English with a Navajo accent: language and ideology in heritage language advocacy

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Much of the public discourse promoting Navajo (Diné) language revitalization and language programs takes place in English, both on and off the reservation, as in many other indigenous communities whose

Much of the public discourse promoting Navajo (Diné) language revitalization and language programs takes place in English, both on and off the reservation, as in many other indigenous communities whose heritage languages are endangered. Although Navajo language is commonly discussed as being central to the identity of a Navajo person, this ideology may lie in contradiction to the other linguistic and social means Navajos use to construct Navajo identities, which exist within a wide spectrum of demographic categories as well as communities of practice relating to religion, occupation, and other activities (Field, 2009; Baker & Bowie, 2010).

This dissertation examines two sets of data: 1) interviews with eight Navajo individuals whose interests, academic studies, and/or occupations relate to the promotion of Navajo language use in connection with cultural and linguistic revitalization; and 2) public statements made in online forums discussing the language used by Navajos. The interview data gathered consist of ten sociolinguistic (and open-ended conversational) interviews, culminating in over 13 hours of recorded interviews. The findings of this study show enregistered (i.e., imbued with social meaning) features of the dialect of Navajo English as well as insights into the challenges Navajos face while advocating for programs and policies supporting the teaching of their heritage language.