March 12, 2013
Houghton Alumna Helps Preserve Disappearing Languages
Houghton College graduate Angela Hoover ‘10 recently collaborated on the article “Sociological Factors in Reefs-Santa Cruz Language Vitality: a 40 year Retrospective” in the International Journal of the Sociology of Language. Hoover currently works as an elementary English first language teacher with English Program in Korea. She earned a B.A. in intercultural studies from Houghton in 2010, with a double minor in linguistics and Bible.
The article is a 40-year survey of the changes taking place in language and culture in the Solomon Islands region where the Natügu, Nalögo, Äiwoo, and Nagu languages are spoken. “The main purpose of this article was to assess specific linguistic changes in the languages of the Reefs-Santa Cruz language group of the Solomon Islands, and the sociological factors that affected those changes over the last 40 years,” including the effects of globalization, education, intermarriage, and shifts in cultural norms.
“The intercultural studies program helped prepare me mentally and spiritually for working across cultures,” says Hoover of her Houghton education, “as well as for the academic rigor that the research and publication required.”
Hoover spent 10 weeks in the Solomon Islands, six of which were spent in the village of Memawa, Santa Cruz, where Hoover helped a California State University graduate student conduct research. Conducting interviews and compiling a list of Nagu words was Hoover’s main occupation; the word list was used in Hoover’s senior thesis at Houghton and as a portion of the phonological assessment of the IJSL article. With the working estimate that only half of the 7000 languages spoken in the current world will be in use in 2100, Hoover asserts that “it is important to accurately evaluate the vitality of minority and endangered languages, in order to either revitalize or preserve by documentation languages that might one day disappear.”
Hoover believes that “Having the opportunity to participate in this kind of research was, indeed, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”