Spatializing kinship: The grammar of belonging in Amdo, Tibet
University of British Columbia
This paper explores children’s language socialization into kin-based peer relationships in Amdo, Tibet. I examine spontaneous interactions in one extended family to show how children link place and kinship using spatial deixis, the grammatical system that encodes context-dependent reference to location, in Amdo Tibetan. I analyze uses of spatial deixis in two interactive routines: (1) peer-group play, and (2) children’s scaffolding of infants’ roles in multiparty participation frameworks. I argue that children use their emerging deictic repertoires to ‘spatialize kinship,’ mapping kinship relations onto the immediate spaces of co-present interactions as well as the enduring places of the village’s geography. Previous studies have noted that culturally specific forms of relationality influence adults’ uses of deixis by shaping the pragmatics of interactive settings. Building on these insights, the data from Amdo demonstrate the need to consider cultural associations between place and kinship when examining the acquisition of deixis in early childhood.
This study advances our understanding of how children’s language practices contribute to the ongoing (re)formulation of culturally significant relationships to persons and places. The assertion that social relationships, built through routinized cultural practices, influence children’s acquisition of grammar has been well established in the anthropological paradigm of language socialization (Schieffelin and Ochs 1986, 2). By analyzing spontaneous interactions, language socialization has demonstrated that practices tied to language use endure or shift across generations along with the dynamic target of a community’s mother tongue(s) and the social relationships built through everyday talk (Garrett and Baquedano-López 2002). Children’s own understandings of the links between specific language forms and social relationships play a key role in this reformulation, and can be examined through situated uses of linguistic features in activity contexts.
Altman, Irwin, and Setha Low
eds.1992Place Attachment. New York: Springer.
1996Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language Among the Western Apache. Albuquerque: UNM Press.
1971Problems in General Linguistics. Coral Gables: University of Miami Press.
2000 “Deictic Transposition and Referential Practice in Belhare.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 10 (2): 224–47.
Brown, Penelope, and Stephen Levinson
1993 “ ‘Uphill’ and ‘Downhill’ in Tzeltal.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 3 (1): 46–74.
1975 “The Ontogenesis of Speech Acts.” Journal of Child Language 2 (1–19): 1–19.
1996The Fate of Place. Berkeley: University of California Press.
1992 “Interpretive Reproduction in Children’s Peer Cultures.” Social Psychology Quarterly 55 (2): 160–177.
2015 “The Coordination of Talk and Touch in Adults’ Directives to Children: Touch and Social Control.” Research on Language and Social Interaction 48 (2): 152–75.
2016 “Touch as Social Control: Haptic Organization of Attention in Adult–Child Interactions.” Journal of Pragmatics 92: 30–42.
Don ‘Grub Tshe Ring
2011Bod Kyi Yul Skad Rnam Bshad [Commentary on Tibet’s Dialects]. Beijing: krong go’i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang [China Tibetan Publishing House].
2010 “Husserl, Intersubjectivity and Anthropology.” Anthropological Theory 10 (1–2): 16–35.
Duranti, Alessandro, and Charles Goodwin
1992 “Introduction.” In Rethinking Context: Language as an Interactive Phenomenon, eds. Alessandro Duranti and Charles Goodwin, 1–42. New York: Cambridge University Press.
2011 “Amdo Tibetan.” Tokyo University of Foreign Studies Grammatical Sketches from the Field, 41–78.
2002 “Language Socialization: Reproduction and Continuity, Transformation and Change.” Annual Review of Anthropology 31: 339–361.
2000 “A Space for Place in Sociology.” Annual Review of Sociology 26: 463–96.
1972 “On Face-Work: An Analysis of Ritual Elements in Social Interaction.” In Communication in Face to Face Interaction: Selected Readings, eds. Jean Laver and Sandy Hutcheson, 319–47. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
2018Co-Operative Action. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Goodwin, Marjorie Harness, and Asta Cekaite
2018Embodied Family Choreography: Practices of Control, Care, and Mundane Creativity. Philadelphia: Routledge.
1990Referential Practice: Language and Lived Space among the Maya. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
1992 “The Indexical Ground of Deictic Reference.” In Rethinking Context: Language as Interactive Phenomenon, eds. Alessandro Duranti and Charles Goodwin, 43–76. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
1996Language and Communicative Practices. Boulder: Westview Press.
2005 “Explorations in the Deictic Field.” Current Anthropology 46 (2): 191–220.
2009 “Fieldwork on Deixis.” Journal of Pragmatics 41 (1): 10–24.
2005 “Gesture Paves the Way for Language Development.” Psychological Science 16 (5): 367–71.
