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The Calusa

Linguistic and Cultural Origins and Relationships

Julian Granberry

Publication Year: 2011

The linguistic origins of Native American cultures and the connections between these cultures as traced through language in prehistory remain vexing questions for scholars across multiple disciplines and interests.  Native American linguist Julian Granberry defines the Calusa language, formerly spoken in southwestern coastal Florida, and traces its connections to the Tunica language of northeast Louisiana.
Archaeologists, ethnologists, and linguists have long assumed that the Calusa language of southwest Florida was unrelated to any other Native American language. Linguistic data can offer a unique window into a culture’s organization over space and time; however, scholars believed the existing lexical data was insufficient and have not previously attempted to analyze or define Calusa from a linguistic perspective.
In The Calusa: Linguistic and Cultural Origins and Relationships, Granberry presents a full phonological and morphological analysis of the total corpus of surviving Calusa language data left by a literate Spanish captive held by the Calusa from his early youth to adulthood. In addition to further defining the Calusa language, this book presents the hypothesis of language-based cultural connections between the Calusa people and other southeastern Native American cultures, specifically the Tunica. Evidence of such intercultural connections at the linguistic level has important implications for the ongoing study of life among prehistoric people in North America. Consequently, this thoroughly original and meticulously researched volume breaks new ground and will add new perspectives to the broader scholarly knowledge of ancient North American cultures and to debates about their relationships with one another.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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p. vii

List of Illustrations

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p. ix

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pp. xi-xviii

Like the work of the late Joseph Greenberg, to whose stature I am not comparing myself, this volume will be considered by many trained solely in 1960s and post-1960s archaeology, ethnography, or ethnohistory as a hard-to-believe or impossible-to-believe statement based...

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1. Investigating the Calusa

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pp. 1-8

To those who know Florida prehistory the word Calusa usually conjures up visions of an extinct, fierce native Southwest Florida people, alien yet highly civilized even from our present-day point of view, politically powerful...

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2. The European Period History of the Calusa

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pp. 9-14

It is unfortunate that what we know about the history of the Calusa tribe is as little as it is. We have only a number of Spanish accounts, well described and reprinted in the original Spanish by Zubillaga in 1946, and in English translation by Hann in 1991 for those Florida...

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3. Records of Calusa Culture

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pp. 15-18

We know from Spanish colonial historical records that at the height of their authority in the 1500s and 1600s the Calusa were an extremely powerful people, controlling at least the majority of Southwest Florida and the Keys and the lands...

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4. The Source of the Calusa Language

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pp. 19-26

The data we have on the Calusa language fortunately provide solid information on the source and nature both of that language, the people who spoke it, and the culture of which they were a part. Though the data may seem minimal to many...

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5. The Nature of the Calusa Language

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pp. 27-47

While this chapter may be somewhat esoteric for the nonlinguist, it is nonetheless a necessary presentation of the data that lead to the conclusions presented in this volume. A linguistic comparison of the phonologies of Calusa...

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6. Tracing the Calusa Migration

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pp. 48-57

Accounting for the recurrent regular patterned sound-form-meaning correspondences given in the previous chapter that link the Calusa and Tunica phonological systems, morphologies, and vocabularies, small though the Calusa vocabulary may be...

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7. The Calusa and the Weeden Island Gulf Tradition

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pp. 58-61

What archaeologists refer to as Weeden Island cultures covers a variety of site and artifactual patterns along the Gulf coast from the Manasota area in coastal west Central Florida, from just north of Charlotte Harbor to just north of Tampa Bay...

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8. The Language and Culture of Mid-Florida

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pp. 62-64

While not directly related to the Calusa themselves yet nonetheless impinging on definition of the languages and peoples north of Charlotte Harbor, it is of considerable importance and interest to note that documentary evidence...

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9. A Final Assessment

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pp. 65-69

The data we have on the Calusa language, its nature and probable connections, can be summarized in the following manner: (1) From the meager data we have on Florida native languages other than Timucua and Apalachee—Calusa, Mayaca...


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pp. 71-82


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pp. 83-86

E-ISBN-13: 9780817385798
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817317515

Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1

OCLC Number: 772845384
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Calusa

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Calusa Indians -- History.
  • Tunica language -- Etymology.
  • Calusa Indians -- Languages.
  • Calusa Indians -- Social life and customs.
  • Anthropological linguistics -- Southern States.
  • Tunica language -- Lexicology.
  • Weeden Island culture -- History.
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