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2024 - Pasifika - Term 2 Newsletter Articles

Dr Angela Bland
June 18, 2024

Articles this Term include

"Fiji-Hindi in the Pacific Islands"

Written by Tui Tuia | Learning Circle Facilitator, Dr. Angela Bland

"Samoan Language Week Celebration"

Written by Tui Tuia | Learning Circle Facilitator, Dr. Tofilau Niulevaea Siliva Gaugatao

Fiji-Hindi in the Pacific Islands

Written by Dr. Angela Bland, Tui Tuia | Learning Circle Facilitator.

Dr. Nikhat Shameem was a keynote speaker at the recent Community Languages and ESOL conference. She presented with the title of ‘If my language does not flourish it will die’. Her focus was on her own heritage language of Fiji-Hindi. She is active in preserving and revitalising the language. In 2019, she published a poetry book in Fijian-Hindi called ‘Let the Conch speak’. She reflected on her own personal struggles to work towards Fiji-Hindi to become a recognised Pacific language. This has included having Fiji-Hindi (FH) in the Ministry for Pacific Peoples Pacific Week celebrations in New Zealand. Nikhat shared that her grandmother came from India as one of the labourers. In this article, I would like to open the space to share some of the story behind Fiji-Hindi as well as understand some of its linguistic features.

Colonisation and a journey from India to Fiji


Between 1879 and 1916 approximately 60,000 Indian labourers were brought to Fiji by British colonial rulers to work on the sugar plantations. The workers became known as Girmitiyas. Hence, Hindi came into Fiji as an immigrant language, not a colonial language. First, they came mainly from northern India, where languages of the Indo-European family are spoken. Many labourers spoke various dialects of Hindi, but many also spoke Bazaar Hindustani, which has been described as a kind of pidgin. By the early 20th century, almost half of the labourers were being recruited from South India. These workers spoke the quite unrelated languages of the Dravidian family. The plantation environment brought into contact Hindi speakers from different dialects (numerically the largest group of Indians), speakers of Hindi and other Indian languages (related and unrelated), speakers of Indian languages, Fijian, and English, and finally, Indians and some of the 27,000 Pacific Islanders who were also recruited to work on Fijian plantations. FH developed a diglossic relationship. Diglossia is a situation in which two quite different dialects of a language are used side by side, one in formal contexts and the other in informal contexts (such as Standard Hindi and Fiji-Hindi in Fiji).   It became structurally and lexically quite different standard Hindi.

The development, growth, and position of Fiji-Hindi in Fiji


Fiji-Hindi developed through a process of koineization. FH, or Fiji Bāt (= ‘language’) evolved, especially among ethnic Indians born in Fiji. The result of this koineization process was a new form of Hindi different from any spoken in India. When people speaking different geographical dialects of a language are relocated and thrown together in a new community, what is known as a koine often develops, through a process known as koineization. Each dialect contributes some elements, and the resultant koine is a blend of the original dialects. While Melanesian Pidgin and Hiri Motu are the result of the processes of pidginization and creolization, Fiji-Hindi is a koine.

A significant factor in Fiji is although Fiji-Hindi is the first language of nearly all Fiji-Indians, who speak it in informal contexts, it is not the language of formal situations. Standard Hindi is used in schools, on radio, in print, and in other formal contexts. A situation of diglossia has developed in which people use one variety (Standard Hindi) in public meetings, for religious occasions, and in other formal situations, and the other variety (Fiji-Hindi) in informal situations. Most Fijians speak their own dialect of Fijian plus the standard dialect; many also speak English. Similarly, most Indians speak Fiji-Hindi and Standard Hindi, and many speak English. Not many Fijians speak Hindi, and few Indians speak Fijian. English, or in some contexts Pidgin Fijian or Pidgin Hindi, is the language of interethnic communication. Fiji Indians grow up speaking FH at home. At school, they are exposed to two prestige languages, Standard Hindi, and English. Unlike Melanesian Pidgin, FH is never written. Literacy is taught in Standard Hindi, and the association of the standard language with the sacred books of Hinduism gives Standard Hindi great prestige. English too is a prestigious language in Fiji—the language of higher education, the international language, the language of business, and, increasingly, the language Fiji Indians need to know to emigrate. The result has been that Fiji-Hindi has very low status in Fiji.

Linguistic features of Fiji-Hindi


In 2020, playing out through the Fiji media, FH was criticised for having no grammar. Prasad and Willans (2023) in response to this view, stated that no linguistic variety can function without grammar. They explain that Fiji-Hindi shares much of its grammar with Standard-Hindi, including its use of postpositions. However, some rules are different. Prasad and Willans give the example of both FH and SH distinguish between present and future tense, but they use different suffixes to do this, as shown in Examples 1 (a) to (d). In both varieties, information about tense is contained in the suffixes, but the form of these suffixes is different.