1974 “Language Identity of the Colombia Vaupes Indians.” In Explorations in the Ethnography of Speaking, eds. Joel Sherzer and Richard Bauman, 50–64. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
León, Lourdes de
2014 “Language Socialization and Multiparty Participation Frameworks.” In The Handbook of Language Socialization, eds. Alessandro Duranti, Elinor Ochs, and Bambi B. Schieffelin, 81–111. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell.
Longhurst, Robyn, Lynda Johnston, and Elsie Ho
2009 “A Visceral Approach: Cooking ‘at Home’ with Migrant Women in Hamilton, New Zealand.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 34 (3): 333–45.
2017Spatializing Culture: The Ethnography of Space and Place. New York: Routledge.
2010Labrang Monastery: A Tibetan Buddhist Community on the Inner Asian Borderlands, 1709–1958. Lanham: Lexington Books.
1988Culture and Language Development: Language Acquisition and Language Socialization in a Samoan Village. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ochs, Elinor, and Bambi Schieffelin
1995 “The Impact of Language Socialization on Grammatical Development.” In The Handbook of Child Language, eds. Paul Fletcher and Brian MacWhinney, 73–94. Oxford: Blackwell.
1986 “Social Norms and Lexical Acquisition: A Study of Deictic Verbs in Samoan Child Language.” In Language Socialization across Cultures, eds. Bambi B. Schieffelin and Elinor Ochs, 127–52. New York: Cambridge University Press.
2014 “Flows and Frontiers: Landscape and Cultural Dynamics on the Northeast Tibetan Plateau.” The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 15 (1): 1–25.
Salomo, Dorothe, and Ulf Liszkowski
2013 “Sociocultural Settings Influence the Emergence of Prelinguistic Deictic Gestures.” Child Development 84 (4): 1296–1307.
Schieffelin, Bambi B.
1983 “Looking and Talking: The Functions of Gaze Direction in the Conversations of a Young Child and her Mother.” In Acquiring Conversational Competence, eds. Elinor Ochs and Bambi B. Schieffelin, 50–65. New York: Routledge.
Schieffelin, Bambi B.
1990The Give and Take of Everyday Life: Language Socialization of Kaluli Children. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Schieffelin, Bambi B.
2018 “Language Socialization and Making Sense of Place.” In The Sociolinguistics of Place and Belonging: Perspectives from the Margins, eds. Leonie Cornips and Vincent de Rooij, 27–54. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Schieffelin, Bambi B., and Elinor Ochs
eds.1986Language Socialization Across Cultures. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sidnell, Jack, and N. J. Enfield
2017 “Deixis and the Interactional Foundations of Reference.” In The Oxford Handbook of Pragmatics, ed. Yan Huang, 281–239. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
2013 “The Poetics of Village Space when Villages are New: Settlement Form as History Making in Papua, Indonesia.” American Ethnologist 40 (3): 555–70.
Sung, Kuo-Ming, and Lha Byams Rgyal
2005Colloquial Amdo Tibetan: A Complete Course for Adult English Speakers. Xining: Krun-goʼi bod rigs pa dpe skrun khang [China Tibetan Publishing House].
1991 “Language in Aboriginal Australia: Social Dialects in a Geographical Idiom.” In Language in Australia, ed. Suzanne Romaine, 49–66. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
2014 “Preverbal Infant-Caregiver Interaction.” In The Handbook of Language Socialization, eds. Alessandro Duranti, Elinor Ochs, and Bambi B. Schieffelin, 56–80. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell.
2018 “The Purist Campaign as Metadiscursive Regime in China’s Tibet.” Inner Asia 20: 199–218.
2003Constructing a Language: A Usage-Based Theory of Language Acquisition. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Tomasello, Michael, Malinda Carpenter, Josep Call, Tanya Behne, and Henrike Moll
2005 “Understanding and Sharing Intentions: The Origins of Cultural Cognition.” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 28: 675–735.
2017 “Social Network Structure and Language Change in Amdo Tibetan.” International Journal of the Sociology of Language 2017 (245): 169–206.
2018 “ ‘We Talk in Saltwater Words’: Dimensionalisation of Dialectal Variation in Multilingual Arnhem Land.” Language & Communication 62: 119–32.
2019 “Learning Language, Transforming Knowledge: Language Socialization in Amdo Tibet.” Ph.D. Dissertation, New York: New York University.
Ward, Shannon, and Gerald Roche
2020 “Language Policy.” In Historical Dictionary of Tibet, eds. David Templeman and John Powers, 371–377. Lanham: Scarecrow Press.
1959 “A Standard System of Tibetan Transcription.” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 22: 261–67.
Yeh, Emily, and Charlene Makley
2019 “Urbanization, Education, and the Politics of Space on the Tibetan Plateau.” Critical Asian Studies 51 (1): 1–11.