Modern Huli Society: 1

(Copyright © 1998 G. C. J. Lomas; Photos copyright © 1998 Malachy McBride, ofmcap, and Maris Goetz, ofmcap)

 This section attempts to give an account of sociolinguistic changes that have occurred since white people began to settle in Huliland.

he foregoing vignette
of 'traditional' Huli society provides a context in which Huli language and culture can be discussed and appreciated.  Malinowski (1923) long ago argued that language can only be properly understood if we know the context of culture and the context of situation in which it is uttered.  Firth built on this, suggesting that knowledge of context of situation  - which he spelt out in some detail (Firth 1957: 181-182; Palmer 1968: 137-166) - was necessary for descriptive purposes, too.  Coming from a different perspective, Boas (Blount 1974:12-31) reinforced this view of the language-society relationship by arguing that knowledge of a society's language is the key to understanding its structures and its patterns of behaviour. 

However, context of culture and context of situation are not static, but in a constant state of flux.  A description of a community's language needs to take this into account, and to go beyond 'freeze-frame' vignettes such as that presented above.  Since society and language are inextricably intertwined, historically and existentially inseparable, social change and language change are necessarily bound up together.  Shifts in language co-occur with changes in social behaviour and in social structures. 

Some indications of language change have already been encountered. For instance, loan terms (marked with an *)  borrowed Huli man with panpipesfrom other languages crop up everywhere, such as garo* car, wedi* wait, goti* court, sarere* week and hanare* hundred.  These items, and  the concepts they represent, show that the language is changing and adapting as the behaviour and structures of Huli society change.

Semantic shifts, such as ege moon --> month and mali dance --> year, indicate that adaptation and change are not just a matter of lexical borrowing.  The process is a complex one, and will be briefly described within its socio-cultural context.
Language and society are viewed in this account as inter-woven members of a change continuum which, for ease of description, is considered as consisting of six segments or phases.  Sociolinguistic change is described in terms of the influence of Tok Pisin and English on Huli and the concomitant changes in social structures and social behaviour.

Tok Pisin is the trade language introduced from the New Guinea half of Papua New Guinea.  It is patterned on the Austronesian languages of the South-Western Pacific, being descended from Bichelamar, or Beach-La-Mar, a 19th century English based lingua franca of the South Pacific that came from English-Chinese Pidgin (cf Wurm 1973).

English was introduced into the Huli area at the same time as  Tok Pisin, but has taken longer to make an impact.  It was used from the beginning as the medium of education in the school systems established by missionary and civil administrations, the children acquiring the language in the classroom.

I will designate the Huli language as H, Tok Pisin as P, and English as E.  L1 indicates first language (H), and L2 second or other language/s (P and/or E).  P words will be underlined.