A psycholinguistic assessment of language change in eastern Indonesia: Evidence from the HALA project

Amanda Hamilton, Jawee Perla, Laura C. Robinson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
38 Downloads (Pure)


Introduction: Experience reveals that a language in decline is unlikely to reverse its condition until (at the very least) stakeholders discover that this attrition is occurring. But while this is straightforward enough, detecting and quantifying language loss, especially during its crucial early stages, is notoriously inexact. So far, language vitality assessment has largely focused on subjective consideration of sociolinguistic indicators through surveys, questionnaires, and ratings scales (Fishman 1991, UNESCO 2003, Hinton 2006, Otsuka and Wong 2007, among others). While the trends in language attitudes and usage explored by these measures are indisputably crucial to understanding language change, these trends also possess the unfortunate tendency of remaining largely imperceptible until they have become quite pervasive. W. O’Grady et al. (2009) developed the Hawai’i Assessment of Language Access (HALA) with hopes of improving the sensitivity of language vitality assessment. Rather than relying on sociolinguistic measures, the HALA project comprises a set of psycholinguistic tests which the project's developers expect will be better able to detect subtle language dominance effects in the minds of speakers before the corresponding sociolinguistic signs become evident. By employing the HALA instrument in communities where languages are under potential threat, they aim to help these communities recognize encroaching language loss years earlier than they otherwise would - that is, before it becomes ‘a decline that is already firmly entrenched, perhaps irreversibly, for lack of earlier indications of endangerment’ (Schafer et al. 2009: 1).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationKeeping Languages Alive
Subtitle of host publicationDocumentation, Pedagogy and Revitalization
Place of PublicationUK
PublisherCambridge University Press
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


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