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chapter 9 Embodying the Reversal of Language Shift Agency, Incorporation, and Language Ideological Change in the Western Mono Community of Central California paul v. kroskrity As Edward Sapir once observed, ‘‘Our natural interest in human behavior seems always to vacillate between what is imputed to the culture of the group as a whole and what is imputed to the psychic organization of the individual himself’’ (1934:408). As a foundational figure for both the Americanist tradition in linguistics and for the field of linguistic anthropology , Sapir realized early on the difficulty and delicacy of achieving that analytical balance between perspectives that emphasize the formative forces of society and culture, on the one hand, and those that highlight individuals and their own psychological imperatives for shaping their worlds of experience, on the other. In this chapter I want to suggest that the wisdom of acknowledging these levels of ‘‘warp’’ and ‘‘weft’’—if I may extend the imagery of weaving to the ongoing creation of a social fabric—is relevant to language ideological studies of Native American communities and may restore a balance between appreciating the powerful roles of political economic forces and the agency of individual Native American social actors (Deloria 2004). When Michael Silverstein first defined linguistic ideologies as ‘‘sets of beliefs about language articulated by users as a rationalization or justification of perceived language structure and use’’ (1979:193), he did so not merely to acknowledge the existence of such folk beliefs about language but to demonstrate both their potential and actual potency (as in changes involving the early-nineteenth-century loss of ‘‘thou’’ from non-Quaker English speech and the late-twentieth-century removal of the generic ‘‘he’’ from American English) to transform those structures. The com- the western mono community of central california 191 paratively short history of language ideological theorizing thus originates with an emphasis on speakers’ awareness of language and the transformative potential of this consciousness as a form of agency. This is especially noteworthy because most of this research, in its emphasis on symbolic domination, dominant language ideologies, and the socioeconomic foundations for speakers’ perspectives on language, typically highlights ‘‘structure ’’ rather than ‘‘agency.’’ But while such an emphasis on structure is often appropriate and even overdue, given preferences in many forms of linguistic research to construct language as an apolitical object (Kroskrity 2000b, 2004), failure to admit ‘‘agency’’ as an analytical factor robs language ideological research of crucial tools for understanding both language ideological variation and diachronic change. In this chapter I want to briefly explore some ways in which a contrapuntal emphasis on agency might serve to illuminate processes of language ideological change and begin to redress what Carter and Sealey (2000) describe as the imbalanced treatment of structure and agency. While the scholarly literature on this subject in sociocultural anthropology appropriately problematizes agency in social life by locating it at many different levels of organization, in this chapter I want to deploy Laura Ahearn’s ‘‘provisional’’ definition of agency as ‘‘the socioculturally mediated capacity to act’’ (2001:112) as a means of briefly exploring the agency of one member of the Western Mono community of central California . More explicitly, my objective here is to examine two expressions of agency embodied by the Western Mono elder Rosalie Bethel, who until a stroke in 2001 could easily be regarded as her community’s leading language activist.∞ I want to read aspects of her agency from two distinct and complementary types of data. One of these sources is life history narratives (Langness and Frank 1981) and their emphasis on ‘‘turnings’’ (Mandelbaum 1973) or experiences of transformation.≤ Complementing this more phenomenological perspective, a close analysis of a brief but important interactional strip of a narrative performance provides an opportunity for microanalysis comparable to the kinds of conversational analyses regularly conducted by anthropologists and sociologists. This juxtaposition of diverse sources enables an analysis of the types of agency exhibited by an elder and language activist. Here I focus on activities that have either produced language ideological change or resulted in overt action designed to reverse the language shift (to English) that 192 paul v. kroskrity now severely threatens the Western Mono language in such central California towns as North Fork, Auberry, and Dunlop. In both sources I emphasize an especially robust agency that is something more than merely a ‘‘capacity to act’’; it is rather an awareness leading to the transformation of selves and systems. By reflecting on these instances...


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