New publication on attitudes towards Fiji Hindi (24 November 2023)
Prasad, R. & F. Willans (2023). Debunking ten myths about Hindi in Fiji: Taking some of the hot air out of the Mirchi FM debate. Te Reo, 66(1), 39-59.
This paper responds to a vitriolic debate that raged across Fiji’s media and social media platforms throughout January and February 2020, following a decision by a national radio station to begin broadcasting in Fiji Hindi. It identifies ten myths from the debate and debunks each in turn, showing how the language ideologies underpinning this debate are serving to endanger all varieties of Hindi in Fiji, including the one that is most idealised.
The paper is available open access from this link.
N-POC PhD scholarship awarded for research on ocean knowledge (22 November 2023)
Congratulations to Sandhya Kumari who has been awarded an N-POC 2023 PhD Scholarship for her project titled “Displacement past and future: Documenting the ocean knowledge in the language of the Rabi Island (Banabans), Kiribati (Gilbertese) and Tuvalu (Nui) speakers and constructing resilient and sustainable island nations”. N-POC is the Norway-Pacific Ocean-Climate Scholarship Programme, a partnership in ocean-related research and PhD training between USP and the University of Bergen in Norway. Sandhya recently completed her MA research on lexical variation between the languages spoken on Rabi Island and in Kiribati. Her MA was supported by a Pacific Scholarship Excellence Research and Innovation (PSERI).
Inaugural postgraduate linguistics conference (3 November 2023)
14 research students presented their work at the first ever postgraduate linguistics conference, held at Laucala Campus and via Zoom. This included USP students from Fiji, Vanuatu, Kiribati and the Solomon Islands, as well as two former USP students who are now pursuing further research programmes overseas – Wilfred Fimone, a PhD student at Stanford University, and Leisale Roberts, an MPhil student at James Cook University. This was a day of rich insights into the realities of research, especially for audience members thinking about starting their own postgraduate studies, and it was also a chance to celebrate all the recent graduations and completions over the past few years.
Another busy Laucala open day (29 September 2023)
Laucala Campus opened its gates to high school students from across Viti Levu again and it was a busy day for the Linguistics and Languages teams, with the Fijian Studies team up in the Molikilagi Bure and others hosting the main displays and competitions in the Oceania Performance Space. The online languages quiz proved very competitive! Congratulations to Shivani from Bhawani Dayal Arya College and Prasad Ahmadiyya Muslim College for getting ALMOST all the answers right and then telling us which areas of linguistics interest them. Shivani said: “I’m interested in Linguistics because I love Maths and Computing and now I know this is a good combination for Linguistics. I also like English and I think I’m interested in language teaching.” Meanwhile, Prasad answered: “Sociolinguistics caught my eye because it focuses on the relationship between language and society, shedding light on the connection between language and identity.” We look forward to welcoming some of these students back to campus full-time next semester!
New Oxford University Press book chapter on Hindu diaspora in Oceania
Bilimoria, P., Bapat, J., Booth, A., Hughes, P. and R. Prasad (2023). Hindu Diaspora in Oceania (Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific) In K. Jacobsen (Ed.) Hindu Diasporas (pp. 146–177). Oxford University Press.
Oceania comprises Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and Tonga, and habited by distinct ethnic peoples, to which ‘Hindoos’ were brought by colonial powers. With the arrival of indentured labourers (girmityas) in Fiji 150 years ago, Fiji-Hindus have worked tirelessly towards preserving their way of life. Over the generations, Hindu sects have created their unique identity through their culture and adapted practices. Recently, New Zealand’s resident Indian populations have also increased significantly. Generations of Hindus from Gujarat, joined by Indo-Fijians, South Indians, and Hindus from elsewhere, have established temples and associations representing a diversity in languages and religious cultures. South Asians began arriving as seamen onboard ships from India to the colonies of terra australis, circa 1790s. Even during ‘White Australia’ years, significant numbers of Hindoos were recruited as farmworkers, labourers, and mineral-diggers, some becoming hawkers and merchants. With surges in professional and student migration, in more recent decades, Hindus with their temples, community centres, comparatively high profile and education, are contributing to the region’s multiculturalism, while passing on their heritage to the next generations.
Hindi Day celebrations (15 September 2023)
Intellectual property and protection of indigenous knowledge (4-5 September 2023)
This two-day seminar discussed issues of intellectual property and protection of indigenous knowledge in the research projects conducted by USP students and staff. The aims were, firstly, to raise awareness in USP students and colleagues about these issues and, secondly, to submit a protocol to the USP Research Office, in view of the protection of indigenous knowledge to be included in the ethics clearance for research projects of USP academics of all disciplines.
Fiji Sign Language: New research findings and community awareness (1 September 2023)
Krishneer Sen and Inise Tawaketini, recent graduates with an MA in Sign Linguistics from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, gave an informative presentation on Fiji Sign Language to a packed crowd. They used an interactive quiz to gauge what audience members already knew about sign languages, taught us some of the basics from Fiji Sign Language, and presented some new findings about the structure of the language, based on their own MA dissertations.
Three MA research students graduate at once (1 September 2023)
Three research students graduated on Friday with an MA in Linguistics or Applied Linguistics!
Shaleshni Prasad completed an MA thesis in Applied Linguistics, ‘Improving the oral English fluency of students at the University of the South Pacific: a case study of English for Academic Purposes students studying in face-to-face mode at Lautoka Campus’. Vimal Kumar completed an MA by SRP in Applied Linguistics, focusing on ‘Readability and Lexical Coverage of Texts: An Analysis of EMI Texts in the Fiji Context’. Sadia Shainaaz completed an MA by SRP in Linguistics, investigating “Language attitudes of Indo-Fijian mothers and their children towards English, Fiji Hindi and Shudh Hindi”. A big congratulations to her for this achievement and to Team Linguistics for seeing three research students graduating on the same day – a first for the discipline!
