Why a Fiji Corpus?
JAN TENT and FRANCE MUGLER
The linguistic situation in Fiji is unique and complex. Of the three major languages spoken in Fiji (Fijian, Fiji Hindi, and English 1) English is the first language of only a tiny section of the population. Yet its influence on the lives of Fiji's people is very significant. Over the last 200 years, its role has evolved from being merely a source language for foreign loanwords to the language of government, education, and commerce. In no other South Pacific nation is English used in so many domains as it is in Fiji. This paper presents a profile of the development and status of Fiji English, and argues for its inclusion in ICE.
The history of English in Fiji can be divided into six distinct periods.
The history begins roughly 30 or 40 years before the arrival of the first European settlers in about 1805. From Cook's time, and perhaps before, a number of English words found their way into Fijian, introduced by the Tongans, who had well-established trade relations with the Fijians; e.g. kapa 'sheet metal' < 'copper', kote < 'coat', and pusi (now vusi), 'cat' < 'pussy' ( Geraghty, 1989: 380 and personal communication). 2
The first Europeans to settle in Fiji were mainly deserters and marooned sailors who became beachcombers. However, their impact on the linguistic situation was negligible, as they adopted the Fijian way of life and learned Fijian. Indeed, they often acted as interpreters and intermediaries between ships' captains and the Fijian chiefs under whose protection they lived ( Derrick, 1950: 41). Fijians did not learn English, with the notable exception of Cokānauto (more commonly known as Phillips to the English), a chief of Rewa who learned to speak English reasonably well ( Derrick, 1950: 96).