AuthorMeek, Barbra Allyn
AdvisorHill, Jane H.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractLanguage maintenance and re-creation are burning issues for many indigenous communities around the world. Child language acquisition and socialization are processes integral to understanding these issues. In order to design realistic language recreation projects, research must first address the many factors impacting the acquisition and maintenance of a language by children. This dissertation shows how different contexts, historical, environmental, interactional, relate to Kaska language socialization and acquisition. Kaska is a Northern Athabaskan language spoken in the Yukon Territory (Canada). In particular, it shows how the shift from Kaska being a language of everyday communication to one associated with authority and respect constrains children's Kaska production. To examine this shift, a combination of linguistic and ethnographic methods are used. Linguistic description identifies the grammatical structures of the target language. These are the structures that children need to acquire in order to be able to understand and speak the Kaska language. Additionally, grammatical description of adult utterances reveals that children are being exposed to a full Kaska grammar. This suggests that children may understand more Kaska than they produce. Ethnographic methods identify the social constraints on speaking the Kaska language and help establish links between interaction patterns and ideological constructs. They reveal that language choice is related to a speaker's age and social position. Older interlocutors may choose to speak Kaska while younger interlocutors typically choose English. Children have incorporated this pattern into their playgroups. By producing a Kaska utterance, a child may become leader of the playgroup. He or she uses Kaska to attain this social position. Speaking Kaska is also related to the concept of respect. Narratives on socialization emphasize this by instructing children on how to behave respectfully. While children are exposed to an adult Kaska grammar, they predominantly speak English. This pattern is not just the result of past assimilationist practices; it is part of Kaska language socialization.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Anthropology and Linguistics