The large languages of Vanuatu (30 August 2023)
Marie-France Duhamel presented on ‘The Large Languages of Vanuatu’ as part of the SPACE seminar series.
Girmit Diaries podcast (30 August 2023)
Rajen Prasad featured in an episode for The Girmit Diaries podcast series this week, hosted by Aaisha Khan on the Global Indian Network. The podcast is centered around the rich history of Girmit, the untold stories, reflections on identity, and finding answers to the questions we grapple with. The podcast has an audience in 48 countries and has previously featured guests including President Museveni (Uganda), Premier Mark Brantley (Nevis), Minister Rishma Singh (Suriname), industrialist Vimal Shah (Kenya), Hotelier Surinder Arora (UK), leading arbitrator Baiju Vasani and Swati Maliwal (Chairperson of Delhi Commission for Women). You can access the episode at https://globalindiannetwork.com/the-girmit-connection-indo-fijian-heritage-and-identity-with-rajendra-prasad-2/
USP Linguistics graduate awarded Chevening scholarship (22 August 2023)
Congratulations to Keasi Prescott, Bachelor of Education (Literature/Language) graduate of USP and current Postgraduate Diploma Applied Linguistics & ELT student, who has been awarded a Chevening scholarship to pursue an MA in Applied Linguistics with TESOL at the University of Birmingham in the UK. We wish her well as she embarks on the next stage of her academic journey.
New book chapter on what Linguistics can contribute to our understanding of History
Paul Geraghty’s latest chapter is available in The Cambridge History of the Pacific Ocean:
Geraghty, Paul (2023). The Word as Artefact: What Linguistics Can and Cannot Tell Us about the Prehistory of the Pacific in R.T. Jones & M.K. Matsuda (Eds.) The Cambridge History of the Pacific Ocean (pp. 246-275), Cambridge University Press.
Research team present at International Conference (7-11 August 2023)
Candide Simard and Apolonia Tamata presented at the International Congress of Phonetic Sciences ICPhS 2023 in Prague, Czech Republic (remotely), giving the paper Focus prosody in Fijian: A pilot study (Experiment 2) (The full research team comprises: Albert Lee, Candide Simard, Apolonia Tamata, Jiaying Sun, Tsz Ching Mut.)
New MA by Coursework in English Language Teaching and Leadership
We are delighted to launch this new programme in Semester 2 this year, following demand from teachers. This innovative programme enables English teachers to gain professional development in BOTH their own teaching subject AND leadership skills, rather than having to choose between these two elements. This programme particularly targets experienced teachers who are vying for leadership positions within their schools, as well as staff working in curriculum, assessment and policy roles within their Ministries of Education. The programme is offered entirely by coursework but may be followed by a directed research project for those who later decide to pursue a research degree.
Alternatively, students who wish to incorporate research within their MA studies are still able to pursue an MA by supervised research project in Applied Linguistics, which combines six of the same courses with a research project in an area of interest to them.
Vanuatu Languages Conference (10-18 July 2023)
MA student, Jim Gure, and his supervisor Marie-France Duhamel attended the Vanuatu Languages Conference in Port Vila. Jim presented a paper on ‘Lexical and semantic innovation in Raga’, his own mother tongue and the subject of his MA research, while Marie presented ‘The large indigenous languages of Vanuatu and their role in linguistic diversity’. More information about the conference can be found at https://www.eva.mpg.de/linguistic-and-cultural-evolution/events/2023-vanuatu-languages-conference/#c50320
PacREF facilitating unit hosts webinar on education and culture (6 July 2023)
Kabini Sanga, Seu‘ula Johansson Fua, Frances Vaka‘uta, and Fiona Willans were invited to speak at a webinar hosted by the PacREF facilitating unit on ‘Fostering commitment to education and culture’. They were asked to respond to the topics: Modality of embedding culture and traditions in the school curriculum; Education as a mechanism for revitalising traditional knowledge and culture; the role of communities in the teaching of culture and traditions; and the use of indigenous languages in Pacific classrooms.
10th International Lapita Conference (26-30 June 2023)
The Lapita Conference “Weaving the past, present and the future” was held in Suva throughout the last week of June. Nikhat Shameem and Apolonia Tamata were both part of a panel on educating current and future generations about cultural heritage and history, and there were a number of other language-related presentations too.
PhD student presents at international conference (16 June 2023)
Roshila Singh attended (virtually) the Language Policy Forum in London on 16 June, presenting a paper based on her PhD research called “Invoking decolonialised spaces for an implicit EMI policy”.
Events marking Girmit (May 2023)
In addition to the conference “Celebrating Girmitiya Lives”, hosted by USP on 12-13 May, linguists Rajen Prasad and Nikhat Shameem were to be found on various TV, radio and physical platforms throughout the month talking about language issues related to Girmit, including:
Book launch! (11 May)
Khatta Mittha Baat: A book of Fiji Hindi Proverbs, by Farzana Gounder, Nikhat Shameem and Jennifer Khan-Janif, was launched at the University of Fiji Samabula Campus, Suva.
Participation at an international symposium (26-27 May 2023)
Apolonia Tamata and Candide Simard presented virtually at the Hanyang International Symposium on Phonetics and Cognitive Sciences of Language in Seoul, collaborating with colleagues from the Education University of Hong Kong. Their paper was ‘Focus Prosody in Fijian: a Pilot Study (Experiment 1). In-situ Focus Marking’.
