Article published in:Language Contact and Change in the Americas: Studies in honor of Marianne Mithun
Edited by Andrea L. Berez-Kroeker, Diane M. Hintz and Carmen Jany
[Studies in Language Companion Series 173] 2016
► pp. 105–138
Contact and semantic shift in extreme language endangerment
Ahtna riverine directionals in a cardinal world
This paper examines the effects of contact with English on the directional system of Ahtna, an endangered Athabascan language of Alaska. The Ahtna directionals reference direction and location in the geographic landscape, but contact with the dominant English system is causing changes in lexicon and possibly the replacement of the entire semantic basis of directional reckoning in Ahtna. I present conversational evidence showing that the conflation of the Ahtna concept of upriver with the English concept of north is leading to the breakdown of the entire Ahtna cognitive directional basis. Although Ahtna is so endangered that we are not likely to witness the full replacement of its directional system, we can still see the processes of contact-induced change at work.
Keywords: Ahtna, contact, directionals, endangerment
Published online: 19 April 2016
Berez, Andrea L.
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Berez-Kroeker, Andrea L.
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