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School of International Training (SIT) student, Ms. Tieta Keetle, from Sewanee: The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, USA focused her three-week research project while studying in Samoa for a semester on how climate change is affecting the Samoan language.

As a major in Anthropology and double minor in Environmental Studies and Spanish, Tieta was interested in pursuing this project idea because it looks at relationships between all three areas of her studies.

Linguistic tendencies are often affected by cultural shifts and also provide a lens to understand how a culture is changing. Since(human induced) climate change is awidely-discussed issue in contemporary Samoa which has not always been at the forefront of thought, Tietabegan her study with the idea that perhaps increased awareness for the effects of Climate Change may have an effect on the frequencies of words relating to the environment and disaster as used by focal points in village consultations and government work.

Results from the study showed that the frequency of word usage regarding the environment and disaster is significantly higher nowadays than before climate change discussion, and that words have been created in the Samoan language in order to discuss the environment in a way that the Samoan language didn’t previously provide for.

20 participants were surveyed and 8 language and/or climate change experts were interviewed to speak to these shifts and what they may imply.

Tietahopes that this study will encourage people to look at more paths for how climate change is affecting Samoa.

Samoa is currently not only experiencing physical effects of climate change, but also cultural ones. Through looking at linguistic shifts and changes in word use, word use frequencies, and how environment-based discussions are changing in various settings, we can better understand how climate change is affecting Samoa as a whole.

Any questions, concerns, or requests to discuss this study in more detail can be sent to Tieta’s e-mail address, keetltm0@sewanee.edu.

Tieta worked closely with the Climate Traditional Knowledge Officer from the Climate Change Division, SPREP, as one of her supervisors for her three-week project.


Ms Jackie Faasisila with the students from the School for International Training’s Study Abroad Samoa programme during their visit to SPREP