Neocolonial English: A Case Study of Marshallese Migrants and their Speech

October 19, 2021 - 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM

Elise Berman, Associate Professor of Anthropology
Rebecca Roeder, Associate Professor of Linguistics
UNC Charlotte

In this talk, we analyze the speech of four Marshallese and Marshallese-American children living in a new immigrant destination in the American South.  We document both consistency and variation with the English spoken in the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), and consider the language policies and ideologies that surround the children's speech. We theorize the variety as a neocolonial English for two reasons:  1) The morpho-syntactic structures are influenced by continued neocolonial control, and 2) Speakers of such structures are subject to language policies and ideologies that function through erasing the colonial past and the neocolonial present.

Elise Berman's current work centers on language and schooling among Marshallese migrants in the U.S. She has partnered with several colleagues to write analyses of COVID-19 and remote schooling and a dialect analysis of Marshallese English as spoken by children in the U.S. Currently, she is spearheading a project (with Rebecca Roeder and Vicki Collet) analyzing children's language practices and how they correspond, or fail to correspond, with English Learner status assignments.

Rebecca Roeder is a sociolinguist who studies North American dialects of English, focusing on change in urban areas affected by migration. She has taught in the English department at UNC Charlotte since 2008. Her work has appeared in various books and journals, including Journal of English Linguistics, World Englishes, and Transactions of the Philological Society. Previous research examined Mexican American English in Michigan. Current projects explore dialect change and variation in Charlotte and Springdale, Arkansas, as well as across Canada.