(Prasad & Willans, 2023)

Prasad and Willans (2023) note that because FH speakers can distinguish between tenses, or between singular and plural, for example, demonstrates that it has an organised, systematic grammar. Interestingly, FH learners find its system of verb constructions quite complicated, if they have no prior knowledge of any other variety of Hindi, so it is only in comparison to SH that its grammar seems simple. Similarly, an FH user would recognise immediately if an SH user tried to speak FH and missed the mark, by drawing on their intuitive knowledge that its grammatical norms had been flouted. This grammar has been captured formally in grammar books, dictionaries, theses, and other academic works (Prasad and Willans, 2023).

Fiji-Hindi and the Fiji-Indian community in New Zealand
Sharma, (2024) in a recent New Zealand article shares the stories of three Fijian Indian students in New Zealand and their yearning to know more about their history. The students express that there has been a reluctance by many Fiji-Indian households in New Zealand to discuss this era; however, this is changing. Sitiveni Rabuka announced in 2023 that there would be a public holiday for Girmit Day. Now, this day is commemorated in Fiji and New Zealand each year. The students reflect that it was only in New Zealand that they were told that they were not Pacific Islanders, hence, this remains an area which Fiji-Indian communities continue to advocate to avoid situations where Fiji-Indians have been forced to tick the South-East Asian category instead of Pacific Islander. Internationally, there is an initiative to formalise the Fiji-Hindi language script through the support of UNESCO. The Universal Roman Orthography for Indentured Hindustani Languages aims to create a Fiji-Hindi script that will allow information to be conveyed to the community in their language (Fiji-Hindi) (Nath, 2022).

Lynch, J. (1998). Pacific languages: An introduction. University of Hawai'i Press.
Lynch, J., Ross, M., & Crowley, T. (2001). The oceanic languages.
Nath, R. (7 October 2022) Fiji-Hindi is not a broken language says linguist
Prasad, R., & Willans, F. (2023). Debunking ten myths about Hindi in Fiji: Taking some of the hot air out of the Mirchi FM debate. Te Reo, 66(1), 40+.
Sharma, G (14 May 2024) Young Indo-Fijians yearn to know more about the girmit era

Samoan Language Week Celebration

Written by Dr. Tofilau Niulevaea Siliva Gaugatao, Tui Tuia | Learning Circle Facilitator

May 26-June 1 was Samoan Language Week and we celebrated it in the Tui Tuia | Learning Circle offices with a shared lunch.

There were some very special Samoan food including oka (raw fish), taro and banana chips, green banana and taro marinated in coconut milk, palusami (taro leaves in coconut milk) and paifala (pineapple pie).  All of them delicious and consumed with gusto!

A huge fa’afetai lava to our Pacific-led Education team!
Manuia le aso!

Dr Angela Bland
Angela is a Facilitator for Tui Tuia | Learning Circle's Languages team.
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2024 - Pasifika - Term 2 Newsletter Articles

Fiji-Hindi in the Pacific Islands

Written by Dr. Angela Bland, Tui Tuia | Learning Circle Facilitator.

Dr. Nikhat Shameem was a keynote speaker at the recent Community Languages and ESOL conference. She presented with the title of ‘If my language does not flourish it will die’. Her focus was on her own heritage language of Fiji-Hindi. She is active in preserving and revitalising the language. In 2019, she published a poetry book in Fijian-Hindi called ‘Let the Conch speak’. She reflected on her own personal struggles to work towards Fiji-Hindi to become a recognised Pacific language. This has included having Fiji-Hindi (FH) in the Ministry for Pacific Peoples Pacific Week celebrations in New Zealand. Nikhat shared that her grandmother came from India as one of the labourers. In this article, I would like to open the space to share some of the story behind Fiji-Hindi as well as understand some of its linguistic features.

Colonisation and a journey from India to Fiji


Between 1879 and 1916 approximately 60,000 Indian labourers were brought to Fiji by British colonial rulers to work on the sugar plantations. The workers became known as Girmitiyas. Hence, Hindi came into Fiji as an immigrant language, not a colonial language. First, they came mainly from northern India, where languages of the Indo-European family are spoken. Many labourers spoke various dialects of Hindi, but many also spoke Bazaar Hindustani, which has been described as a kind of pidgin. By the early 20th century, almost half of the labourers were being recruited from South India. These workers spoke the quite unrelated languages of the Dravidian family. The plantation environment brought into contact Hindi speakers from different dialects (numerically the largest group of Indians), speakers of Hindi and other Indian languages (related and unrelated), speakers of Indian languages, Fijian, and English, and finally, Indians and some of the 27,000 Pacific Islanders who were also recruited to work on Fijian plantations. FH developed a diglossic relationship. Diglossia is a situation in which two quite different dialects of a language are used side by side, one in formal contexts and the other in informal contexts (such as Standard Hindi and Fiji-Hindi in Fiji).   It became structurally and lexically quite different standard Hindi.

