“Plaza ‘góó and before he can respond…”: Language ideology, bilingual Navajo, and Navajo poetry

Anthony K. Webster


This article suggests that much of the use of the Navajo language in contemporary Navajo written poetry, especially English dominant poetry, serves as an icon of proper Navajo usage. It is a purist view of the Navajo language. Navajo poetry is implicated, even if tacitly, in a discourse of linguistic purism that is tied to an oppositional linguistic ideology that sees Navajo and English as discrete and distinct “objects.” Navajo poetry erases the contemporary sociolinguistic diversity - including bilingual Navajo - on the Navajo Nation. And in so doing, it closes off parts of Navajo sociolinguistic realities and in its stead creates an imagined Navajo language community.

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