Alignment between the Pacific Regional Education Framework and the Pacific Regional Culture Strategy (3-4 May 2023)
Fiona Willans and Apolonia Tamata, along with colleagues from the Institute of Education and SPACE, attended a two-day seminar held by SPC to discuss the alignment of the Pacific Regional Education Framework (PacREF) and the Pacific Regional Culture Strategy (PRCS). This was directly in response to the successful collaborative intervention at the recent Conference of Pacific Education Ministers which saw the endorsement of Indigenous Knowledge, Culture and Language. As institutional custodian of the PRCS, SPC is hosting a series of discussions with CROP and international agencies to better understand the specific programmes of work that relate to culture, and which may be aligned to the implementation of the PRCS. Day 1 of the seminar focused particularly on the work already being done within USP’s School of Pacific Arts, Communication and Education in areas related to culture, while Day 2 brought USP together with other CROP agencies, along with UNICEF and UNESCO, to continue the same conversation. The outcome from the workshop is a commitment to convene the group on a regular basis to ensure that commitments to languages, cultures and knowledge systems are followed through.
New chapter published on teaching English within a multilingual framework
Willans, F. (2023). Separating the target language from the lesson frame: Helping teachers make informed decisions about when they should and shouldn’t make English teaching multilingual. In K. Raza, D. Reynolds & C. Coombe (Eds.). Handbook of Multilingual TESOL in Practice (pp.423-434). Springer.
Abstract: TESOL teacher training programmes often attempt to situate the teaching of English within a framework of dynamic multilingualism, which promotes both the strong maintenance of the mother tongue and a flexible approach to the use of the full linguistic repertoire in the classroom. Student teachers find it easy to accept these arguments on a theoretical level, but report uncertainty about how to work with them in practice. By listening to them talk about classroom practice, we realise that many student teachers apply a crude all-or-nothing binary to their pedagogical decision-making around the use of languages other than English. There is limited nuance to their considerations about when, and for what purposes, to use languages other than the target language of English. This chapter therefore puts forward a framework to help teachers determine when the language of the classroom is serving as the target language, in which case English needs to be used to a sufficient extent to achieve the language learning goal; and when the language of the classroom is being used for a range of other purposes that may include explanation, brainstorming, task extension, reflection, strategy development and classroom management, in which case there is every reason to draw on the resources of the full linguistic repertoire. Distinguishing between target language and lesson frame should help teachers make decisions that are grounded in principles of second language learning.
Pacific Education Ministers affirm commitment to Pacific languages, cultures and knowledge systems (20-22 March 2023)
Seu‘ula Johansson-Fua, Heti Veikune, Rosi Lagi and Fiona Willans represented USP at the recent Conference for Pacific Education Ministers in Auckland. The NUMBER ONE priority agreed on by the Ministers at the end of the conference was that “indigenous knowledge, culture and language should be embedded in curriculum development, teacher training programs and delivery”. Whether or not we are involved in education-related research and training, and whether or not we are working with languages that are indigenous to the region, the work that all of us do in USP Linguistics is very closely tied to the aspiration to mainstream language, culture and knowledge systems throughout education. Watch this space on this one …
Fullbright Scholar in Residence at University of Hawai’i Manoa gives a talk (9 March 2023)
Apolonia Tamata, currently based at University of Hawai’i Manoa as a Fullbright Scholar in Residence, gave the talk: Damu, color concepts and chiefs.
Abstract: In this presentation, Dr Tamata will demonstrate that amongst Indigenous Fijians, one color category is reserved for chiefs and things chiefly. Although this practice is neither taught nor told, it is a knowledge that has filtered through the generations through custom – but it is fast losing its place amongst Indigenous Fijians. Dr Tamata posits that words for individual colors were no-existent in Fijian because the current forms are reduplications of words related only the similar shades they share. However, there is one word for color, which encompasses all colors: roka. Through the linguistic morphological process of reduplication, the words for four main colors emerged. Following a discussion of color words in Fijian, Dr Tamata will elaborate specifically on “damu”, a color category associated with chiefs and things chiefly.
New staff and research students for 2023
This semester, we welcome Dr Marie-France Duhamel (Marie), who joins us from New Zealand. She studied at ANU and the University of Auckland and has carried out fieldwork in Vanuatu (Malekula and Pentecost Islands). Marie’s research interests include language variation, language change, historical linguistics, and the documentation of Oceanic languages. Her research approach combines corpus-based quantitative analysis (i.e., statistical) and qualitative methods. She is based at the Laucala Campus and will be with us for one year.
We are also delighted to welcome three new MA students. Peter Sasabule has been awarded the only PSERI scholarship this year in SPACE and will be documenting aspects of his own language (Roviana, Western Solomon Islands) for his MA thesis in Linguistics. Barbara Fatiaki and Yogita Mala are both starting their SRP projects this semester. Barbara investigates attitudes towards the Rotuman and Fijian languages by Rotumans in Suva who are bilingual in these languages. Yogita analyses the gender differences between males’ and females’ Fiji-Hindi language use in a radio programme aired on Radio Navtarang. Once again, these three projects demonstrate the breadth of research topics being tackled by students – in this case, all working on their own mother tongues – within what is a very small Linguistics section.
Panel on English Medium Instruction in multilingual universities (5-9 December 2022)
Fiona Willans was invited to present at the Society for Research in Higher Education (SRHE) Conference ‘Mobilities In Higher Education’, as part of a panel on English Medium Instruction in multilingual universities. She presented a summary of “The scramble for EMI: Lessons from postcolonial ‘old EMI’ universities”, which was published earlier this year.
