This paper examines language attitudes in New Caledonia, where
French, a pluricentric language, comes in contact with indigenous Melanesian
languages and Tayo, a French-based Creole. Results from a recent sociolinguistic
study reveal that whilst indigenous languages are valued as cultural heritage, there
is a noticeable shift from these non-dominant languages towards French in the
domestic context, particularly in younger generations living in urban areas. French
has official status and is the vehicular language perceived as the cement that unites
the whole population. English, another pluricentric language with a dominant role
in the Pacific, is non -dominant in New Caledonia, and for most a foreign language.
The relationship between French and the indigenous languages is one of classic
diglossia, where French has the higher status. The first section of this paper gives
a brief overview of the social history and language situation in New Caledonia. It
then examines patterns oflanguage use in multilingual context. Finally it explores
social attitudes towards French, English and non-dominant vernaculars through a
questionnaire and interview on the eve of the independence referendum.