Language Ideologies and Their Impact on Language Use and Structure
Jan 6, 2012 English Language Teaching (ELT) 2769 Views
According to Franz Boas, the socio-cultural context within which a speech community thrives and upon which its collective preferences and linguistic prejudices are established should be considered only as a "secondary rationalization" and should be relegated below the more important aspect of studying the inherent dynamics of the language itself. In the process, Boas developed an alternative linguistic model where race, language, and culture may be separated from-and can function independently of-each other. This model allows an external observer to develop a keen understanding of any given language without the need to solicit value-laden information-such as cultural, religious, or social judgments-from native speakers. Thus, secondary rationalizations, while important, may be bypassed in any attempt of a non-native linguist to understand and reconstruct a given language.
The findings of Paul Kroskrity's decades-long work on the Arizona Tewa people greatly challenge this linguistic theory. Kroskrity implicitly demonstrated that compared with Boas' model, the concept of linguistic ideologies is the more accurate framework by which language may be methodically grasped.
The Arizona Tewa people belong to the Tewa Pueblo group that now lives in northeastern Arizona following revolts against the Spanish in 1680 and 1696 that led to mass migrations and the Arizona Tewa's eventual co-existence with their Hopi hosts. Their centuries-old association with and long exposure to the Hopi people and other speech communities-English, Spanish, Navajo-resulted to their adoption of some basic elements of Hopi society as well turning many Arizona Tewa into multilingual speakers.
However, what Krosktrity highlighted in his work is the remarkable linguistic purism that characterizes the Arizona Tewa language. Unlike those in similar socio-cultural contacts between or among speech communities, the close and prolonged language contact of the Arizona Tewa with the Hopi people resulted only in very minimal linguistic influence. In fact, of all the peoples who migrated following the late 17th century revolts, only the Arizona Tewa group retained its language even to the present. In particular, the group's language contact with the Hopi people that covered around 200 years of socio-linguistic exchange resulted only in extremely low vocabulary borrowings (i.e., loan words) from the Hopi language.
Language contact may be defined as a linguistic engagement between two or more human groups with different languages (in this sense, the Arizona Tewa and the Hopi). The potential outcomes of language contact include stable bilingualism or multilinguism, language shifts, pidgin languages and language death. In the context of the Arizona Tewa, language contact with highly similar and disparate cultures resulted to the multilingualism of many Arizona Tewas but peculiarly left the Arizona Tewa language "pure" even after centuries of close language contacts-100 years with the Apaches, 150 years with the Spanish, and 191 years with the Hopi.
Kroskrity partly attributes this resistance to linguistic borrowings to the linguistic conservatism of the Arizona Tewas, hailing this group of people as "paragon of linguistic conservatism." The Tewa saying "My language is my life" affirms the Tewas' collective awareness of the fundamental significance of their language to the group's very existence/soul.
However, Kroskrity goes further by introducing the concept of linguistic ideology as an alternative socio-cultural interpretation of the Tewas' resistance in assimilating foreign influences into their language. Using linguistic ideology that is rooted in a local context, Kroskrity identifies "kiva speech" as the driving force that kept the Arizona Tewa language remarkably intact for many generations. That is, everyday Tewa speech and linguistic discourses "display a common pattern of influence" from kiva speech-a form of linguistic discourse performed in religious subterranean chambers as sacred altars are erected. In a practical and all-pervading sense, kiva speech became the paramount model used by the Arizona Tewa even in their everyday language. Kroskrity cites four cultural preferences exhibited in kiva speech that primarily established the resistance of the Tewa language to foreign influences. These are 1) regulation by convention [which is exemplified by the use of prayers and song texts]; 2) indigenous pluralism [characterized by strong prohibition against foreign words]; 3) strict compartmentalization [maintenance of linguistic and discourse types]; and, 4) linguistic indexing of identity [application of language as an indicator of the speaker's identity].
To conclude, linguistic ideologies provided the most useful model in terms of generating a deep understanding of the Arizona Tewa language. In contrast to the precepts developed by Franz Boas, Kroskrity maintains that any reconstruction of language that will not consider the naturalized, dominant ideologies of a speech community will be an incomplete framework at best.