|Title:|| ||Language use and policy in a linguistically fragmented refugee community
|Date of publication:|| ||November 2004|
"The context of this dissertation is the conflict-ridden attempt in Burma to
create a unitary nation state, also the parallel attempt by the Karenni political
opposition, based in refugee camps in Thailand, to create a viable nation-inopposition
from the many Karenni ethnolinguistic groups. New data is
presented on language use at public sites in one of the two Thailand-based
Karenni refugee camps, where 11 languages are in daily use. Observations at
schools, public meetings, acts of worship and shops, and exit interviews at
clinics, show that public language use is dominated by the use of Karenni
(Kayah), Burmese and English, with lesser-used community languages in a
state of critical decline.
Karenni and Burmese predominate in spoken language, while Burmese and
English are the most important languages in written discourse. In schools the
use of Karenni declines as students move up through the system, while the
use of English and Burmese increases. Although 23% of the camp population
are speakers of languages other than Karenni and Burmese, these other
languages are underrepresented at the sites investigated. At schools minor
languages feature mainly in the speech of students who are probably
explaining to each other what their teacher is saying in Burmese or Karenni.
At public meetings, minor languages play a similar role, featuring in nonofficial
speech overheard by observers; official speech is dominated by Karenni and Burmese. At shops, there are clusters of locations where minor
languages are used, but the vast majority of transactions are in Karenni or
Burmese. Language use at Christian places of worship depends on the
denomination of the church. Catholic churches use Karenni, with one or two
also using Burmese; and Baptist churches use Karen with some Burmese.
Written texts in churches vary, with some in Karen, some in Karenni roman
script and a few in Karenni camp script. At all churches the phenomenon of
congregations praying in several first languages simultaneously was
observed. At clinics, the language of consultation was either Karenni or
English accounts for 31% of writing or use of written texts at the sites
observed. However, the use of English as the preferred medium of
instruction in upper secondary schools has been limited by lack of teachers'
proficiency and lack of texts in English. Burmese continues to be the leading
medium of instruction in the upper school system.
About one third of the population of Kayah state has been displaced since
1996, and at least two fifths of its villages destroyed or relocated for security
reasons. Many refugees have been displaced from monolingual villages.
Those who now live in Karenni northern camp find themselves in a
linguistically complex environment where in some cases their own language
now cannot probably be used in the local shop, and is not supported in the
school system at any level. Although some of these languages, for example
Kayan, have quite large core communities elsewhere, some do not, and these
languages must now be at risk of disappearing completely. They include
Kay aw, Manaw and Bre."|
|Author/creator:|| ||Richard Sproat|
|Source/publisher:|| ||Macquire University (dissertation)|
|Format/size:|| ||html, pdf|
|Date of entry/update:|| ||09 December 2005|