Doctor of Philosophy in Anthropology (PhD)
Learning the Ancestral Language of My Children: Charting a Course to Fluency in Xaayda Kil
This dissertation is a self-study about my attempt to re-claim my heritage language ofKwak’wala. As a critically endangered language, the First Peoples’ Cultural Council Report on the Status of BC First Nations Languages 2014 found that of a population of 7,309 Kwakwa̲ka̲’wakw reporting to the council about numbers of fluent and semi-fluent Kwak’wala speakers, there are only 160 fluent speakers with approximately 497 identified semi-speakers. I have written from a critical Indigenous Studies stance, drawing from compatible fields such as narrative inquiry and auto-ethnography, and second language acquisition (SLA) theories as well as the growing field of identity theory and heritage language learning within SLA. Further, I asked for and received permission from three Kwakwa̲ka̲’wakw First Nations to interview fluent Kwak’wala speakers in response to a sampling of photographs from my paternal grandmother G̲wa̲nti’lakw’s archive. As a teenager and young mother, she took many photos of our relatives who originated from our large clan with connections to far flung villages within the territory. G̲wa̲nti’lakw was responsible for my care as an infant, and during my formative years, and for a while I knew her as Mom until I grew older and could understand my true beginnings and placein our family. Through an autoethnographic narrative and analysis, I provide a reflection on my engagement with Kwak’wala and its speakers and my own identity as a language learner attempting to reclaim Kwak’wala. As an adult learner, I apply my print literacy skills to phonological memories from my childhood in order to deepen my understanding of the how Kwak’wala works grammatically, lexically and syntactically.
This dissertation investigates a series of phonological and phonetic aspects of Nivaĉle, a Mataguayan language spoken in the Argentinean and Paraguayan Chaco. The data is based on original fieldwork done by the author, with several Nivaĉle speakers in the communities of Uj’e Lhavos and Santa Teresita (Paraguay). This research has a twofold contribution. On the one hand, it adds to the documentation of an endangered and understudied Chaco language. On the other hand, it deepens our understanding of Nivaĉle segmental phonology and advances an Optimality Theoretic analysis of Nivaĉle prosodic phonology. One of the central topics of this dissertation is the interaction between prosodic constituency, stress, and the realization of the constricted glottis ([c.g.]) feature in vowels. Contra Stell (1989), I propose that there is no phonological opposition between modal vowels vs glottalized vowels; rather, Nivaĉle glottalized vowels are sequences of /Vʔ/, a vowel plus moraic glottal stop with different prosodic parsings. A superficially complex stress system in Nivaĉle is shown to reduce to systematic regularities of three types. First, it is shown that stress is quantity-sensitive, with a consistent correlation between bimoraic weight (tautosyllabic /Vʔ/) and stress prominence. Secondly, primary/secondary stress patterns reflect competing edge-alignment constraints where prosodic foot domains align with internal morphological category (MCat) edges. Thirdly, it is argued that a CVC syllable, which constitutes the Minimal Prosodic Word in Nivaĉle, can function as a degenerate foot. The generalization that it characteristically surfaces with secondary (rather than primary) stress is shown to be an emergent consequence of independently motivated constraint rankings. With regards to the Nivaĉle lateral obstruents,it is argued that the typologically rare velar lateral /k͡l/ is a complex segment that is the diachronic result of lateral hardening of Proto-Mataguayan *l. Based on its phonological patterning, it is proposed that /k͡l/ is specified for DORSAL and [lateral].Integrating multiple facets of these prosodic and segmental analyses, vowel-consonant metathesis further deepens our understanding of the complex interplay of Nivaĉle phonological constraints. Metathesis is shown to be motivated by satisfaction of the Syllable Contact Law, interacting with constraints governing complex codas, derived complex onsets, epenthesis, and deglottalization.