English in Kiribati: a historical, linguistic and sociophonetic report on a Micronesian variety - PhDData

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English in Kiribati: a historical, linguistic and sociophonetic report on a Micronesian variety

The thesis was published by Leonhardt, Tobias, in September 2022, University of Bern.


The 33 islands of Kiribati are situated in Micronesia, in the middle of the Pacific. Contact between islanders and Europeans only began towards the end of the 18th century and has never been intense. No immediately discernible changes were introduced when the islands were eventually claimed by the British; the English language was hardly ever heard. After the Second World War, decolonisation was worked towards and considerably more attention was paid to education, particularly that of English, but progress was slow. Kiribati became independent in 1979 and English an official language to which most have positive attitudes. Moreover, instrumental motivations are commonplace: many want to learn it in order to secure local employment, to participate in international study or labour mobility programs, or to safeguard for a future that is uncertain in light of climate change issues making life on Kiribati more and more difficult. This dissertation is the first sociolinguistic report of English in Kiribati of its kind. It consists of three main parts: firstly, a historical account of how English has arrived and spread; secondly, a detailed description of features of phonetics and phonology, grammar and syntax, lexis and pragmatics, as well as of language use and linguistic attitudes; and thirdly, a sociophonetic analysis of alveolar plosives. These investigations reveal that issues in the educational system prevail and English proficiency levels remain low, that a high degree of substrate influence and parallels to other learner varieties exist, and that affrication establishes a new contrast between alveolar plosive phonemes.

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