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Talking in Context

Talking in Context: Language and Identity in Kwakwaka'wakw Society

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  • Book Info
    Talking in Context
    Book Description:

    Talking in Context demonstrates the importance of cultural contact on the structure of languages and addresses the socio-cultural aspects of indigenous language use in the modern world. Goodfellow's analysis of linguistic data from three generations of Kwak'wala speakers shows that English has greatly influenced grammar and phonology. Even though Kwak'wala is being replaced by English as the language of communication, Goodfellow found that speakers with varying degrees of fluency use the native language tactically to signal Kwak'wala identity and for ceremony.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7276-8
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. CHAPTER ONE Introduction: Language Use and Identity
    (pp. 4-12)

    This study is the product of research on the usage of Kwaḱwala (Kwákwala), a language of the northern branch of the Wakashan language family spoken in British Columbia, Canada, on the northern part of Vancouver Island and the adjacent mainland. The Kwakwaka'wakw(Kwá-kwŭ-kyŭ-wakw), literally "Kwaḱwala-speaking people," and their language have been commonly referred to as Kwakiutl in anthropological and linguistic literature, but they prefer these new terms to designate their culture and language.¹

    The focus here is twofold: I examine whether English has had any significant influence on the vocabulary and structure of Kwaḱwala after prolonged contact between the two...

  2. CHAPTER TWO A Theoretical Approach to the Study of Language, Culture, and Identity
    (pp. 13-53)

    Language is usually thought of as a system of communication used to express ideas between members of a speech community. The speech community, however, is not defined solely through the use of a particular language: "Membership in such a community requires knowledge of shared communicative means. The maintenance of a speech community depends on continued social interaction among its members and agreement among those members" of what constitutes one's identity as a member (Foster 1991, 21). Culture, in an ideational perspective, is the shared norms and beliefs of a social community, "the meanings which people create, and which create people,...

  3. CHAPTER THREE History of Contact in the Kwakwaka'wakw Region
    (pp. 53-92)

    Any study of the way language and culture are related to identity in a colonial situation must take into account historical relationships between the colonizers and the colonized. A historical perspective is included here to provide insight into interactions between different groups of people. These interactions affect the way people perceive their own and others' identities. Barth's claim that intercultural contact can heighten and even define "ethnic distinctions" (Barth 1969, 10) or cultural identities is relevant to the investigation of historical contacts between Kwakwaka'wakwand those of European descent.

    In the course of time, those from the dominant European society...

  4. CHAPTER FOUR Grammatical, Phonological, and Lexical Changes to Kwaḱwala
    (pp. 93-145)

    The discussion of the historical context of indigenous language change in a colonial situation indicates that, as the Kwakwaka'wakwlost control of their economic base and had their language and culture relegated to an inferior position in relation to English language and culture, there was a concomitant loss of Kwaḱwala's functional utility within the community. What effect do these social dynamics have on the internal structure of a language? How can we attempt to view such language change over time?

    In this chapter, I present linguistic data from three different generations of Kwaḱwala speakers, with an analysis of how the...

  5. CHAPTER FIVE Language Use in Context
    (pp. 146-177)

    One of the main premises of this book is that language is used as a marker of cultural identity. In the first part of this chapter, I elaborate on issues relevant to language as a symbol of identity that were presented in chapters 1 and 2, highlighting the issues with examples from Kwakwaka'wakwsociety. I discern five different (but often overlapping) levels of identity among the Kwakwaka'wakw. This is followed by profiles of current language use in the two communities in which I worked, Quatsino and Kingcome Inlet, followed by a discussion of the current contexts in which Kwaḱwala is...

  6. CHAPTER SIX Conclusion: Continuity and Change in Language and Language Use
    (pp. 178-192)

    From the foregoing, we have seen how cultural identity is asserted and maintained through language. In the case of an endangered indigenous language such as Kwaḱwala, that identity is inextricably linked to the people's ancestral cultural heritage. However, it is not necessary to speak a language fluently to use it as a marker of cultural identity. Among the Kwakwaka'wakw, even the use of single words of Kwaḱwala while speaking English establishes the speaker as a member of his or her cultural group. This ideological use of language needs to be recognized by everyone invlolved in language maintenance efforts so that...

  7. APPENDIX: List of Suffixes
    (pp. 193-194)