Reviving the Dravuni Dialect

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In the previous blog post, “Benefit from the Exhibition Continues,” published on 12.02.17, had referred to the two planned publications arising from the ‘Dravuni: Sivia yani na Vunilagi – Beyond the Horizon’ exhibition. The illustrated publications are based on the legend: ‘Tanovo and Tautaumolau’. The Dravuni children provide the illustrations. The publications are essentially children’s story books, aimed at readership between 7-10 years of age. One publication is to be in English and the other in Dravuni dialect.

To date, the two manuscripts have been completed and approved by the publisher, the Institute of Education (IOE) of the University of the South Pacific (USP). Final formatting before printing is currently underway.

Whilst script-writing of the English manuscript went fairly smoothly, that for the Dravuni dialect proved challenging. It did essentially because, as the principal story teller and writer, I hardly speak my Dravuni dialect nowadays. I speak something akin to an eclectic dialect – a mix of Bau, Rewa, Dravuni and Ono dialects.  Fortunately, one of my two language advisors for the project still retains a good workable knowledge of the Dravuni dialect and was able to guide the writing of the manuscript. Furthermore, the publisher had also suggested engaging an independent third language advisor. Therefore, I consulted Dr Paul Geraghty, the renowned Fijian language expert, who can speak just about any dialect in the whole of Fiji.

This publication initiative is going to open the door for more publications in the future. It is intended that the proceeds from the sale of the books, surplus to the recovery of IOE’s costs, will be channelled to benefit the kindergarten and the primary school on Dravuni.  Further, it is anticipated that this project will lead to a cottage publication/publishing industry on Dravuni, even including book making.

However, an unintended consequence that is evoking some level of excitement is that this initiative can be the start of a new project to revive the Dravuni dialect. It can be said with some authority that there are not many people alive on Dravuni that can speak the Dravuni dialect well. The Dravuni dialect is greatly influenced by outsiders married into the community, especially the non-Dravuni women spouses.

It is envisaged that such a revival will be starting from scratch. The few steps below are being envisaged, viz:

  1. Use of the Dravuni dialect manuscript, mentioned above, as a reference document;
  2. Use the list of Dravuni words and phrases supplied by Dr Geraghty, on an earlier occasion, as reference document;
  3. Use of Dravuni words provided by the language advisors to the publication project as a reference document;
  4. Production of a list of Dravuni words and phrases through interviews of those who can still speak the dialect;
  5. Convene initial discussions at the village level to seek support for the project;
  6. Production of further teaching tools for the revival of the dialect;
  7. Convene kindergarten and primary school dialect/language classes; and
  8. Convene adult dialect classes.

The previous blog referred to above had concluded that: “…there is much thought-provoking discussions on the theme of the Exhibition….especially its utility as regards setting new aspirational targets both for individual and collective goals.” This offshoot of the Exhibition is certainly setting new targets that will be the envy of many. It is critical therefore that the backers of this initiative believe in their heart of hearts that this initiative is ground-breaking and that the return on their personal and time investment is going to be incalculable.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. sylvia519 says:

    This is wonderful as so many languages are being lost. Language is a window to a unique culture.

  2. kaidravuni says:

    Hi Sylvia, I for one don’t speak proper Dravuni dialect. So I’m really looking forward to learning and speaking it properly.

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