Language repertoires and the middle class in urban Solomon Islands

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In Honiara, Solomon Islands, 64 vernacular languages coexist with Pijin, the lingua franca and linguistic cement of the town, and with English, the former colonial language. The chapter shows how the modalities of urban linguistic repertoires vary with different phases of Honiara’s transformation and with the life course of individuals. There is a reconfiguration of the linguistic repertoires of most urbanites and language shift for some, particularly the younger urban middle-class. The first section presents a background on multilingualism in the Solomon Islands and the <i>typical </i>linguistic repertoires prevalent before urbanization. An analysis of the development of the middle class in Honiara follows. Finally, it addresses the social forces shaping the language practices of the middle-class. The paper shows that, if societal language shift is the trend in Honiara, young members of the urban middle-class are at the forefront of this change.


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