From Hóyéé to Hajinei : On some implications of feelingful iconicity and orthography in Navajo poetry

Anthony K. Webster


This paper examines the use of co-switching in Navajo written poetry. I look specifically at the use of code-switching from English dominant poems to Navajo. I outline three general semantic domains that are most commonly code-switched from English to Navajo: 1) emotions; 2) mythic characters; and 3) traditional place-names. I suggest that this has to do with a general linguistic ideology that understands these domains as incommensurate with English. I argue that such code-switches are “emblematic identity displays.” I conclude by discussing the relationship between “folk” orthographies and “standard” orthographies. I argue that an over-reliance on “the standard” and a diminishing of “folk” orthographies limits the potential for creativity and subtly undermines notions of incommensurability when Navajo poets are limited to “the standard”, a standard that many Navajos do not know.

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