Unlike previous LSLM studies which have focused on small communities in the region, this study examines language choice patterns of the Bidayuh, a minority community with a population of approx. 170,000 speakers. The Bidayuh language is a minority language in terms of its status, in relation to languages of other major groups, i.e. Malay & Iban, & English, as a language of “prestige” in the socio-economic sense. The Bidayuh is the 4 th largest ethnic community after Iban, Chinese & Malay. he Bidayuh speech community i.e. the “Bidayuh Belt” which constitutes four major areas is still intact, but its proximity to the capital city makes it more susceptible to outside influences and greater social pressure to assimilate with major groups. Sarawak as a sociolinguistic setting is a multilingual society. Multilingualism is a norm in this region. Given that, the existence of bilingualism does not necessarily lead to language shift. Nonetheless, the Bidayuh community depicts one that is experiencing an on-going language shift. The signs of active shift commonly described in LSLM studies (c.f. England 1988 on the Mayan community) have emerged in this community. For e.g. some Bidayuh children especially in urban centres are not learning the Bidayuh language as first language. Non-acquisition of the mother tongue and passive competency in the mother tongue are not isolated cases. Community leaders have also expressed their concern of the declining proficiency among Bidayuh children in urban centres. The earliest sign of shift occurs when one language encroaches into the domains that used to be reserved for the mother tongue (Fasold 1984).
Investigates the variability of language choice patterns among educated Bidayuh speakers in Kuching-Samarahan Division, and attempts to explain certain factors for the variations and the phenomenon of language shift. The main thrusts of the study consist the following: a. To ascertain whether there is a trend towards major languages, namely English and/or Malay, and if there is, who are leading the trend, its sources, and what are the motivations for the trend. b. To examine the implication of the trend, posing the question: Does the pattern of language preferences of the graduates indicate a possibility of an on-going language shift among members within this social category? c.To examine factors that dictate the language choice patterns of the graduates. The study posits that the educated Bidayuh vary in their language preferences. It is posited that the source of this language variation is the changing socio-cultural values and aspiration of the speakers as a result of macro-sociological factors such as urbanisation, inter-ethnic and inter-dialectal marriages, rural-urban migration, and language policy. d.To describe the nature of societal and individual bilingualism in this community. The choice a language speaker makes in interaction is also dictated by the practice of societal bilingualism in the community. Hence, the study attempts to find whether this is also the case with the Bidayuh community.
Specifically, the study deals with the following research questions: a.What is (or are) the dominant language(s) used by the educated Bidayuh in each of the following settings: home, workplace, recreational places (the social domain) and worshipping places (domain of the religion) b.What are the dominant factors influencing choice of language in each setting? c.What is the extent of language shift among the Bidayuh graduates? How did language shift occur for some speakers, and why? d. What is the choice of language of the Bidayuh graduates in intra-ethnic interaction (with group members), and what are the factors determining the choice? e. What is the choice of language of the Bidayuh graduates in inter-ethnic interaction (with other ethnic groups), and what are the factors determining the choice? f.What are the social-cultural-economic-political changes the educated Bidayuh are subjected to, and how have these changes interacted and influenced their language choice patterns in daily interaction?
Data for the study was collected by means of : (i) Semi-structured interview investigating language choice patterns of the educated Bidayuh with various types of interlocutors in various settings (61 respondents) (ii) Observation of language behavior of the graduates in inter- and intra-ethnic interactions, and (iii) Interview with community leaders (12 people)
This study has benefited from the existence of extensive literature in two inter- related fields: (i)The study of language choice, and (ii)The study of social variation in language and linguistic change. The study adopts theories from the macro-sociological construct (Fishman, 1965/1986) as well as the methods of observation from the interactional approach in data collection and analysis (Bloom & Gumperz, 1972). From the study of social variation in language, this study applies the notion of “speaker variation in language choice” and the “implicational scaling” technique (c.f. Gal, 1979; Li Wei, 1994) in its framework of analysis. By means of such construct, it was possible to describe the process of language shift, and to show it is “speaker variables” rather than “social variables” (e.g. age, gender) as major variables in description of the process of language shift. Language shift is a gradual process, and it should be clear to the researcher before embarking on LSLM study. By employing the speaker variation framework, this study has identified the social profiles of speakers that are initiating changes in language choice patterns in this community and the motivations leading to shift. (Insert implicational scaling technique)(Insert implicational scaling technique)
Categorisation A Categorisation B Setting Speaker Language Demography123 Sociology456 Linguistics789 Psychology101112 History131415 Politics/law/government161718 Geography192021 Education222324 Religion252627 Economics282930 The Media313233 *Literacy (Grenoble and Whaley,1998) 343536
Bidayuh as a threatened language On-going language shift is taking place within the community among educated Bidayuh. First, shift is largely due to changing norms of language use in the home domain, the domain critical for inter-generational transmission of the community language. The language choice patterns of the Bidayuh graduates have indicated the existence of a trend towards the use of English in this community. The “superiority” of the English language perceived as a language crucial for social mobility and economic advancement has motivated educated members of this community to inculcate the use of English at home. This view has its roots in the changing mindset of members of the community. However, the trend has proven to be detrimental to the continuous survival of the community language in families of educated Bidayuh. It deprives Bidayuh children in these families of the natural environment (i.e. the home) to acquire the Bidayuh language. Secondly, the encroachment of Malay and English in the domain traditionally reserved for the use of the community language seems inevitable because of widespread occurrences of inter-ethnic and inter- dialectal marriages. A common language is needed not only between couples and their children within the core family, but also in communication among extended family members. These circumstances do not support retention of the mother tongue..
