The Language Ghost: Linguistic Heritage and Collective Identity Among the Monacan Indians of Central Virginia.

Wood, Karenne, Anthropology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Danziger, Eve, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
Hantman, Jeffrey, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
Dobrin, Lise, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
McMillen, Christian, Department of History, University of Virginia

This study investigates indigenous language ideologies that have emerged in the Monacan Indian Nation, a tribe of about 2500 people located near the Blue Ridge Mountains in central Virginia. It also presents, from a tribal member’s perspective, the history and ethnography of the people, whose ancestral language was Siouan. That language was closely related to Tutelo, a language documented by Horatio Hale that is no longer spoken. The study involved interviews and observation at public Monacan-sponsored cultural events and in private settings to investigate whether cultural particularities apply to the language ideologies that were discovered. Of the three positions identified as separate language ideologies, one could be said to fit within Western frameworks of assumptions, one is culturally specific, and the third falls somewhere in between. The study uses a table presented in Susan Gal’s (1979) model of language shift in Oberwart, Austria, to demonstrate the existence of the “language ghost” through categories of interlocutors that disappeared when the speakers shifted from their ancestral language to English. In cases of indigenous language reclamation projects around the world, the community’s level of commitment and participation have emerged as the single most important factor necessary to achieve the project’s goals, regardless of the group’s population or level of fluency. The study questions whether, at this point, a Monacan language reclamation project would be likely to succeed, given the points of disjuncture (Meek 2010) evident in competing language ideologies within the community.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
American Indian,linguistics,language revitalization,identity, Monacan, Tutelo
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