Minggu, 24 Januari 2010

Jayapura's Coastal Languages On The Brink of Extinction

'The widespread use of Bahasa Indonesia has not only sped updevelopment in the province, but also killed off local languages."This is a welcome development for Bahasa Indonesia, but not forlocal languages. Bahasa Indonesia has threatened the existenceof local languages, especially in urban areas where interactionswith outsiders (non-Papuans) are very intensive," saidSupriyanto Widodo, the head of Jayapura's Language Center.] also: Workers in the field of languages tread new territoryThe Jakarta PostMonday, November 05, 2007Jayapura's coastal languages on the brink of extinctionAngel Flassy , The Jakarta Post, JayapuraHerman Rumadi Hamadi, 88, could not hide his anguish when askedabout the number of people still speaking the local language inhis village."I'm not sure, but I guess there are only six people who canspeak Tobati fluently," said Herman, the tribal chief of Tobativillage on the northern coast of Papua."Once the six die, the language will disappear," said Herman,admitting that he himself was no longer using the language ofhis ancestors.Herman has every reason to worry. The six people who still speakTobati are all over 60 years old, while the young are morefluent in Bahasa Indonesia than in their mother tongue, thanksto the widespread use of the national language.That situation has been exacerbated by the fact that more andmore Tobati villagers have opted to move to the provincialcapital of Jayapura where they communicate in Bahasa Indonesia."All of Jayapura and Abepura used to be our communal land, butnow our sago plantations have been urbanized and we livealongside newcomers," said the ondoafi (tribal chief) who livesin Entrop, Jayapura.The Kayu Pulau tribe in Jayapura and the Nafri community inAbepura, too, are being culturally overwhelmed by the pace ofdevelopment, forcing them to increasingly abandon their regionallanguage.According to Herman, Tobati people have been in contact with theoutside world since the 1600s and by the end of the 1800s, theDutch government had made this village an administrative center,triggering rapid economic growth.It is no surprise, therefore, that Herman himself has beenspeaking Malay since he was a child. Intermarriages withnewcomers have only hastened the desertion of the language."Our grandchildren speak Bahasa Indonesia fluently. They seem tohave no roots because even though they are Tobati people theydon't speak the language. How can we perform our customs, dancesand other ceremonies in the Tobati language?" asked the fatherof 10, who claimed to be very tough in teaching Tobati languageto his children.Herman said traditional songs, poems and dances were no longerperformed and Tobati songs, poems and dances showcased invarious arts festivals in Jayapura or other parts of the countryhailed not from Tobati village but from Papua New Guinea or werecontemporary creations of Tobati artists."This is really worrisome. If the Tobati language disappears,our culture will also vanish and we will become strangers in ourown land."The fact is many elements of our culture are no longerpracticed. Our grandchildren can no longer sing and dance theSerme dance, which was usually performed to greet people cominghome from fishing or the Yawo dance and song, which wasperformed when people brought new boats from the forest to thesea because such traditions are no longer practiced," Hermansaid.He said young people in the village preferred to become civilservants or work in the private sector than to become fisherman."The forests where local people used to make boats have turnedinto towns," he said.Articles and dances containing magic vanished with the arrivalof Christianity in Papua. "Traditions, magic and belief in thespirits of our ancestors have been replaced with Malay hymns,thus there is a gradual shift away