New interdisciplinary paper on coastal change
Patrick D. Nunn, Ingrid Ward, Pierre Stephan, Adrian McCallum, W. Roland Gehrels, Genevieve Carey, Amy Clarke, Margaret Cook, Paul Geraghty, David Guilfoyle, Bianca McNeair, Glen Miller, Elia Nakoro, Doc Reynold, Lisa Stewart (2022). Human observations of late Quaternary coastal change: Examples from Australia, Europe and the Pacific Islands. Quarternary International, 638-9, pp.212-224.
Abstract: In the aftermath of the last ice age, when sea level rose along most of the world’s coastline, the activities of coastal peoples were impacted by coastal submergence, land loss and sometimes isolation as offshore islands formed. In some parts of the world, there is clear evidence that people encoded their observations of postglacial sea-level rise into oral traditions that were communicated across hundreds of generations to reach us today in an intelligible form. In other contexts, people’s observations of rising sea level are likely to have formed the foundations of ‘legends’ about undersea places and the peoples inhabiting them. For a selection of coastal sites in Australia and northwest Europe, this study discusses a range of contrasting situations in which culturally-grounded stories about coastal submergence, land loss and isolation plausibly recollect the nature and effects of postglacial sea-level rise. Using science-based histories of postglacial sea-level change, minimum ages are determined for each group of site-specific stories; in the case of Australia, these range from 7000–11,500 BP, for northwest Europe from 5500 to 9500 BP. For selected sites in the Pacific Islands, where human settlement about 3000 years BP post-dated the end of postglacial sea-level rise, localized submergence is recalled in traditional stories of local people. It is argued that studies of late Quaternary coastal evolution can often be filled out by adding details from stories preserved in local cultures, something which leads to a clearer picture of the human-societal impacts of coastal submergence and land loss than can be obtained from palaeoenvironmental reconstructions and geological evidence alone.
MA student Purnima Din presents at regional conference (22 November 2022)
Purnima Din had the opportunity to present her work at the Oceanic Comparative and International Education Society (OCIES) conference hosted by Fiji National University and Victoria University Wellington. Her presentation, ‘Dynamics of teacher feedback discourse in ESL students’ academic essays in Ba secondary schools’, covered the findings from her SRP project that she will submit very soon.
New interdisciplinary publication on the origins and dispersal of Fehi bananas
Paul Geraghty has joined colleagues from a wide range of disciplines on the following research:
Thomson, Lex A.J., Jean-François Butaud, Jeff Daniells, Paul A. Geraghty, Adriana Hiariej, Valérie Kagy, Jean Kennedy, Angela K. Kepler, David J. Mabberley, Gabriel L. Sachter-Smith, Julie Sardos, William H. Wilson and Maurice Wong, 2022. The origins and dispersal throughout the Pacific Islands of Fehi bananas (Musa series Australimusa). Journal of the Polynesian Society, 2022, 131 (3): 191–226. https://thepolynesiansociety.org/jps/index.php/JPS/article/view/593
Abstract: Fehi bananas are a Pacific Islands and eastern Indonesian assemblage of parthenocarpic diploid and triploid cultivars in Musa series Australimusa. Fehi cultivars were derived principally from M. maclayi, M. lolodensis and M. bukensiss.l. and related entities. Eleven Fehi cultivar groups comprising morphologically similar cultivars are described, along with naturalised forms from eastern Polynesia. Fehi cultivars have been referred to particular species such as M. troglodytarum and M.fehi, but further genetic research is needed to ascertain how human-selected cultivars are interrelated and derived from any particular species.
Languages, resources and oceans (28 October 2022)
Candide Simard presented at an event held by the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG) last week, as part of their launch of the map and research project “All that blue: Re-sourcing, ports and geopolitics in the Pacific”. PANG wanted to make connections between languages and other types of resource, particularly ocean related. We displayed some maps of linguistic diversity (thanks to assistance from Waisake Raliwalala) and Candide shared some insights from MA research being conducted by Sandhya Kumari (who was mid-fieldwork and unable to attend in person) about the continuing implications for communities and language of the forced relocation due to phosphate mining from Banaba to Rabi. The event also sparked a lot of very interesting discussions about possible future collaborations.
New publication on the prehistory of Suva
Paul Geraghty has published a chapter, “The prehistory of Suva.” in Nichola Halter (ed) Suva Stories: A History of the Capital of Fiji. Canberra: Australian National University Press, pp 2-30. The whole book can be downloaded for free from ANU Press via https://press-files.anu.edu.au/downloads/press/n10434/pdf/book.pdf
Successful open day 2022
USP Laucala Open Day was another busy day for SPACE as high school students toured the campus and came to find out about the programmes we offer. We attracted a lot of interest for the new interdisciplinary BA in Communication and Media, which combines courses in Journalism, Linguistics, Marketing and a specialist subject of students’ choosing. Students who have chosen to follow Science and Commerce streams in their senior secondary years were particularly interested to learn about this programme. We also attracted interest from some of the teachers accompanying the students in our postgraduate programmes, particularly the proposed Master’s by Coursework in English Language Teaching and Leadership, which we hope to launch in 2023.
Apolonia Tamata awarded Fullbright Scholar in Residence (13 August 2022)
This month, Apolonia Tamata takes up a position as Fullbright Scholar in Residence at University of Hawai’i Manoa. She will be involved in a range of teaching, research and outreach activities at the university, and will be helping to establish a PhD programme on indigenous dance and performance. She will be in Hawai’i until May 2023.
