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chapter 3 Contradictions across Space-Time and Language Ideologies in Northern Arapaho Language Shift jeffrey d. anderson In 1878, when the federal government relocated the Northern Arapaho tribe to the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, all of the approximately eight hundred members were fluent in their indigenous language. Most were also fluent in Plains Indian sign language, some in one or more neighboring languages, and only several in English. By 2005 less than approximately 7 percent of the more than six thousand members of the tribe remained fluent in Arapaho. As Salzmann (1998:287) confirms, language shift has progressed to what can be defined as an irreversible stage. At present all remaining fluent speakers are bilingual and members of at least the grandparental generation. The age discrepancy in fluency varies with family and individual childrearing contexts, but only several people under the age of seventy remain fluent. Today, all children acquire English as their first language. In all social domains English predominates except in educational contexts for language renewal, ceremonial speech, and occasional interaction among elders. When elders are together they sporadically switch to Arapaho but generally only for a few exchanges as a speech event unfolds. Despite concerted efforts over the past twenty- five years, language renewal programs have produced no fluent speakers among younger generation students studying it as a second language in formal educational contexts. In the Northern Arapaho speech community the process of language shift over the past seventy years, and more recent efforts in the past three decades to reverse it, have been concomitant with a proliferation of competing and converging language ideologies. During the same history the Wind River Reservation social landscape and temporal order have northern arapaho language shift 49 changed dramatically. During my first continuous field study of 1988–94 I participated in many language and cultural education programs and was thus daily immersed in discourse articulating these ideologies. As Arapaho people talked about elements or the whole of language(s), I came to realize that the ideologies expressed were efforts to understand and resolve contradictions generated by the dramatically changing environment beyond language itself. Older fluent speakers today comment, often with a profound sense of loss, that they have few opportunities in their daily lives to speak Arapaho with others. With modern ordering of space-time, the vast majority of elders live in nuclear or extended domestic social spaces in which they are the single speaker or only one among several fluent senior relatives. Those who participate in interviews and educational programs often mentioned to me that they looked forward to such rare times to speak the language and connect with others in their own generation. As many observe, language shift is not just a demographic process of declining numbers of speakers but also a process of contracting ‘‘domains ’’ of usage (Fishman 1972:440–53) or sites of cultural production (Silverstein 1998b:138). Language or speech does not, however, construct the social space and time of its use sui generis. As I explain elsewhere (Anderson 1998:51–52), domains themselves are equally constituted by the interdimensionality of time and space on a number of levels. The socially constructed spaces and time orientations in which Arapaho people live, such as ceremony, home, school, political discourse, and economic activity, have all changed significantly in history, both in the ways sites reproduce social relations internally and in the speech practices that link the domains together. Borrowing a useful term from Giddens, it is insightful to examine speech practices and reflective ideologies relative to ‘‘time-space zones’’ as individuals and groups move through ‘‘time-space paths’’ (1987:146) in daily life and trajectories of larger extension, such as the annual calendar, life cycle, and family history. What is needed is more attention in anthropology to the way communities change their speech practices in response to constructed changes in the physical and social environment. Built environments can enhance or inhibit any social practices, whether by design or unintentionally (Lawrence and Low 1990:461). More generally, as Harvey recognizes, imposed orders of space and time are the principal apparatus of ‘‘conquest, 50 jeffrey d. anderson imperial expansion, and neocolonial domination’’ (1990:419). Following Foucault (1984:252), it can be said that governments exert power through built forms in a process of canalization, the control of the flow and distribution of individual bodies in space. With respect to time, Munn states, ‘‘Control over time is not just a strategy of interaction; it is a...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780816502219
Related ISBN
9780816529162
MARC Record
OCLC
754718544
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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