Study helps uncover revitalisation of Vagahau Niue

posted: 2:50 pm - 19th October 2017

26-year-old Niue postgraduate student, Nogiata Tukimata is learning her native tongue using research.

Nogiata’s research explores the regeneration of Vagahau Niue by looking at a case study of Niuean youth through Ekalesia (churches) in Niue and NZ.

“It really opened by eyes to the richness of my culture and my understanding of how young people make sense of Niuean culture in our homeland and NZ,” she says.

“Learning and understanding Vagahau Niue gives me a deeper connection with my culture, language and my identity. These are the beauties of research.”

Nogiata’s research looks at how languages evolve at a rapid pace, including efforts for the revitalisation of Niue as an endangered language.  

 “I look at the regeneration of the Vagahau Niue through the church in particular. My research examines the importance and significance of the church in the regeneration of Vagahau Niue for youth both in the homeland of Niue, and within Auckland.”

“What my research tells me is prompting active solutions to be implemented within the Auckland Niuean community, including language maintenance.”

Through her research, Nogiata has looked at the church as a language domain, and youth as language revitalisation activists.

The most obvious impact is that native language and cultures are endangered as many choose to follow the dominant local culture.

“It's a choice we need to change,” she says.

Nogiata says one of the key factors in ensuring her native language survives relies on young people and family and community connections.

“We need all Niuean people to embrace our language.”

A bilinguist herself, with an ability to speak English and Vagahau Niue, she sees real benefits in the ownership of one’s native voice.

“If you are learning your own language, it helps you to understand the complexities and challenges involved, and to also look for solutions.”

Nogiata’s supervisor, Professor Tania Ka'ai, Director of The International Centre for Language Revitalisation at the Auckland University of Technology says Nogiata is an emerging researcher in language revitalisation, which is crucial to learning about the efforts made by young people like herself, to keep their languages alive.

“I am very, very proud of Nogiata’s efforts, especially as Vagahau Niue is on the UNESCO list of endangered languages and needs a strong revitalisation programme underpinned by some great research to resuscitate it.”

“Nogiata has worked very hard to produce a wonderful thesis and collated data from NZ and Niue on her topic, so her work is very rich.”

“Nogiata recently submitted her Master’s thesis in Language Revitalisation for examination. It is an excellent piece of work and will be a valuable resource.” 

Professor Ka'ai says Nogiata is currently working on completing the digitisation of the Tohi Vagahau Niue manuscript by Wolfgang Sperlich who gifted this to the Centre, to create an online dictionary.

This will be made available globally, at no cost.

Nogiata’s research will be presented to the Niue community as a resource that will help contribute to the revitalisation of Vagahau Niue, not only for today’s generation, but for generations to come in the future.

Hear Nogiata’s talk about her research here