Native Languages of North America

Ling 145 | Winter 2014
Tuesday and Thursday, 10-11:45 | Crown 208

Amy Rose Deal
Office hours Tu 3:45-4:45, F 2:30-3:30 | Stevenson 233

Nick Kalivoda, TA
Office hours Mo 12-1 | Stevenson Coffee Shop

Course Description

This class is about the native languages of North America, broadly construed, with an emphasis on three groups of questions:

  1. Are the native languages of North America related to one another? Are they related to languages outside of North America? Are they related to English?
  2. What linguistic patterns are found in North American languages? How are these languages similar and different compared to one another and to languages found outside this area?
  3. What do American languages tells us about the connection between language and culture? Why are many languages of the Americas endangered, and what are the prospects for the survival of American languages?
The official syllabus may be found here.

Course materials

Written assignments will be available on this site, in the appropriate week on the schedule. Most readings are available on the readings site, which requires a password. To get the password, fill out the course survey. Other readings and films are available through the library website or are on course reserve, as noted.

Provisional schedule

Week Topic Reading
(due Thurs.)
(due Tues.)
Further reading
Part I. Relationships between languages.
1 (Jan 7, 9) Language groups and linguistic history.
Reconstructing languages of the past.
Campbell 2004 ch. 5 (The comparative method and linguistic reconstruction) Course survey
2 (Jan 14, 16) Classifying languages into language families. Linguistic clues to migration and diffusion. Campbell 2004 ch. 6 (Linguistic classification), ch. 15 (Linguistic prehistory) HW 1 Wiyot tribe returns home
3 (Jan 21, 23) A tale of two hypotheses: Amerind and Dene-Yeniseian Campbell 2004 ch. 13 (Distant genetic relationship) Essay 1 (1) Problematic Use of Greenberg's Linguistic Classification of the Americas in Studies of Native American Genetic Variation
(2) Navajo Code Talkers honored for WWII efforts
Part II. Aspects of grammar.
4 (Jan 28, 30) Phonological patterns. Vowels and consonants. Inventories and harmony. Bright 1984 HW 2 Fight Over Energy Finds a New Front in a Corner of Idaho
5 (Feb 4, 6) Morphological patterns. Reduplication, noun incorporation, and their place in linguistic theory. Gerdts 1998 HW 3
6 (Feb 11, 13) Syntactic patterns. Word order and polysynthesis. Baker 2001 ch. 4 (Baking a polysynthetic language) HW 4 (1) Last native speaker of Klallam language dies in Washington state
(2) California and Great Basin objects (esp. baskets) at the National Museum of the American Indian
7 (Feb 18, 20) Semantic patterns. Modal words and scalar implicatures. Deal 2011 Essay 2 (1) Petroglyphs at Buffalo Eddy, WA/ID
(2) Bishop (CA) petroglyphs stolen: part I, part II
(3) First Peoples' Language Map of British Columbia
Part III. Culture, endangerment and revitalization.
8 (Feb 25, 27) Language and culture. The Sapir-Whorf
hypothesis and American languages.
Color words.
Kay and Kempton 1984 HW 5(1) Tarahumara runners caught in the drug war
(2) Photographs by Chol photographer Refugia Guzman Perez
9 (Mar 4, 6) Loss of language. What are language endangerment and language death, and why are these taking place? McCarty et al. 2014 [read online through the library], Labillois 1996 HW 6 Rejecting stereotypes, photographing "real" Indians
10 (Mar 11, 13) Languages reclaimed.
Language revitalization.
Makepeace 2010 [This film is on course reserve in McHenry] Essay 3 (1) Sleeping language waking up thanks to Wampanoag reclamation project
(2) In a Native American sport, a family's giant leap
March 20 Final essay