IMAGE from US Embassy
12th Conference on Oceanic Linguistics (5-9 September 2022)
Paul Geraghty attended COOL-12: The 12th Conference On Oceanic Linguistics in Tahiti, presenting three papers: Origins of breadfruit, mountain plantain (fē’ī) and paper mulberry in East Polynesia (with Lex Thomson, Jean-François Butaud & William Wilson); Tokalau Fijian and Easternmost Polynesian: parallel histories of divergence and convergence? (with William Wilson); and Ancient Tahitian: evidence from eighteenth-century documents.
Regional literacy webinar: Transforming literacy spaces (8 September 2022)
Heti Veikune and Fiona Willans presented at a virtual PacREF symposium, ‘Transforming Literacy Spaces’, in celebration of International Literacy Day. Heti reported on new findings from research conducted with primary teachers in Tonga, while Fiona presented initiatives implemented at USP to assist the academic literacy transition from school to university.
New book by Vanuatu National University, Ministry of Education and Cultural Centre
A new book has been published, Education, Identity, Cultures. Proceedings of the national symposium 2021, arising from a symposium held by the new Vanuatu National University. The book contains chapters by both postgraduate student, Leisale Roberts, and former director of the Pacific Languages Unit, Robert Early:
Roberts, L. (2022). Preservation of vernacular languages in Vanuatu is vital for sustaining its cultural diversity. In Vanuatu National University (Eds.) Education, Identity, Cultures. Proceedings of the national symposium 2021 (114-121).
Early, R. (2022). Developments in Language Policy in Vanuatu. In Vanuatu National University (Eds.) Education, Identity, Cultures. Proceedings of the national symposium 2021 (216-251).
New paper published with three undergraduate co-authors
A new paper has been published from the ‘Linguistic Landscapes of the Contemporary Pacific’ project, by Fiona Willans in collaboration with three co-authors who were undergraduate students at the beginning of the project: Jim Gure, who has continued to postgraduate studies in Linguistics, and Tereise Vaifale and ‘Elenoa Veikune.
Willans, F., J. Gure, T. Vaifale & E. Veikune (2022). Digicel! Topap long ples ia! An international telecommunications company making itself at home in the urban landscapes of the Pacific. The Australian Journal of Anthropology, 33(2), 210-246.
Abstract: Mobile phone usage has increased at an unprecedented rate across the Pacific over the past 10–15 years, radically transforming the way communication takes place. The catalyst for this transformation is generally attributed to the breakdown of monopolies previously held by national telecom corporations over their own domestic markets, and the entrance of one particular new provider, Digicel. This paper examines the strategies through which Digicel has managed to insert itself into the visual landscape of the urban spaces of Vanuatu, Samoa and Tonga. Through multimodal analysis of digital photographs from the landscapes of these countries’ capital cities, the paper shows how the global company makes use of a range of techniques to establish its own place and identity as a local network. These techniques include the demonstration of largesse and dominance over competitors, slogans that stake a claim to belonging, and the use of local language terms and images that juxtapose the local with the global. Through these techniques, Digicel manages to position itself simultaneously as the provider both of fast and reliable global communication technologies and of a truly local, national service, while also radically transforming the physical spaces of our cities as it has made itself at home here.
Recent BA Linguistics graduate awarded an Endangered Languages Project fellowship (30 July 2022)
Peter Sasabule (recent graduate from BA Linguistics) has been awarded a Summer 2022 Endangered Languages Project (ELP) Language Documentation fellowship. This means he will be receiving training in language documentation and then carrying out a project in his own language community (Roviana, Solomon Islands). He hopes to use this fellowship to develop his documentation skills before applying for a scholarship to complete an MA in Linguistics.
Seminar brings together MA student from USP and PhD student from SOAS London (3 June 2022)
In this session of the regular Linguistics student research seminar, Purnima Din presented her research “Teacher Feedback in ESL Students’ Academic Essays in Ba Secondary Schools, Fiji”, and guest speaker Vasiliki Vita, SOAS, University of London, presented on her PhD project based in Palau titled “Testing ESL methods for teaching Ramari Dongosaro: A documentation project with maintenance in mind”. These seminars present a supportive space for students at all stages of their projects.
International prosody collaboration (23-26 May 2022)
Candide Simard and her international collaborators presented at Speech Prosody 2022 in Lisboa (Portugal), giving the talk “Prosody and cognitive accessibility in left-detached topics: lessons from Nigerian Pidgin”, which is published in the conference proceedings:
Strickland, E., Lacheret-Dujour, A., Simard, C. (2022) Prosody and cognitive accessibility in left-detached topics: lessons from Nigerian Pidgin. Proc. Speech Prosody 2022, 17-21, doi: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2022-4
Language, food and TikTok! (4 May 2022)
This week, we welcomed Prof Amina Mettouchi to the SPACE seminar series to give a presentation titled In our own hearths: Auto-documentation, local languages and traditional food preparation. This was followed by a TikTok workshop led by Candide Simard and postgraduate student Semi Naisau, in which participants learnt how to record, edit and submit TikTok videos (with high quality audio and video, taking account of accessibility for all) in Pacific languages relating to traditional food. This event was in celebration of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages.
Updating the Pacific Ministers of Culture on USP’s Pacific language programmes (27-28 April 2022)
Fiona Willans had the honour of presenting to the Fifth Meeting of the Pacific Ministers of Culture, at which 20 of the 27 Ministers were present. She provided an update on USP’s Pacific Language Programmes, currently offered in Cook Islands Māori, Fijian, Hindi, Rotuman, Tongan and Niuafoˈou, and Vagahau Niue. The Ministers endorsed the request to support the online development of USP’s Pacific language programmes, thereby helping us reach diaspora populations as well as remoter parts of individual countries.
