Research into the ways in which multilingual people use different languages in the course of their everyday lives has led to important scientific discoveries about the cognitive, social, and cultural aspects of language. One type of multilingualism that is increasingly prevalent under pressures from globalization occurs in small, tight-knit communities wherein one of the languages being spoken is endangered. The importance of scientific investigations of these situations is twofold. First, little is known about the processes at play when multilingual people shift away from one of the languages. Second, the endangered language, which encapsulates important knowledge, often has been the least documented and researched. One important example of this situation is found in the Nasal speech community in southwest Sumatra, a region full of linguistic diversity and exceptionally complex multilingual situations. What is striking about this multilingual community is that the endangered language, Nasal, was not known by linguists until 2007, and to date it has not been the subject of any significant research. Yet, preliminary fieldwork reveals Nasal has unique linguistic properties, such as unique verbal affixes that present disparate meanings related to the "completeness" of an action. This project is an international collaboration between the University of Hawai'i at Manoa (UHM), Atma Jaya Catholic University of Indonesia, and Nasal community. It will provide important training in linguistics to faculty and community members in Indonesia, and students in the US and Indonesia. It will also foster binational relationships between the US and Indonesia. The broader impacts also include the professional development of a UHM doctoral student and a public repository of recordings of speech events and their transcriptions that can be accessed by scholars from the US and Indonesia and Nasal community members.

This project will document the linguistic practices of the Nasal speech community, which represents an especially complex sociolinguistic situation in Bengkulu province, Indonesia. This community is multilingual where Nasal (nsy), an endangered Malayo-Polynesian isolate with little existing documentation, is used alongside South Barisan Malay (SBM; pse) and Kaur (vkk) in everyday interactions. The primary aim of this project is to document Nasal in all of its multilingual complexity. Thus, this project will produce extensive audiovisual documentation of Nasal in its multilingual context accompanied by a comprehensive grammatical description. These materials provide crucial data into the study of multilingualism in tight-knit communities, the history of western Indonesia, and the nature of unique verbal affixes in Nasal. Furthermore, as historical linguists and archeologists piece together the history of western Indonesia, additional data from Nasal has the potential to radically alter this picture. Specific activities include: (i) assemble a large audiovisual corpus of the linguistic practices of the Nasal speech community, (ii) compile a multilingual lexicon, (iii) mentor a doctoral student who will write a dissertation on Nasal, and (iv) draft a Nasal reference grammar and Kaur sketch grammar.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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University of Hawaii
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