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LINGUIST List 22.2911

Sat Jul 16 2011

Diss: Disc Analysis/Morphology: Berez: 'Discourse, Landscape, and ...'

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        1.     Andrea Berez , Discourse, Landscape, and Directional Reference in Ahtna

Message 1: Discourse, Landscape, and Directional Reference in Ahtna
Date: 16-Jul-2011
From: Andrea Berez <andrea.berezgmail.com>
Subject: Discourse, Landscape, and Directional Reference in Ahtna
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Institution: University of California, Santa Barbara
Program: Linguistics Department
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2011

Author: Andrea L. Berez

Dissertation Title: Discourse, Landscape, and Directional Reference in Ahtna

Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis

Subject Language(s): Ahtena (aht)

Dissertation Director:
Sandra A. Thompson
James Kari
Patricia Clancy
Marianne Mithun

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation examines one corner of the grammar of the Ahtna
Athabaskan language of Alaska: the use and semantics of the lexical class
of directionals. In particular, this dissertation looks at how Ahtna
speakers use directionals in spontaneous discourse and elicitation against
the backdrop of the physiography of Ahtna territory. The semantics of the
directional system is traditionally riverine, meaning that the orientation
of the local river determines which directional term speakers choose. Talk
about direction and location of referents in the natural landscape is
common among Ahtna speakers: Ahtna people are traditionally seminomadic,
and verbally displaying one's knowledge of overland travel through Ahtna
territory has a special place in culture and society. Among the linguistic
resources available for describing concepts like path and location are the
directionals, the use of which is a direct reflection of a speaker's
familiarity with the geography of the region he or she is describing.
Awareness of the local ecology is thus not only central to Ahtna cultural
practices, but also potentially influences the development of the grammar
over time.

This dissertation is concerned with the relationship between language
change over time and the use of the directionals in discourse and
elicitation. The first section examines the recent changes in the semantics
and usage of the directionals because of language contact. Using data from
my fieldwork, I show that the nearly constant contact of Ahtna with the
dominant English language is causing a shift in the semantics of the
directionals, such that they now refer less to the orientation of the local
river, and more to the cardinal directions found in English.

The second section looks at language change from a purely language-internal
point of view. Using data from a previous generation of Ahtna speakers, it
discusses how the complex morphology of directionals is lexicalizing over
time, leading to a loss of semantic clarity that speakers are compensating
for via other resources in the discourse structure. Central to the
discussion is the topography of the landscape itself. To that end,
geographic information systems technology plays a large role in the data
presented here.

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