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Iaai today : between linguistic modernization and obsolescence. A study of the evolutions of Ouvea’s language (Loyalty Island, New Caledonia)


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Anne-Laure DOTTE

Scientific framework and objectives

Within the framework of the DTV and LED-TDR research groups, this PhD thesis (defended on December, 11th 2013) describes the modernization of iaai, an Oceanic language (Austronesian) from New Caledonia (Ouvea, Loyalty Islands). It is supervised by Colette Grinevald (DDL) and Claire Moyse-Faurie (LACITO) and funded by a grant from the Government of New Caledonia (Prix d’Encouragement à la Recherche, November 2010 – November 2013). The French linguist Françoise Ozanne-Rivierre published 35 years ago a grammar and a dictionary of Iaai, which are the basis for the comparison with today's Iaai. The modern data come from three fieldtrips conducted both in Ouvea Island and in the urban context of Noumea (2009, 2010, 2012), thanks to grants from DDL and LACITO research centers. Complementary data come from an intensive collaboration with a native speaker in Lyon (France). The data show two distinct dynamisms of evolution in the language: (i) linguistic obsolescence phenomena, such as the reduction of the consonant inventory or the attrition of the genitive classifiers’ system; (ii) modernization processes, such as different ways of coining neologisms and their integration into the Iaai’s structure. Finally, an extensive part of the study is dedicated to a sociolinguistic evaluation of the modern ecology of the language, considering Iaai’s vitality and the diversity of types of speakers of an endangered or minority language within a context of language contact and language conflict.


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