed the indigenous population, the Chamoru, and thus it may not seem surprising that the language of these "Neo-Chamoru" has long become an essential part of the language-contact debate (cf. Albalá Hernández/Rodríguez-Ponga 1986; Rodríguez-Ponga 1995; Stolz 1998, 2004; Pagel/Pfänder 2001; Pagel 2003). In fact, especially the typological status of modern Chamoru is controversial: loans from Spanish have found their way into every field of the language to various degrees, but the hispanity of the chamoran morphosyntaxis in particular seems to be crucial regarding a classification of the language (cf. Topping 1973; Pagel 2003; Stolz 2004).

A comparison with the actual contact-situation Rapanui-Spanish is therefore rewarding in many respects: the conditions and circumstances on both ends of the Pacific are considerably similar, be it the opposition of a language from the austronesian language-phylum to the same indoeuropean language or the certain geographical isolation; and similar active processes of language change can be observed in both contact situations. One fundamental question of this presentation will therefore be, whether such factors as bilingualism, borrowing and interference as described for Rapa Nui (cfr. Makihara 1999, 2001, 2004) already prepared the ground for a development similar to that of the language of the Marinas — another question will deal with factors counteracting this process, and whether this "mistake" of history as described by Darrow could not be avoided.

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