Third, minority communities in urban setting, as is the case with the educated Bidayuh, would assume urban norms after a prolonged stay in cities. Assimilation and social acceptance by the larger community is the aim that members of minority communities would want to achieve to adapt to the new situation. As a consequence, community members may come to view loosely the link between community language and one’s ethnicity particularly if they are less attached to the community. The social norm whereby the community language is spoken to express solidarity with group members is changing for urban Bidayuh. This norm is only adhered to when they visit Bidayuh villages. Above all, this study points to the ambivalent attitude of the Bidayuh speakers towards the Bidayuh language to symbolise ethnic identity as a major factor leading to the occurrence of language shift in Bidayuh families in urban centres.
Although this study has not attempted specifically to make predictions as to whether the Bidayuh language will survive in this community, the findings of the study have given greater insights into the Bidayuh language situation. Whether the Bidayuh language is retained or otherwise as main language in daily interaction of its community members depends on the following speaker variables: Type of parentage, Type of marriage, Family upbringing (e.g. language orientation at home), School influence, Language experience in formative years, (e.g. uprooted from the Bidayuh community in childhood), Degree of attachment to community life in Bidayuh villages, and Language attitudes. In relation to the survival of the mother tongue in the near future, the factors of attitudes towards own language and demography will determine the direction of shift.
Social variables vs. speaker variables This study has shown that “speaker variables” rather than “social variables” or social factors (e.g. age, gender) as major variables to be examined in description of the process of language shift. In this study, the following speaker variables are major factors that have accounted for inter- speaker variation in language choice patterns Social circle of speakers Language experiences and socialisation process in formative years Degree of bilingualism and competency in language Degree of attachment to village community Type of marriage (if they are married) Type of parentage Family orientation Language shift is a gradual process, and it should be clear to the researcher before embarking on LSLM study. By employing the speaker variation framework, this study has identified the social profiles of speakers that are initiating changes in language choice patterns in this community and the motivations leading to shift. Are the factor of “age” and “gender” important variables in language shift studies? Not in this setting. Educated Bidayuh speakers irrespective of age-groups and gender are shifting to major languages. j.
What does the study informs us of societal & individual bilingualism? Individual bilingual practice to a large extent is dictated by community norms. Community norms may be maintained through institutional norm enforcement agencies e.g. workplace, school, media etc. So, the use of language specific to a domain is a form of norm-enforcement. The degree of individual bilingualism varies between speakers which is how languages are put to use by the speakers. The various forms of bilingual practice among individual speakers in communities reflect the attitudes and perceptions speakers have towards languages, which are also influenced by societal form of bilingualism. This study has also shown that the “recessive” form of bilingual practice is an added factor threatening the survival of the mother tongue in this community.
In more formalised settings, e.g. the workplace and the church, the norm of language use specific to a particular domain is shown to exert a greater influence on language choice. Whereas in the informal domains such as the social domain, language choice is not domain-specific; speaker’s social circle is a major factor for variations in patterns of language choice. It is suggested that social circle is a form of non-institutional norm enforcement agency that has accounted for the dominant use of the Sarawak Malay dialect among younger Bidayuh speakers in this study. Likewise, in the home domain, language choice is dictated by the norm of language use in intra-community interaction. Social norm that places the community language as an expression of cultural and ethnic identity is valued; and this is translated into language behaviour. Nevertheless, the norm of language use in home domain is changing, and is threatening inter-generational continuity of the Bidayuh language.
The macro- and micro-analyses of language choice patterns in various settings and domains of language use have indicated different factors at work dictating choice. Social norms governing the use of language in various domains provide possible social constraints dictating choice. Social circle is also another dominant factor that has dictated patterns of choice. At the micro-level, choice need not necessarily be a single language; multilinguals may code-switch between languages or employ “mixed” patterns.micro-level, Where the situation is less constrained by the formality of the situation, language choice is dictated by various social parameters: ethnicity, level of education, and common language shared between participants in interaction. Social symbolism (meaning) of language may varies in- and out-group situations. Social distance between speakers may take precedence over the factor of solidarity with group members. On the whole, it is concluded that choice of language is negotiated between participants in interaction according to their intentions and the contexts of the situation.
The ecological landscape of the Bidayuh language has undergone and continues to undergo modification as a result of the socio-cultural transformation of the Bidayuh community. The transformation has lead to changes in perceptions towards languages and the reassessment of the roles and functions of various languages within the community’s language repertoire. The multifunction of Malay and English in this community has placed the community language in a disadvantaged position. In addition, they are used as “linking languages” (Mulhausler 1977:10) in inter- ethnic as well as inter-dialectal interactions. The Bidayuh predicament is also a consequence of language contact, i.e. widespread occurrence of mixed marriages, and unintelligibility between various isolects within the Bidayuh speech system which prevent community members from communicating in the Bidayuh language. In view of these constraints in the use of the community language, it is proposed that perhaps the idea of having a single dialect for intra-ethnic interaction could be worked on. This move may reduce the community’s dependency on Malay and English in inter-dialectal communication although linguistic diversity of the Bidayuh speech system can be adversely affected.
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