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International Journal of the Sociology of Language

Ed. by Fishman, Joshua A. / Garcia Otheguy, Ofelia

6 Issues per year

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2014: 0.357
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2014: 0.803
Impact per Publication (IPP) 2014: 0.529

ERIH category 2011: INT2



Language and religion: a case study of two Ambonese communities

Simon Musgrave1 / Michael C Ewing2



Citation Information: International Journal of the Sociology of Language. Volume 2006, Issue 179, Pages 179–194, ISSN (Online) 1613-3668, ISSN (Print) 0165-2516, DOI: 10.1515/IJSL.2006.034, June 2006

Publication History

Published Online:


Both within the Ambonese community, and in scholarly discourse, it is frequently noted that Muslim villages in Maluku have retained their indigenous languages (bahasa tanah ‘language of the land’) whereas Christian villages have not. This article sketches the historical and sociological background of this difference, principally an outcome of colonial and religious policy by the Dutch administration. On the basis of current evidence of linguistic vitality in two communities on Ambon Island, one Christian (Allang) and one Muslim (Tulehu), we suggest that the crucial factor in the maintenance of indigenous languages in Muslim villages was not religion itself, but the lesser engagement of these communities with colonizers and other outside influences vis-à-vis Christian villages. Now that such influences are having a significant impact on Muslim communities, the trajectory of language loss is similar to that already experienced in Christian villages. We also discuss changing attitudes to indigenous languages as a result of the recent intercommunal violence in Maluku and suggest that these attitudes may have an impact on the fate of the surviving languages.

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