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chapter 5 English Is the Dead Language Native Perspectives on Bilingualism jule gómez de garcía, melissa axelrod, and jordan lachler Issues of identity, cultural authenticity, power, and social structure are central to language revitalization projects in Native American communities . Even in situations of significant language shift, language remains a highly charged indicator of ethnicity for tribal populations. All bilingual individuals have attitudes toward the two languages they speak. These attitudes reflect differing positions about the social categories that the two languages index, and they constitute ideologies of language structure and language usage. As Gal points out, ‘‘Different ideologies recognize or highlight different units of language as salient and as indicative of speakers’ identities’’ (1998:326). The two languages available to a bilingual speaker can come to represent different aspects of the speaker’s identity, and ideologies about language can reflect sociopolitical structures and roles. Hill’s discussion of Mexicano speaker Don Gabriel’s narrative about his son’s murder is a particularly striking example. He uses Spanish to talk of the capitalist motivation for the murder but uses Mexicano to tell of his feelings of loss, to express the personal rather than the political impact of his son’s death. The use of Spanish indexes Don Gabriel’s ‘‘ongoing ideological resistance to a capitalist ideology’’ (Hill 1995:135). As indigenous languages disappear, the number of bilingual speakers also necessarily dwindles. Each bilingual Indian has his or her story to tell of how he or she became bilingual and of the social situations each enjoyed or endured during the early language acquisition years. Individuals have stories to tell of how they learned a second or third language, whether it was English or Spanish or another Native American language. 100 gómez de garcía, axelrod, and lachler Some stories involve institutional educational situations, including boarding schools, public schools, and parochial schools. Other stories tell of intertribal family relationships and of informal contact learning situations. These stories reveal the attitudes that people currently have about their bilingualism and in particular about the colonial language in which they have achieved some degree of fluency. Among Native American populations with whom we have worked, an attitude that has become particularly widespread in recent years is that English lacks the descriptive and imagistic characteristics of their Native heritage language—that English is ‘‘dead’’ in both a spiritual and expressive sense. Several of our current consultants have commented on the necessity of maintaining their ancestral language because their culture, their ceremonies, and their spiritual history and values can only be transferred through the metaphors inherent in the language and through the cognitive imagery these metaphors invoke. Native participants in a roundtable discussion on social, political, and economic factors in language revitalization at the 2002 Indigenous Languages Institute Symposium, ‘‘Community Voices Coming Together,’’ in Albuquerque, New Mexico, lamented the fact that younger tribal members cannot understand important cultural lessons because they speak only English. ‘‘English,’’ said one participant, ‘‘is a cold language. We don’t see the pictures when we speak English, and we can’t expect our children to see them either if we tell them about the Spirits in English.’’ ‘‘Our Spiritual Helpers,’’ says another, ‘‘don’t understand English. This is why there are so many problems in our communities.’’ This chapter explores some of the possible sources for this attitude and examines the implications for language revitalization programs. The Native voices in this chapter come from four communities in New Mexico: the Sandia and Tesuque pueblos and the Navajo and Jicarilla Apache nations. The following presents a brief introduction to these four communities. Sandia Pueblo Sandia Pueblo is a small Native American community located on the northern boundary of the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico. It is one of nineteen pueblos located throughout the state. The Sandians are mem- native perspectives on bilingualism 101 bers of the Tiwa language group, the people who once dominated the area that now contains Albuquerque. While remote tribes face many hardships and disadvantages, the Sandia Pueblo has a disadvantage that most tribes do not. All of the children of the tribe attend public or private schools, where they are a minority. The teachers do not teach and most classmates do not speak Tiwa. Remarkably , 25 percent of the pueblo members still speak Tiwa. However, because almost none of these speakers are under the age of fifty and the language is not being learned by children as their native language, Sandia Tiwa can be...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780816502219
Print ISBN
9780816529162
MARC Record
OCLC
754718544
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
N
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