Increments in Navajo conversation

Margaret Field

Abstract

This paper examines the use of increments (Schegloff 1996, Ford et al. 2002) in naturally occurring Navajo discourse (conversation.) Navajo is a polysynthetic verb-final language belonging to the Athabascan family, spoken in the American Southwest. It finds that Navajo increments, specifically “glue-ons” (Couper-Kuhlen & Ono this volume) appear in the form of temporal or locative adverbial phrases as well as unattached NPs, as is the case in English and other languages. However, Navajo increments do not appear to serve two functions suggested by Ford et al.(2002) for increments in English: “pursuing uptake” in the case of lack of recipiency, and the indexing of a “stance display” toward the speaker’s own previous utterance. This is not surprising given other cultural differences in Athabaskan interaction which revolve around a value on individual autonomy, with important consequences for language use.

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