The emerging storywriter: a study of linguistic and meta-linguistic phenomena in the writing of Cèmuhi, a Melanesian language of New Caledonia
thesisposted on 2022-03-29, 01:55 authored by Maarten Lecompte
This PhD thesis is an analysis of the representation of the Kanak voice in the practice and product of writing in Cèmuhi, an Austronesian language of New Caledonia. It investigates how Cèmuhi language and culture have been represented in a variety of works and texts that were produced in Cèmuhi as a result of practices that are ideologically motivated. In order to do so, I adopt both a diachronic and a synchronic approach. I first give a critical historical overview of the various interest groups that were involved in the codification of the Cèmuhi language, which can be traced along three subsequent stages or movements of writing: the first stage begins in the middle of the 19th century, when the Marist priests started to translate religious works into the Cèmuhi language. They were followed by visits of French ethnographers (e.g. Alban Bensa and André Haudricourt) and linguists (e.g. Jean-Claude Rivierre) who developed grammars, dictionaries, and ethnographies, based on the practice of transcribing oral stories. The third stage is that of Cèmuhi texts written by an emerging indigenous writer, Suzanne Poinine, who is one of the few Cèmuhi speakers and, in fact, Kanak in general, who has used the medium of writing in her mother tongue. An analysis of her writing practice and the different text genres and textual artefacts that she has produced over more than 40 years form the centre-piece of this thesis and are subjected to a social and historical analysis of both linguistic and meta-linguistic phenomena.