Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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O Le Si'Osi'Omaga O Le Punafanau Lea O Se Gagana E Ola: The Linguistic Landscape Of Samoa

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posted on 2021-12-09, 00:39 authored by Esera, Faith

The official language of Sāmoa is Samoan, but the majority of the population speak English as a second language. Because of early contact with missionaries and colonial powers, the English language soon became widely acknowledged and used in Sāmoa. Even after Sāmoa became independent from New Zealand, the English language was and is still recognised, but not made official, in the Constitution of Sāmoa and education policies.  This paper reports on the languages that are present in the linguistic landscape of Sāmoa. The main purpose of the study was to identify the predominant language used in Sāmoa, and to analyse ‘hybridity’ or ‘dualism’ on signs that contained the Samoan language. The data consists of 987 signs taken from two survey areas, Apia and Salelologa, using a digital camera. Scollon and Scollon’s (2003) ‘Place Semiotics’ was used to give an overview of the preferred code in the LL of Sāmoa. The ‘Motu Analysis’, a reconceptualization of Backhaus’s ‘part writing’ types, was used to analyse how two or more languages are used and positioned on signs in the LL; this analysis responds to the research question on ‘hybridity’. The final step involved a closer analysis of the subset of signs containing the Samoan language to detect signs of hybridity through loanwords and semantic extensions.  The results of the analyses indicated that English is the dominant language in the linguistic landscape of Sāmoa despite lacking official status in the language policies of Sāmoa. The findings further reveal that the English influence on the Samoan language on the signs is reflected more in semantic loans than loanwords, revealing a healthier picture of the Samoan language. The study concludes with possible lines of research for further studies in Sāmoa and the Pacific.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Master of Arts

Victoria University of Wellington Unit

Va’aomanū Pasifika

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Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



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Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies


Macalister, John