from the use of regionallanguages," Herman said.Herman urges the government to help preserve the language, whichis only spoken by six elderly people."If the government could provide compensation for travelexpenses and set up training centers, we would be very eager toteach this language to the younger generation," said Herman,adding that with the Tobati people living in different parts ofJayapura, meeting places were needed for the language courses.Aksamina Awinero, 41, ondoafi Obed Awinero's child in Nafrivillage, shares the same feeling. "We used to speak Nafri to ourchildren, but when they went to school they spoke BahasaIndonesia more than Nafri and now they speak very little Nafri,"said the mother of seven.Data issued by the education and culture office in Jayapurarevealed that in 1991 only 800 people in Tobati and Injrosvillages were still using the Tobati language, while otherregional languages, Nafri and Kayu Pulau, were spoken by 1,630and 573 people respectively.It also showed there were 249 regional languages in theprovince, meaning about the same number of tribes. According toSummer International Linguistics (SIL) in 2004, Papua has 264languages, with Malay, later known as Bahasa Indonesia, servingas a bridge through which the hundreds of Papuan languages meet.Bahasa Indonesia also allows Papuans to communicate, interactand enter inter-tribe marriages.The widespread use of Bahasa Indonesia has not only sped updevelopment in the province, but also killed off local languages."This is a welcome development for Bahasa Indonesia, but not forlocal languages. Bahasa Indonesia has threatened the existenceof local languages, especially in urban areas where interactionswith outsiders (non-Papuans) are very intensive," saidSupriyanto Widodo, the head of Jayapura's Language Center.The center's 2005 and 2006 research findings gave reason forconcern over the serious condition of the three languages inTobati-Injros, Kayu Pulau-Kayu Batu and Nafri."We predict that after three generations these three regionallanguages will disappear unless local communities themselves andthe government undertake efforts to preserve them," he said.It also found out that people who still speak local languagesare above 40 years old, with younger generations having only apassive comprehension of their languages.Assuming that a generation spans about 20 years, within 60 yearsthose regional languages will disappear, owing to local people'slimited appreciation of their own languages."Nafri has the lowest number of mothers using the language andthis is alarming because mothers spearhead the use and teachingof regional languages, hence the term mother tongue," Widodosaid.Widodo also said the perception that the use of regionallanguages hampered interactions with "outsiders" had promptedpeople to abandon their mother tongue."People think using their mother tongue curtails their access toscientific, social and economic domains," continued Widodo.The Language Center has documented 180 local languages all overPapua and West Papua since its establishment in 2002."We prioritized the vocabulary of 200 universally used words andover 1,000 cultural words, making the total entries about 1,600per village," Widodo said, adding that they excluded standardgrammatical rules.He also said some regency administrations had documented locallanguages. Biak regency, for instance, has produced a dictionaryand grammar books. It also obliges local schools to teach Biakin schools. Fak-fak regency has funded the publication of Ihadictionary publication.With its limited resources, the Jayapura Language Center hascomposed the dictionaries of Maybrat/South Sorong, Sentani andJayapura languages."Our target is to combine these works and publish an Indonesianregional language map in 2008," Widodo said.------------------------------------
The Jakarta Post Monday, November 05, 2007

