Defining Māori language revitalisation: A project in folk linguistics
Article by Nathan John Albury in Journal of Sociolinguistics, 2016.
The postmodern and critical movements in language policy, with their redefinition of governmentality and attention to power structures, call for localised perspectives on language arrangements. In this way, a polity, in its social and cultural context, can be understood as much as the policies it operates. In the case of Indigenous languages undergoing revitalisation, this allows us to define language revitalisation, and the vitality it should deliver, not through western scholarship but for local purposes with local ideas by examining local knowledge and preferences. To do this, a folk linguistic approach was applied to language policy research. A quantitative and qualitative survey investigated how around 1,300 Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth in New Zealand define Māori language revitalisation from their own perspective and how they perceive the revitalisation processes and outcomes proposed in scholarship and local discourses. The paper shows that claimed linguistic knowledge not only exists parallel to language attitudes, but informs local policy ideas. The findings indicate that these youth define language revitalisation and vitality in terms contextualised by local ontology, knowledge, ideologies and values, therefore challenging the local applicability of universal theories.