New publication on ethnobotanical knowledge among children
Ungsitipoonporn, Siripen, Candide Simard & Julia Sallabank (2022). Plant recognition by Northern Khmer children in Ban Khanat Pring and Ban Ramboe Villages, Surin Province, Thailand. South East Asia Research, DOI: 10.1080/0967828X.2022.2038019
Abstract: This article arises from a project that explores the acquisition of ethnobotanical knowledge in Northern Khmer-speaking communities in northeast Thailand, in response to the wish expressed by villagers to preserve their knowledge of the surrounding Takah Forest. This phase of the project consisted of a quantitative pictorial recognition test, using photographs of 111 plants previously documented, with twenty-eight young participants from Ban Khanat Pring and Ban Ramboe villages. We found that useful plants (edible or medicinal) are the most frequently recognized. We tested the significance of social factors, gender and age group for predicting plant recognition among children. We found no significant difference in the scores according to gender, but counter to our expectations, the Bayesian statistics reveal it is extremely likely (91% probability) that younger children recognize more plant tokens than older children. These results suggest an erosion of local ethnobotanical knowledge as children enter their teenage years. Individual variability in recognition is further examined in the project’s next phases, using interviews with the children and the ethnographic knowledge of each child’s family. This study will serve in developing initiatives with the communities that can enhance knowledge transmission and maintenance among this group.
New publication on the potentials of a Fijian language exhibition
Tamata, Apolonia (2022). ‘Potentials of a Fijian Language Exhibition’. In KIKUSAWA Ritsuko and SANO Fumiya (eds.), Fijian Languages, Cultures, and Their Representation (Senri Ethnological Studies 108), Japan, pp.149-158.
Abstract: The Fijian Language GIS Project has a potential for disseminating scientific research results to the general public. While Fijian people are aware that there are different communalects of Fijian spoken all over Fiji, there is no place where information based on linguistics is available. What kind of information will be useful for local people and how that could be exhibited is discussed through a local researcher’s eye.
Welcome to new staff and students (March 2022)
This semester, we welcome Dr Angela Terrill who has made it over to Fiji to join us on the ground after teaching remotely for six months, and Maraia Nasau and Waisake Raliwalala who join the Fijian Studies team as TAs this year.
We also welcome Evangeline Narayan who is starting her PhD journey this semester; Pritima Singh and Purnima Din who are both starting the research components of their MA programmes; and Elizabeth Fifita who is taking up a new GA scholarship in Applied Linguistics at Tonga Campus, sponsored by SPACE.
MA Linguistics graduate Wilfred Fimone awarded PhD scholarship to Stanford (1 March 2022)
Wilfred Fimone, former gold medallist in both his BA and MA Linguistics programmes, will soon embark on the next stage of his academic journey as he is awarded a scholarship at Stanford University in the US. To quote from his acceptance letter: “The Department of Linguistics is pleased to admit you to our PhD program beginning in the Autumn Quarter 2022-23. We were extremely impressed by your qualifications and accomplishments. Based on your previous accomplishments and your statement of purpose, we strongly believe that our department would be an excellent fit for you and that you would thrive in its rich, collaborative environment.” This is a truly great achievement so congratulations Wilfred and best of luck with the next chapter!
New publication on English Medium Instruction
Willans, Fiona (2022). The scramble for EMI: lessons from postcolonial ‘old EMI’ universities. Teaching in Higher Education, 27(4), 546-557.
Abstract: While more and more universities in traditionally non-Anglophone countries are moving towards English medium instruction (EMI), those of the nominally Anglophone postcolonial world are carrying on with business as usual. Higher education in many postcolonial countries has typically only ever been available through the language of the former colonisers, so many institutions in former British colonies now find themselves ahead of the global trend. This paper considers what lessons can be learnt from postcolonial ‘old EMI’ universities, as we see more and more institutions swept up in the scramble for EMI. Universities looking to join the neo-Anglophone higher education sector would do well to learn from the decades of experience of many postcolonial universities who are still struggling to create the ideal learning and teaching environments for their students and staff through an L2 medium of instruction, and who may now be wondering why others are choosing to follow suit.
International Decade of Indigenous Languages (IDIL 2022-2032)
We have recently entered this decade that the UN has declared in celebration of indigenous languages. USP Linguistics and Languages will be holding a range of events over the coming years, in an attempt to keep the spotlight on languages, particularly those that are becoming threatened by the pressures of formal education, labour mobility and migration.
You can find out more about the decade at https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/indigenous-languages.html
Rajen Prasad co-authors a chapter with Professor Brij Lal
Staff member and PhD student, Rajen Prasad, has just had a new chapter, ‘Hindi in the Fiji Islands’, co-authored with Professor Brij Lal, published. It appears in Indian languages in the Diaspora, Volume 47 of People’s Linguistic Survey of India, edited by Vijay Kumar, and published by Orient BlackSwan.
MA graduate presents at the PIURN Conference (23 November 2021)
Evangeline Narayan gave an excellent presentation of her MA findings, ‘In search of principles of second language acquisition in Fiji’s English syllabus’, at the Pacific Islands Universities Research Network conference, and made some useful connections while she was there!
Sharing insights on navigation knowledge (25-29 October 2021)
Apolonia Tamata and Candide Simard, with their research assistants from the NaWa Project and international collaborator, Andrea Deri, gave a presentation titled ‘The contribution of autoethnography to revealing the importance of re-learning navigation knowledge for marine biodiversity conservation and adaptation to climate change in Fiji’ at the Royal Anthropological Institute’s Anthropology and Conservation Virtual Conference.