The development, growth, and position of Fiji-Hindi in Fiji


Fiji-Hindi developed through a process of koineization. FH, or Fiji Bāt (= ‘language’) evolved, especially among ethnic Indians born in Fiji. The result of this koineization process was a new form of Hindi different from any spoken in India. When people speaking different geographical dialects of a language are relocated and thrown together in a new community, what is known as a koine often develops, through a process known as koineization. Each dialect contributes some elements, and the resultant koine is a blend of the original dialects. While Melanesian Pidgin and Hiri Motu are the result of the processes of pidginization and creolization, Fiji-Hindi is a koine.

A significant factor in Fiji is although Fiji-Hindi is the first language of nearly all Fiji-Indians, who speak it in informal contexts, it is not the language of formal situations. Standard Hindi is used in schools, on radio, in print, and in other formal contexts. A situation of diglossia has developed in which people use one variety (Standard Hindi) in public meetings, for religious occasions, and in other formal situations, and the other variety (Fiji-Hindi) in informal situations. Most Fijians speak their own dialect of Fijian plus the standard dialect; many also speak English. Similarly, most Indians speak Fiji-Hindi and Standard Hindi, and many speak English. Not many Fijians speak Hindi, and few Indians speak Fijian. English, or in some contexts Pidgin Fijian or Pidgin Hindi, is the language of interethnic communication. Fiji Indians grow up speaking FH at home. At school, they are exposed to two prestige languages, Standard Hindi, and English. Unlike Melanesian Pidgin, FH is never written. Literacy is taught in Standard Hindi, and the association of the standard language with the sacred books of Hinduism gives Standard Hindi great prestige. English too is a prestigious language in Fiji—the language of higher education, the international language, the language of business, and, increasingly, the language Fiji Indians need to know to emigrate. The result has been that Fiji-Hindi has very low status in Fiji.

Linguistic features of Fiji-Hindi


In 2020, playing out through the Fiji media, FH was criticised for having no grammar. Prasad and Willans (2023) in response to this view, stated that no linguistic variety can function without grammar. They explain that Fiji-Hindi shares much of its grammar with Standard-Hindi, including its use of postpositions. However, some rules are different. Prasad and Willans give the example of both FH and SH distinguish between present and future tense, but they use different suffixes to do this, as shown in Examples 1 (a) to (d). In both varieties, information about tense is contained in the suffixes, but the form of these suffixes is different.

(Prasad & Willans, 2023)

Prasad and Willans (2023) note that because FH speakers can distinguish between tenses, or between singular and plural, for example, demonstrates that it has an organised, systematic grammar. Interestingly, FH learners find its system of verb constructions quite complicated, if they have no prior knowledge of any other variety of Hindi, so it is only in comparison to SH that its grammar seems simple. Similarly, an FH user would recognise immediately if an SH user tried to speak FH and missed the mark, by drawing on their intuitive knowledge that its grammatical norms had been flouted. This grammar has been captured formally in grammar books, dictionaries, theses, and other academic works (Prasad and Willans, 2023).

Fiji-Hindi and the Fiji-Indian community in New Zealand
Sharma, (2024) in a recent New Zealand article shares the stories of three Fijian Indian students in New Zealand and their yearning to know more about their history. The students express that there has been a reluctance by many Fiji-Indian households in New Zealand to discuss this era; however, this is changing. Sitiveni Rabuka announced in 2023 that there would be a public holiday for Girmit Day. Now, this day is commemorated in Fiji and New Zealand each year. The students reflect that it was only in New Zealand that they were told that they were not Pacific Islanders, hence, this remains an area which Fiji-Indian communities continue to advocate to avoid situations where Fiji-Indians have been forced to tick the South-East Asian category instead of Pacific Islander. Internationally, there is an initiative to formalise the Fiji-Hindi language script through the support of UNESCO. The Universal Roman Orthography for Indentured Hindustani Languages aims to create a Fiji-Hindi script that will allow information to be conveyed to the community in their language (Fiji-Hindi) (Nath, 2022).

Lynch, J. (1998). Pacific languages: An introduction. University of Hawai'i Press.
Lynch, J., Ross, M., & Crowley, T. (2001). The oceanic languages.
Nath, R. (7 October 2022) Fiji-Hindi is not a broken language says linguist
Prasad, R., & Willans, F. (2023). Debunking ten myths about Hindi in Fiji: Taking some of the hot air out of the Mirchi FM debate. Te Reo, 66(1), 40+.
Sharma, G (14 May 2024) Young Indo-Fijians yearn to know more about the girmit era

Samoan Language Week Celebration

Written by Dr. Tofilau Niulevaea Siliva Gaugatao, Tui Tuia | Learning Circle Facilitator

May 26-June 1 was Samoan Language Week and we celebrated it in the Tui Tuia | Learning Circle offices with a shared lunch.

There were some very special Samoan food including oka (raw fish), taro and banana chips, green banana and taro marinated in coconut milk, palusami (taro leaves in coconut milk) and paifala (pineapple pie).  All of them delicious and consumed with gusto!

A huge fa’afetai lava to our Pacific-led Education team!
Manuia le aso!