Workers in the field of languages tread new territory

Janika Gelinek , The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Once upon a time, Ungan and Awé decided not to go home afterworking in the fields. Instead, they stayed by a river andgoofed around with a dog.They were sending the dog to and fro over the water whensuddenly stone rain came down, turning them into stones. Andtheir crime? They did not come home and make fun of a dog.The story could have been lost had Italian linguist AntoniaSoriente from the Max Planck Institute of EvolutionaryAnthropology in Jakarta not gone and documented Oma Longh andLebu' Kulit languages in Malinau and Bulungan regency in EasternKalimantan.Oma Longh and Lebu' Kulit, in which the story above wasnarrated, are just two of the endangered languages in Indonesia,spoken only by a few thousand people in Malinau and Bulungan."When you look at what is happening around you, you seelanguages dying on a large scale, especially in the eastern partof Indonesia such as Papua and the Maluku islands," said UriTadmor of the Jakarta Field Station.Established in 1999 by Uri Tadmor and David Gil, the JakartaField Station started off by collecting data on child language.In collaboration with the Jakarta Atma Jaya Catholic University,it is currently hosting about 25 researchers from Indonesia andabroad who are studying Indonesian languages from the islands ofWest Sumatra all the way to Papua.Indonesia has around 700 languages, but the widespread use ofBahasa Indonesia has pushed many of those languages to the brinkof extinction, placing the national language on a par withEnglish, Spanish and French as "killer" languages.According to Tadmor, there are many reasons why languages in thecountry are facing extinction, including people's low level ofrespect for indigenous languages.the speakers themselves don'tattach much importance to their own languages," said Tadmor,adding that the children of inter-race couples tended to speakonly Bahasa Indonesia."Indigenous languages are also not used in the education system,and thus their survival is neither financially nor politicallysupported," Tadmor said.In theory, any indigenous language can be taught in a stateelementary school. But in reality, schools usually offer onlyJavanese, Sundanese and Balinese, and rarely would these be theprimary language of instruction."It is totally meaningless to the kids and the kids hate it,"Tadmor said.According to Tadmor, there is not much hope the situation willbe reversed as these languages are generally considered notworth keeping."It's a vicious circle. People who speak a small indigenouslanguage come to look down on their language, because there isno official recognition of it," said Tadmor, adding that onlynon-nationals had come here to work with indigenous communities.The researchers at the field station are studying how languagescross, enrich and endanger each other, with many of themfocusing on endangered languages."Languages reflect a view of the world. They are an essentialcomponent of the living heritage of humanity, therefore theybelong to the intangible cultural heritage that needs to besafeguarded," Italian linguist Antonia Soriente said."Languages are vehicles of value systems and of culturalexpressions and they constitute a determining factor in theidentity of groups and individuals. They transmit knowledge,values and collective memory and play an essential role incultural vitality."A book Soriente carefully edited - Mencaleny & Usung BayungMarang - a collection of Kenyah stories in Oma Longh and Lebu'Kulit languagesis a first in more than one sense. Not only havethese stories never been translated into Indonesian or English,they have not even been written down.In order to give access to the Kenyah stories of Ungan and Awéor the clever Mpé and her stupid husband Buzu, Soriente had todevelop a new orthographic system for the entirely orallanguages."Linguists are not really social workers. We are not activistswho try to go to the field and say, hey, you need to speak yourlanguage. But we want to raise awareness of linguistic diversityand give something back to the community and some tools withwhich, if they want to, they can help their language tosurvive", says Soriente.When the book was published last year it was first sent to thecommunities that had been involved in the project."They were quite startled to see that something had emerged,that their language had been written down and that it waswritten next to Bahasa Indonesia and English. They said, `Oh,now we can study English through our language!'"During Soriente's visit, the Malinau regent made for the veryfirst time a speech entirely in the local language of Lebu'Kulit and people also started using the new orthographic systemto send text messages."Suddenly they realized there is no law that says you have touse only Bahasa Indonesian", Soriente said.Her colleague Betty Litamahuputty has had similar experiences.Litamahuputty participates in a team that has intensivelystudied the highly endangered languages of the Maluku islands,among them Kouro, spoken only in five villages on the island ofSeram. Together with linguists from Australia's MonashUniversity and the local communities, Litamahuputty developedstorybooks in Kouro. Teams were formed among the villagers andsent out to literally document their language."We gave them some cameras and they had to figure out what kindof event they wanted to document. It was the clove-harvestseason. They were taking pictures of what they thought wasimportant about the harvest. And then they had to ask thevillage people or somebody who knew the language how to say thisor that in Kouro. And then they tried to write it down. In thisway they were able to make their own storybooks bilingual, inMalay and the local language. And that was to show that by verysimple means they could make their own storybook, which theycould use in school for instance. Just with a notebook, a cameraand a pen you can make a book about whatever you want," saidLitamahuputty.Furthermore a story in Malay has been developed by projectleader Margaret Florey about a family going in the woods andworking there in a garden, the "garden story". This story hasbeen "fed" with significant linguistic structures to find outhow speakers from different local communities on Seram islandwould translate the same story in their language.Additionally the linguists made vitality tests in order to seewhether the inhabitants could still communicate in theirlanguage or only knew a few words. As expected it turned outthat in many cases elderly people still had some knowledge ofthe language, but only a few people were actually able to have aconversation in it.Surprisingly the patterns were the same in Christian and Muslimvillages, such as in Allang and Ruta."People always thought indigenous languages were more likely tobe preserved in Muslim villages, but instead they had the samecurve as the Christian villages, where we already know that thelanguage has died out," said Litamahuputty.A workbook used in workshops with local communities will bepublished next year to demonstrate not only how to learn alanguage, but also how to gather information from local speakers- how to make sentences, how to figure out their structure andwhat the grammar might be like."Thus, local communities might take the survival of theirlanguage into their own hands," Litamahuputty said.

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