New MA in Linguistics completed on the possessive pronoun system of Tongan (1 October 2021)
Svetlana Kiseleva Afuhaˈamango’s MA thesis (Semantic variations and emphasis of possessive pronouns in Tongan) has now successfully completed its examination, so congratulations are in order once again! Both examiners commented on how original the thesis was, both in terms of the area under investigation and the methods used to conduct the study, so we look forward to seeing a publication coming out of this research in due course!
International conference presentation on languages from the Solomon Islands and PNG (2 September 2021)
Angela Terrill presented the paper “Baroque accretions and isolation: A view on language isolates”, based on three languages spoken in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea at the conference of the Societas Linguistica Europaea (SLE). The paper shows that, like many isolates, these three languages (Yélî Dnye from Rossel Island in PNG, Lavukaleve from the Russell Islands, Solomon Islands, and Tayap from the lower Sepik region of PNG) have developed what has been called “baroque accretions” (McWhorter 2001), or “mature phenomena” (Dahl 2004): extreme levels of complexity in one or more of the grammatical subsystems of the language. The paper argues that it is no coincidence that these languages have historically all been spoken far from regular contact with other languages.
New literacy research project launches (September 2021)
Nikhat Shameem has begun working with Krishneel Reddy from SPC and Loriza Rafiq and Jeremy Dorovolomo from Education on a new research project funded by SPACE: “The role of home involvement in Year 4 and Year 6 students’ literacy skills development.”
Evangeline Narayan celebrates MA success (24 August 2021)
Labasa-based student, Evangeline Narayan, is celebrating the successful completion of her MA by supervised research project in Applied Linguistics. Her study – “In search of principles of second language acquisition in the design and unpacking of Fiji’s English syllabus” – used a systematic framework of syllabus and curriculum design to look for the principles underlying the Year 5 syllabus. She concluded that there appears to be no principled approach to teaching English as a second language, and that there is no integration of the strands of listening and speaking, writing and shaping, reading and reviewing. Evangeline’s study left one of her examiner’s commenting that “an evaluation of English and all other languages being taught in our primary schools is a matter of priority if we are to rise above the issues around the literacy and numeracy skills of school leavers and university entrants”.
New BA programme in Communication and Media (5 August 2021)
The School of Pacific Arts, Communication and Education has launched a brand-new BA in Communication and Media in Semester 2 2021. This programme brings together the disciplines of Linguistics, Journalism and Marketing into a combined programme that will prepare students for jobs in the fields of Communications, Marketing, Media and Public Relations. The programme includes a work placement in the final year, as well as a specialist subject through which students can gain foundational knowledge in a particular sector in which they wish to work. Students will gain both practical training and theoretical insights into the way communication works, through courses that are designed with the Pacific context at the forefront, and therefore grounded in principles of multilingualism, inclusion and ethical practice.
New Postgraduate Diploma in Fijian Studies
Two PSERI scholarships awarded to students in Linguistics and Applied Linguistics (20 July 2021)
Two MA students will be joining SPACE in Semester 2 this year, supported by USP’s Pacific Scholarships for Excellence in Research & Innovation. Sandhya Kumari will begin her MA in Linguistics, examining lexical variation in the Banaban and i-Kiribati dialects. Tupou Singh will take up her scholarship in Applied Linguistics, developing a corpus of learner writing to examine the way present and past tense forms are (or are not) acquired in English by learners in Years 2 to 8 in Fiji.
International research project receives funding from the Hong Kong Research Council (14 July 2021)
Dr Candide Simard joins an international team of researchers working on a new three-year project ‘Comparative prosody modelling across languages’, which has received over HKD650,000 in funding from the Hong Kong Research Council. The project is led by Dr Kwing Lok Albert Lee of The Education University of Hong Kong, in collaboration with Professor Yi Xu (University College London, UK), Dr Santitham Prom-on (King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, Thailand), and Dr Candide Simard (University of the South Pacific, Fiji). This project will develop PENTAtrainer, a computational modelling tool for the study of prosody. To do so, it will use data from two languages, Cantonese and Fijian. Fijian prosody has not been systematically studied so far, so this project will contribute to enhance its description. The major objectives of the project are to promote computational modelling as a tool for theory testing and comparison; further improve the accuracy of the leading intonation synthesiser PENTAtrainer; provide first-hand acoustic data on Fijian prosody; and promote analysis-by-synthesis as a handy tool for field linguists. The final objective will be to create training materials (tutorial manual, website, and videos) for linguists who are describing lesser-studied languages. It is hoped this will pave the way for analysis-by-synthesis to become the next standard tool for the study of prosody in language documentation.
Wilfred Fimone presents international conference paper based on MA research (18 June 2021)
Recent MA graduate and gold medallist, Wilfred Fimone, attended the 13th International Austronesian and Papuan Languages and Linguistics Conference from 10-12 June, where he presented a paper based on his MA research. The conference was held virtually, due to travel restrictions, giving Wilfred the opportunity to join the conference from afar. His paper was titled ‘Revisiting religious variation in Rotuman: A phonetic variable’.
Bhagirati Bhan successfully completes SRP research (4 June 2021)
Bhagirati Bhan has successfully passed the examination stage of his MA by supervised research project on codeswitching between Standard Hindi and Fiji Hindi (in formal religious settings in Navua), with both examiners commending Bhan for filling a gap in the research, particularly at a time when Fiji Hindi remains under fire from many purist commentators on media and social media platforms.
