Ecologising Seediq: Towards an Ecology of an Endangered Indigenous Language from Taiwan

In: International Journal of Taiwan Studies
Author: Darryl Sterk1
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  • 1 Lingnan University

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Abstract

An ecolinguistic system, like a biological ecosystem, is self-regulating, yet it cannot be entirely self-contained, because words, like living species and the non-living substrates upon which they depend, are border-crossing. As a result, any ‘language’ is to some extent ‘creolised’, lexically or syntactically. Creolisation, however, may be perceived as a threat to an endangered language. The Seediq language is endangered, and, like any language, to some extent creolised. Though much less creolised than Ilan Creole, Seediq contains numerous Japanese and Chinese loanwords. Yet many of these loanwords have Seediq analogues. It may be that the Seediq language community has responded to the influx of loanwords by coining new terms based on Seediq roots. If so, their response combines linguistic purism with cultural cosmopolitanism: the loanword is a threat, the concept is not. Regardless, the coexistence of indigenous words with loanwords is part of an ongoing linguistic adaptation to modernity. I try to understand this adaptation in terms of ‘language ecology’.

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