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  • Pueblo -tiwa Names: Hybrid Transmission in the Sprachbund
  • Peter M. Whiteley (bio) and David H. Snow (bio)


The Pueblo Indians of the United States Southwest and their ascendants, the “Ancestral Pueblos” (formerly “Anasazi,” “Mogollon,” etc.), offer a rich field for the investigation of sociocultural evolution. Following the establishment of agriculture, Puebloan social formations developed over the last two millennia, with a rise and fall of near complexity (at Chaco Canyon, especially), and subsequent re-formations into and throughout the historic period (e.g., Wilcox et al. 2007; Kohler 2013; Ware 2014).1 In historic time, the Pueblos have comprised six mutually unintelligible language groups: Tiwa, Tewa, and Towa, of the Kiowa-Tanoan family (with Piro and Tompiro probable co-members until their demise in the 19th century); Keresan and Zuni, both isolates; and Hopi, a Uto-Aztecan language (see map). Over the last few centuries at least, the Pueblos were surrounded and interspersed by other Native nations (and settlers, beginning in 1598): Navajo and Apache, of the Athapaskan family; Ute, Paiute, O’odham (Pima-Papago), and Comanche of the Uto-Aztecan family; and Havasupai, Walapai, and Yavapai of the Yuman family. Yet the Pueblos display much shared culture—notably, in ritual, cosmology, and economy—that contrasts with those of their Native neighbors, a matter recognized by themselves as well as by outsiders.

The contrast between shared cultures and different languages goes to an old question in anthropology, recently reinvigorated with the rise of phylogenetic models (see, e.g., Forster and Renfrew 2006; Brown et al. 2011; [End Page 525] Nunn 2011). In a nutshell, that question concerns whether the evolution of culture and language is best treated as tree-like—descending, with modification, from once unitary ancestral forms—or network-like—emphasizing repeating cycles of within-generation “horizontal” transfers of ideas and practices. The short answer, of course, is that both are significant, in variant measures at different junctures. Any adequate explanation of sociocultural and language history must be able to assess the relative contributions of both vertical phylogeny and horizontal ethnogenesis. The clear difficulty—and simultaneously a key opportunity—for assessing transmission in Pueblo sociocultural evolution is conjoint cultural similarity and language difference (cf. Kohler 2013). Agentively maintained linguistic conservatism is characteristic of all the Pueblos (e.g., Kroskrity 1993; J. Hill 2007). The fact that Hano-Tewa has acquired only two words from Hopi (Kroskrity 1993:67–77), despite three centuries of co-residence and intermarriage among Hano, Wàlpi, and Sitsóm’ovi on First Mesa, is strong evidence in this regard.

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Pueblo and non-Pueblo languages in the Southwest (time composite, ca. 1700–1850).

Kohler (2013) promotes the idea of a Pueblo Sprachbund, ‘language league/area.’ As concept, Sprachbund was developed by the Prague Linguistic Circle (Trubetzkoy 1931, Jakobson 1931): within a defined region encompassing major language differences, some convergence may [End Page 526] occur in phonology, morphology, and syntactics. Sprachbünde have been described for several areas, including the Balkans, Southern Africa, and Australia. For the Pueblos, Kohler (ibid.) argues, long-term trade and demographic exchange, reinforced by local exogamy rules, blended some local cultural differences, impacting even on otherwise rigid language distinctions. The idea of a Pueblo Sprachbund has been developed most by Bereznak (1995), who argues it is defined by four distinctively shared traits (or “isoglosses”) mostly not shared with other neighboring languages: (1) a three-way demonstrative system (“this” vs. “that” vs. “that yonder”) (all Pueblo languages); (2) aspirated consonants (all languages except Towa); (3) classificatory verbs or verb-forming affixes (all languages except Hopi); (4) sex of Ego as a determinant of kin-term usage (Hopi, Zuni, and Acoma-Keresan, no other Pueblo languages, but present in Navajo too) (Bereznak 1995:148–155). Shaul (2014:138–140) argues against the significance and/or accuracy of Bereznak’s isogloss identifications, concluding a Pueblo Sprachbund remains undemonstrated. Notwithstanding this critique, and the fact that Bereznak’s defining elements are few and somewhat uneven, Kohler’s point about extensive, long-term inter-Pueblo exchange is undeniable. The hypothesis for a Pueblo Sprachbund thus plainly merits further consideration.

We argue here that an additional shared linguistic...


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