Language ecology, language policy and pedagogical practice in a Papua New Guinea Highland community

Francesca Merlan, Alan Rumsey

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    In this article we consider the relations among school language policy, pedagogical practice in a community school, and language ecology over the past 34 years in a community in the Nebilyer Valley in the Western Highlands Province of PNG. The local language Ku Waru is still being learned as a first language by all the children there and so is not immediately `endangered. But one of our main observations over several decades has been the advance of Tok Pisin, as indicated by earlier competence in it on the part of young children, and more widespread speakership among women and older people. Between 2011 and 2013 there was a sharp increase in the number of children who were learning Tok Pisin along with Ku Waru by the age of 2 ½. This resulted in part from an initiative taken by some parents to expose their children to Tok Pisin from an early age on the assumption that it would give them a head start in school. School policy has undergone several changes, from English-only to transitional bilingual education in Ku Waru and English, to the abandonment of that model in 2013. A consistent directive during all that time has been to prohibit or minimize the use of Tok Pisin in school, so that its greater diffusion cannot be seen as the direct result of policy. It has proceeded nevertheless, for a variety of reasons including greater mobility, wider communication networks, and progressively greater preferential use of Tok Pisin in church services.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)82-96
    JournalJournal of the Linguistics Society of Papua New Guinea
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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