ASCC Library and German PhD Candidate Collaborate on Sociolinguistic Project
September 9, 2015
By James Kneubuhl, ASCC Press Officer
Two of the Core Values held by the American Samoa Community College (ASCC) are Respect for Diversity – which includes an appreciation of global perspectives and viewpoints, and Collaboration and Teamwork – which involves creating a sound environment for networking opportunities through effective communication, partnerships, and growth. With these values in mind, the ASCC Library has lent its support to visiting academic Mrs. Anja Auer, a PhD candidate at the English Department of Leipzig University in Germany, who recently has spent several hours each day utilizing a secluded area of the Library to conduct interviews with ASCC students as part of a sociolinguistic project focusing on the interplay between the indigenous culture and use of the English language in American Samoa.
Sociolinguistics is the descriptive study of the effect of any and all aspects of society, including cultural norms, expectations, and context, on the way language is used, and the effects of language use on society. Sociolinguistics is not the same as sociology of language, which focuses on the effect of society on language; sociolinguistics, conversely, focuses on language's effect on society. Sociolinguistics also examines how language varieties differ between groups separated by certain social variables (e.g., ethnicity, religion, status, gender, level of education, age, etc.) and how the creation and adherence to these differences are used to categorize individuals in social or socioeconomic classes.
“I am interested in changes and trends in American Samoan culture, especially with regard to language use,” explained Mrs. Auer. “After doing my MA thesis on Hong Kong, I decided that I would like to do research in an American territory. My supervisor is currently doing research in the Marshall Islands, so I decided to travel to another Pacific Island.” Before departing from Germany, Mrs. Auer contacted ASCC and was referred to Library Director Mr. Elvis Zodiacal, who agreed to assist Mrs. Auer with the portion of her research involving local college students. “Even before my coming here, Elvis has been a great help,” she said. “He wrote a letter of support to the German Academic Exchange Service, who granted me a scholarship for my trip here.”
While American Samoa provides a radical change of scenery from Leipzig, Mrs. Auer has nothing but compliments for the College and the community. “I absolutely love working at ASCC,” she enthused. “Everybody from staff to students is great and really friendly. Friendliness is a general Samoan trait that I’ve come to appreciate a lot. I was afraid it might be difficult to convince students to participate in my study and to be interviewed, since they don't know me. However, that wasn't the case at all. I collected quite a few interviews during the first week, and found the students to be highly enjoyable company. I hope they felt the same about me.”
Library Director Mr. Zodiacal expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to contribute to an international research project. “It’s interesting how our local use of English, even given its many variations, links to the overall history of the language,” he said. “Our role in research such as Mrs. Auer’s helps raise our profile among the international community, and here at the Library we welcome opportunities for academic collaborations, provided the proposals are made through the appropriate channels.”
As her work in American Samoa winds down, Mrs. Auer said she would very much like to return here in the future. “After completing my PhD, I plan to continue working as a researcher,” she said. “There are always more places to discover and more to learn. In fact, I am hoping to come back to American Samoa in a few years for another project. For now, I'd like to thank the students and the Library staff at ASCC for their support of my research. I really wouldn't have been able to accomplish so much in a relatively short amount of time without their help. So, fa'afetai tele lava.”
For more information on the ASCC Library, see the ASCC Catalog posted on the College website: www.amsamoa.edu.