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Historical sociolinguistics in colonial New Guinea: The Rhenish mission society in the Astrolabe Bay

  • The Rhenish Mission Society, a German Protestant mission, was active in a small part of northern New Guinea, the Astrolabe Bay, between 1887 and 1932. Up until 1914, this region was under German colonial rule. The German dominance was also reflected in rules on language use in official contexts such as schools and administration. Missionaries were strongly affected by such rules as their most important tool in mission work was language. In addition, they were also responsible for school education as most schools in the German colonial areas in the Pacific were mission-run. Thus, mission societies had to make decisions about what languages to use, considering their own needs, their ideological convictions, and the colonial government’s requirements. These considerations were framed by the complex setting of New Guinea’s language wealth where several hundred languages were, and still are, spoken. This paper investigates a small set of original documents from the Rhenish Mission Society to trace what steps were taken and what considerations played a major role in the process of agreeing on a suitable means of communication with the people the missionaries wanted to reach, thereby touching upon topics such as language attitudes, language policies and politics, practical considerations of language learning and language spread, and colonial actions impacting local language ecologies.

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Author:Doris Stolberg
Parent Title (English):Journal of historical sociolinguistics
Publisher:de Gruyter
Place of publication:Berlin
Document Type:Article
Year of first Publication:2017
Date of Publication (online):2017/04/28
Tag:German mission society; New Guinea; colonial language contact; language politics
GND Keyword:Astrolabe-Bay; Deutsche; Kolonialismus; Missionsgesellschaft; Papua-Neuguinea; Sprache; Sprachpolitik
First Page:55
Last Page:92
Dieser Beitrag ist mit Zustimmung des Rechteinhabers aufgrund einer (DFG geförderten) Allianz- bzw. Nationallizenz frei zugänglich.

This publication is with permission of the rights owner freely accessible due to an Alliance licence and a national licence (funded by the DFG, German Research Foundation) respectively.
Open Access?:ja
BDSL-Classification:Deutsche Sprache im Ausland
Leibniz-Classification:Sprache, Linguistik
Program areas:Lexik
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung-Nicht kommerziell-Keine Bearbeitung 3.0 Deutschland