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A Prehistory of Western North America

The Impact of Uto-Aztecan Languages

David Leedom Shaul

Publication Year: 2014

This book offers a new approach to the use of linguistic data to reconstruct prehistory. The author shows how a well-studied language family—in this case Uto-Aztecan—can be used as an instrument for reconstructing prehistory.

The main focus of Shaul’s work is the mapping of Uto-Aztecan. By presenting various models of Uto-Aztecan prehistory, by assessing multiple models simultaneously, and by guiding readers through areas where the evidence is not so clear, Shaul helps nonspecialists develop the tools needed for evaluating various historical linguistics models themselves. He evaluates both archaeological and genetic evidence as well, placing it carefully alongside the linguistic evidence he knows best. Shaul’s thorough treatment provides many new avenues for future research on the historical anthropology of western North America.

Published by: University of New Mexico Press

Front Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii


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pp. viii-x

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Scott G. Ortman

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pp. xi-xiv

When anthropology first developed in the nineteenth century, testimonial evidence was the primary means by which researchers reconstructed the histories of indigenous peoples. For the recent past, oral tradition was used, but for deep-time perspective, comparative linguistic data and analyses were the primary source. ...

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pp. xv-xviii

One of the titles I considered for this book was “Chasing the Uto-Aztecans: Alternatives in the Prehistory of Western North America.” This title referred to the interest in Uto-Aztecan as the single language family that straddles Mesoamerica and the western United States, and as a possible conduit for corn-complex agriculture from Mexico into the southwestern United States. ...

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1: Who’s Chasing the Uto-Aztecans?

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pp. 1-23

The working title for this book was “Who’s Chasing the Uto-Aztecans?” The answer to this question is, simply, everyone who is interested in the prehistory of western North America and northern Mexico. ...

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2: Meet the Uto-Aztecan Language Family

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pp. 24-48

The UA language family includes languages indigenous to most of the Great Basin, southern California, Arizona, northern Mexico, and the western coast of Mexico (Sonora, Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Narayit, Durango, Zacatecas), plus the various Nahuan varieties, which are sprinkled mainly through central Mexico. ...

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3: The Linguistic Artifact: Toward a Prehistoric Sociolinguistics

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pp. 49-61

Linguistic borrowing is expected in close contact situations, where there are/were bilingual people from two or more speech communities who interact(ed) daily. The question is: What kind of material is borrowed, and how much? In this chapter I will digress to develop the concept of the linguistic artifact. ...

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4: “Numic Spread Sure Goes Good with Whitey Bread”

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pp. 62-98

The title of this chapter reflects native Numic reactions to the “Numic Spread Hypothesis,” of which this chapter is a critique (Roberts and Ahlstrom 2006). The Numic Spread Hypothesis argues for a recent (archaeologically speaking) spread of the Numic languages into the Great Basin along with a seed-beating technology. ...

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5: The American Southwest and Uto-Aztecan

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pp. 99-158

The American Southwest (roughly present-day Arizona and New Mexico) is an area with several archaeological cultures: Anasazi and related neighboring traditions in the north, Hohokam in the south (largely in southern Arizona), and the Mogollon tradition in between Anasazi and Hohokam. ...

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6: Southern Arizona, the Tepiman Corridor, and Mesoamerica

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pp. 159-183

This chapter is about the Southern UA languages. Data for Corachol and Nahuan imply a north-to-south migration into Mesoamerica. Data for the other Southern UA subfamilies (Cahitan, Opatan, Tarahumaran, Tubar) are ambiguous as to north-south movement, but at some time in the past the Tepiman subfamily separated Opatan from Cahitan. ...

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7: Old California Uto-Aztecan

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pp. 184-217

This chapter evaluates the hypothesis that PUA was located not only in western North America (as in the classic work by Fowler [1972, 1983]), but more specifically was at least partly located in the southern Central Valley of California (hence, “Old California” Uto-Aztecan). ...

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8: Uto-Aztecan and the Spread of Corn Agriculture

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pp. 218-254

Because Uto-Aztecan is the only language family extending from Mesoamerica into the American Southwest, the spread of cultural traits northward from Mexico could have been via Uto-Aztecan-speaking networks. The Farming/Language Dispersal Hypothesis (Bellwood 1968; Diamond and Bellwood 2003; Bellwood and Renfrew 2002) holds that each case of the spread of agriculture correlates with the population expansion of a single language family. ...

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9: Can Proto-Uto-Aztecan Culture Be Reconstructed?

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pp. 255-267

Is the PUA culture level too old to provide concrete details that apply to all cultures speaking UA languages? Recall the basic principle that material culture is more likely to change than is nonmaterial culture. The answer to the questions posed above is at least a partial “yes,” as will be seen in the sets of linguistic artifacts covered in this chapter. ...

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10: A Rejoinder: Comparative Tepiman Mythology and Beyond

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pp. 268-292

In this chapter, I examine the creation mythology of the O’odham and other peoples speaking Tepiman languages. Finding a common sequence, I then compare this myth schema to those of a UA-speaking people to the south (Nahua) and two to the north (Hopi, Shoshone). ...

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11: Chasing the Uto-Aztecans: A Model of Uto-Aztecan Prehistory

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pp. 293-310

Florence Hawley Ellis, in reviewing ethnographic data relevant to UA origins, considered that the degree of change in culture “would roughly parallel the degree of change in language, as a tribe that moved away from its original home and neighbors five thousand years ago would show more change than one separated from its original surroundings 500 years before present” (1968:88). ...

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12: Prehistoric Sociolinguistics

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pp. 311-334

Prehistory studies try to restore or reconstruct past human conditions and interactions. By using known languages and language families, it has been possible to infer ethnicity in the prehistory of much of western North America from the subarctic down to northern Mexico. ...

Appendix: Transcription Conventions and Phonetics

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pp. 335-338

References Cited

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pp. 339-366


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pp. 367-377

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780826354815
E-ISBN-10: 0826354815
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826354808

Page Count: 432
Publication Year: 2014