Cultures, Languages and Linguistics

Applications for 2023-2024 are now closed.

German language and heritage in Tonga and Samoa


Dr Diana Feick

Dr Sereana Naepi

Mareike Schmidt, M.A.



Project code: ART014


Project Description: In the late 18th century, German traders, settlers, and lifestyle travelers ventured into the Pacific region for different reasons, and some eventually settled in countries like Tonga and Samoa. Furthermore, Samoa was a German protectorate between 1900 and 1914. Today there are many Tongans and Samoans with German heritage, however the German language has been lost for many of these families. Nevertheless, a new generation of Pacifica people with German descent are striving to revive the language and the heritage of their ancestors as important part of their identity. The aim of this project is to investigate this important aspect of Pacific-German history from a perspective of language maintenance, language loss, and language revitalization. We will use the method of oral history / story telling with members of the relevant communities and will document their testimonials. This will be combined with archival work on language use, language shift and language attitudes represented in historic documents of that region, e.g. newspapers such as the Samoanische Zeitung (later: Samoa Times) or settler diaries. The key research questions are: Which language use, loss, and revitalization developments can be found in the oral and written accounts of German-Samoans and German-Tongans? What factors led to language loss of German within the communities? Which are the language attitudes the community towards the involved languages historically and currently? Which factors lead to the current language revitalization of German in the communities?

Scholar’s Work and Expectations: The work of the scholar during the first stage will include searching through online databases and archives for relevant literature on the research topic and reading primary sources on the topic. The work will also include retrieving texts from the library, assembling a data corpus, and drafting a literature review. Photocopying or scanning portions of these resources will also be one of the scholar’s tasks. In the second stage the scholar will help to identify participants for the study, prepare the collection for the oral histories/storytelling and help conducting the interviews. They will transcribe the recorded stories, preferably using the transcription software F4. After the data preparation the scholar will contribute to the data analysis. This includes coding the data using the analysis software InVivo. The scholar will be expected to contribute intellectually to the project, helping to identify relevant codes and categories, helping to guide the overall direction of the research.

Required Skills/Pre-requisites: The summer scholar is expected to be familiar with the history of Samoa and Tonga. Apart from German skills at least intermediate level it is also beneficial (but not required) to be proficient in the Samoan and/or Tongan language. The scholar should have a basic understanding of how library and archive research is conducted. They should be familiar with the oral history /storytelling. The scholar will preferably have basic skills in data transcription and qualitative data analysis.

Benefits to Scholar: The scholar will learn how to conduct transdisciplinary research in applied linguistics/ German as a Foreign Language and Pacific peoples research. This includes how to locate resources and how to obtain information from them, how to create oral histories, transcribe verbal data and how to prepare quantitative data for analysis, how to code data etc. The scholar will also have the opportunity to contribute intellectually to the project by having the opportunity to produce their own reports based on the data that is collected. This summer research project allows the scholar to work with potential PG supervisors and it could potentially provide the foundation for a PG thesis or dissertation where all the skills mentioned above are necessary.

Alignment to Taumata Teitei: This project aligns with Taumata Teitei as it contributes to world-class research inspired by the Pacific in transdisciplinary areas (research priority). It contributes to deep engagement with Asia-Pacific communities (partnership priority). It aims at improving the retention of Pacific students, and advances staff capability in collaborative practice working with Pacific communities.

Framing the development of data centres in Aotearoa


Dr Bridget Conor


Culture, Languages and Linguistics/Humanities

Project code: ART023


Project Description: On 5th April 2023 it was reported that in developing it’s new data centre in West Auckland, Amazon plans to drain wetland areas as well as discharge contaminants into the soil and exceed noise limits. This is the latest news in an ongoing conversation about the development of data centres in Aotearoa, especially from ‘tech giants’ like Amazon and Microsoft. Data centres are framed on the one hand as overwhelmingly positive; creating jobs and essential cloud-based computing infrastructure for example. But on the other, they raise a number of serious ethical issues, often in relation to questions around their sustainability and environmental impacts. Data centres have been a focus of attention for media and communications scholars in recent years and in other parts of the world but there has been little academic engagement with this topic in Aotearoa. This project looks to begin charting the ways in which data centre development has been reported on in Aotearoa in the last five years. Using the news databases available via the University of Auckland library, the successful scholar will catalogue news stories and recent scholarship on data centres, identifying the key framings and ethical questions that characterise recent coverage.

Scholar’s Work and Expectations: This projects helps to train students’ database research, analysis and report-writing skills. The work is organised into the following components: 1. Primary source research (250 hours): using the various newspaper databases available in the University of Auckland library, the scholar will catalogue news articles written in the last five years about the development of data centres in Aotearoa and particularly in Tāmaki Makaurau; 2. Secondary source research (100 hours): using the sources available in the University of Auckland library and interloan service, the scholar will find, read and then produce an annotated bibliography summarising the existing and recent scholarship about data centres in communication and media studies; 3. Research report writing (50 hours): Mobilising all these sources, the scholar will write a research essay reflecting on their research findings, which is due at the end of the project. They can focus this report on a case study or aspect of the research that they find particularly interesting or revealing; The scholar will be expected to attend a weekly meeting with the project supervisor to discuss progress and findings.

Required Skills/Pre-requisites: Pre-requisite: The scholar must have passed a Stage III (or higher-level) Communication or Media Studies course; This project is best suited to students who have taken courses in Communication, Media, Politics and Sociology and are interested in working on media and communications coverage of data centres and the sustainability of data and data infrastructure. It is particularly suited to students who are looking to go on to post-graduate study in Communication or Media Studies.

Benefits to Scholar:The scholar will gain invaluable news database and scholarly research skills, which would be of great help to those wishing to go on to do PG study in Communication, Media Studies, Politics, Sociology etc. The project’s findings could form the starting point for a MA or BA(Hons) dissertation, if the student is considering this. The student will gain valuable experience working with an experienced supervisor on an entry-level PG-appropriate research project.

Alignment to Taumata Teitei: This project aligns with Taumata Teitei in a number of ways and particularly with the priority Innovating contemporary distributed, secure knowledge systems. Data centres as infrastructure are integral to new digital tools and cloud-based systems in Aotearoa but they raise many political, economic and ethical questions. The scholar will be able to explore these questions and by doing so, the project seeks to nurture and retain outstanding research talent. This is also an inherently transdisciplinary project, aligning with Faculty of Arts priorities and drawing on communication and media studies but also dovetailing with other fields such as sociology and critical data studies. The project is also designed to build whanaungatanga by empowering the scholar to connect with other scholars in Communication working on related and resonant issues from Māori data sovereignty to future studies. The project will be Te Tiriti centred and thus will be particularly attentive to which stakeholders and voices, especially iwi in Tāmaki Makaurau, are positioned (and/or silenced) in news coverage of data centre development. As a Pākehā supervisor, I will ensure the appropriate cultural consultation is undertaken if necessary, that relevant resources are consulted as part of the data-gathering process (including indigenous analyses of data centres and local iwi strategic plans) and that in-progress findings of this project are shared with colleagues working on cognate topics, particularly Māori data sovereignty.