Dr. Margaret J. Florey
School of Linguistics
La Trobe University
Bundoora, Victoria 3083, Australia
e-mail: mflorey@luga.latrobe.edu.au

MARGARET FLOREY is Lecturer in Linguistics at La Trobe University (Victoria, Australia), with a focus on anthropological linguistics. Her work is based in western Seram, an island in the Maluku region of eastern Indonesia, where she has been doing research on Alune (an endangered Austronesian language) since 1988. This research originally focused on a comparative study of the processes of language obsolescence and shift to the regional lingua franca, Ambonese Malay. Dr. Florey's current interests have expanded to incorporate the study of endangered knowledge, including collaborative work with an anthropologist (Dr. Chris Healey) on Alune ethnozoology and with a botanist (Dr. Xenai Wolff) on Alune ethnobotany. She has also worked in an applied setting on the issues of the loss and maintenance of Australia's indigenous languages in two Aboriginal language centers in Western Australia. Relevant publications include: "Shifting patterns of language allegiance: A generational perspective from eastern Indonesia" (in H. Steinhauer (ed.), Papers in Austronesian Linguistics 1, 1991); "The reinterpretation of knowledge and its role in the process of language obsolescence" (Oceanic Linguistics 32:2, 1993); "Skewed performance and structural variation in the process of language obsolescence" (Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics, in preparation 1995).



"Ethnoecological Knowledge in a Context of Language Shift: A Case Study from Eastern Indonesia"

The Alune are an Austronesian group located in 25 villages on the island of Seram in the eastern Indonesian province of Maluku. Throughout this century, but particularly during the last forty years, the Alune have experienced rapid sociopolitical and ecological change, resulting from a long history of the imposition of colonial and post-colonial political authority. Concomitant with sociopolitical changes, language shift to the regional Malay variety, Ambonese Malay, is also occurring, a process which is endangering the Alune language in perhaps 50% of these villages. Conceptions of components of the environment and ecological relations encoded in indigenous languages are consequently potentially threatened. Traditional ecological knowledge is further threatened by the claims of the state to control certain valuable resources previously regarded as common property by indigenous communities, by commercial forestry, state policies and practice encouraging the commercial exploitation of natural resources of traditional community domains, and the settling of transmigrants in such domains.

A contrast can be drawn between Alune villages which, until very recently, have been protected from such changes by their relative remoteness in mountain locations, and villages which have relocated to sites nearer to the coast and have been subject to more intense sociopolitical changes. This paper compares the situation in two sites reflecting these different patterns (the villages of Lohiasapalewa and Lohiatala), and investigates how ethnoecological knowledge is encoded in the lexicon. Further, it addresses the issue of the extent to which traditional ecological knowledge may be modified through the process of language shift.

The following issues will be raised:

- what economic, social, and political pressures are driving change in these sites?
- how is ecological knowledge distributed, represented, and exploited in the more conservative setting?
- how has the distribution of knowledge of language and sociocultural and ecological practices altered under the pressure of socioeconomic and ecological changes?
- have linguistic, socioeconomic and ecological changes resulted in loss of diversity?

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