Talking around the texts
Literacy in a multilingual Papua New Guinean community
This paper examines the role of literacy as it is practiced in a multilingual community on the Gazelle Peninsula in East New Britain Province, Papua New Guinea. Ethnographic observational fieldwork and semi-structured interviews reveal how literacy plays out in six common domains of everyday life: public discourse, home, school, church, health care, and government. Following Street (1984, 1995), an ideological framework is used to explore the unique cultural context of literacy in this community. It is found that: (a) the community venerates external standards of literacy, at the expense of local practices; nevertheless, (b) literacy practices reflect the multilingual skills of the general population; and (c) literacy events provide an opportunity for oral discourse and social bonding. It is also argued that the community would benefit if local literacy practices were recognised and validated on their own merit.
Keywords: multilingualism, ideological literacy, literacy practices, language usage, language planning
Published online: 20 December 2016
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