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Three speakers, four dialects: Documenting variation in an endangered Amazonian language

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Title: Three speakers, four dialects: Documenting variation in an endangered Amazonian language
Authors: Skilton, Amalia
Issue Date: 01 Jun 2017
Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press
Citation: Skilton, Amalia. 2017. Three speakers, four dialects: Documenting variation in an endangered Amazonian language. In Hildebrandt, Kristine A., Carmen Jany, and Wilson Silva. (Eds) Documenting Variation in Endangered Languages. Language Documentation & Conservation Special Publication no. 13. [PP 94-115] Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press
Series/Report no.: LD&C Special Publication
Abstract: This paper offers a case study on dialect contact in Máíhɨ̃ki (Tukanoan, Peru), with the goal of illustrating how documentation of variation can contribute to a general language documentation project. I begin by describing the facts of variation in one dialectally diverse Máíhɨ̃ki-speaking community. I then argue that the outcomes of dialect mixing in this speech community can be understood only through a fine-grained analysis centering the dialectal composition of the communities of practice to which speakers belonged in early life. The coarse-grained identity categories used in most variationist analyses, such as age and gender, are less informative. After proposing a network theory interpretation of this finding, I discuss its implications for the role of (a) ethnography and (b) the European dialect mixing literature in research on variation in endangered languages. Second, I describe some surprising similarities between this speech community and those described in classic variationist literature. Like urban English speakers, Máíhɨ̃ki speakers attach less indexical value to morphosyntactic than to phonological variation, and – although their language lacks a standard – engage in indexically motivated style-shifting. I discuss ways to adapt variationist methods to endangered language settings to capture these phenomena, then close with comments on the importance of documenting variation for conservation.
Sponsor: National Foreign Language Resource Center
ISBN: 978­0­9973295­0­6
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike License
Appears in Collections:LD&C Special Publication No. 13: Documenting Variation in Endangered Languages

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