Emeritus Professor John Lynch (8 July 1946 – 25 May 2021)
The USP family at Emalus Campus and more widely is deeply saddened to share the news of the passing away of Emeritus Professor John Lynch on 25 May 2021. John held the post of Director of USP’s Pacific Languages Unit from 1991 until his retirement in 2007. He was made Emeritus Professor of the University, an honour held by just a handful of people.
John’s first visit to Vanuatu was in 1968, when, as a young postgraduate student, he began fieldwork on the Lenakel language of Tanna. He went on to complete major studies of all the languages of Tanna, Erromango and Aneityum, before more recently doing a great deal of research and writing about the structure, history and relationship of many languages on Malakula. His studies also covered areas such as Bislama, the history of Pacific languages, and language planning and education.
Many hundreds of students acknowledge the impact made on their lives through being taught by Professor Lynch, and learning from the textbooks that he wrote. As well, as one of the forerunners of the modern study of the languages of the Pacific region, John was a trailblazer and mentor for all the other linguists who have come behind. He was held in the highest regard by them all, not only for his internationally recognised academic work, but especially for his quiet humility, his engaging wit, his generous support, and his genuine friendship. He will be sadly missed.
Image source: https://uhpjournals.wordpress.com/2017/04/26/oleditorjohnlynch/
Gold medal successes for both undergraduate and postgraduate linguists (23 April 2021)
Wilfred Fimone has been awarded the gold medal for the best Master of Arts thesis across the University submitted during 2020. His thesis investigated variation and change of glottal stop deletion in Rotuman. Shagufta Bano also picked up two gold medals as the BAGCED student with the highest GPA in both Literature/Language and Geography.
The Laucala graduation ceremony scheduled for 23 April was sadly unable to go ahead due to the recent COVID-19 restrictions. However, we congratulate all the linguists who are celebrating their successes today, including 10 graduates from the postgraduate diploma in Applied Linguistics and English Language Teaching, 5 graduates from the postgraduate diploma in Linguistics, 12 graduates from the BA in either Linguistics or Literature and Language, and 11 graduates from either the BAGCED or BEd programmes in Literature and Language.
USP Cook Islands Campus Successfully Delivers Cook Islands Māori Vernacular Course (26 March 2021)
[Original story published by USP News]
The USP Cook Islands Campus has been working hard to help deliver the skills teachers need to preserve, teach, promote and encourage the usage of Cook Islands Māori language, or Te Reo Māori Kuki Airani.
Through a leading-edge linguistics programme offered at USP, teachers in the Cook Islands can study towards either a Certificate or Diploma in Vernacular Languages: Cook Islands Māori.
This course enables teachers to enhance their knowledge and transfer these skill sets into their practice of teaching Māori.
“As the coronavirus began hurling challenges into the delivery of our summer school course in December 2020, Dr Ake Nicholas and I began deliberating about how we could facilitate the CM331 Kimi Kiteanga Kuki Airani Research Methods (Cook Islands Research Methods) course in the midst of a pandemic,” said Dr Debi Futter-Puati, Campus Director of the USP Cook Islands Campus. Through extensive discussions and planning we came up with an alternative method for the instruction of the summer school course which was to be offered for the first time.
As we went about redesigning the course, we decided to think outside of the traditional approach of one lecturer and instead invited multiple Cook Islands academics to join us and participate as guest lecturers.
Ultimately, through their generosity, this led to us being able to draw on the expertise of a prestigious lineup of Cook Islands academics to support the delivery of the course as an intensive face to face class from 4 – 22 January.
Over three weeks, the students had the occasion to listen to thirteen Cook Islands researchers share their ideas about taking a uniquely Cook Islands approach to their research.
Each presenter shared their specific research, while also focusing on how they took Indigenous Cook Islands approaches within their practice. These lectures ensured the students were ably equipped to design their action research project to investigate the status of Cook Islands Māori language in their own settings. The teachers are now completing their action research projects in their schools. Findings will be presented at a research symposium later in the year.
Dr Christina Newport, a post-doctoral research fellow at Auckland University, described the course as “vitally important”. Dr Newport added, “If we are able to take this particular course and put in front of them (Cook Islanders) who are researchers, it is not only going to add to the type of research they undertake, but also the way in which they carry this out, therefore, privileging our own local language and our own perspectives to come up with solutions that work for here [Cook Islands]”. She went on to say, “It’s making use of their perspectives as Cook Islanders; as people living, breathing, teaching Cook Islands languages in a way that hasn’t been done before.”
Dr Futter-Puati believes this may be the first time that a USP course has involved such a group of academics to deliver a course. She said USP were very privileged and thankful to the academics for the gift of their time and wisdom in delivering this course.
The academics that participated in the programme were: Dr Ake Nicholas – Linguistics (Massey University), Eliza Puna PhD candidate – Mental Health (University of Auckland), Dr Evangelene Daniela-Wong – Moana Mana Youth at risk (Te Marae Ora), Dr Christina Newport – Vaka Moana Climate Change (University of Auckland), Professor Tania Ka’ai – Indigenous Research Methodologies (Auckland University of Technology), Dr Teina Rongo – Marine Science, Makiuti Tongia – Cook Islands research methods, Professor Bobbie Hunter – use of cultural context for mathematics (Massey University), Dr Neti Herman – youth health (University of Auckland), Associate Professor Jodie Hunter – Pasifika mathematics (Massey University), Associate Professor Yvonne Underhill-Sem – gender and migration (University of Auckland), Dr Debi Futter-Puati – Tivaevae and sexuality (USP) and Dr Ali Glasgow – revitalising reo Kuki Airani in ECE (Victoria University of Wellington)
This course will continue to be offered at the Cook Islands Campus in the future.