Graduation Year


Date of Thesis Acceptance

Spring 5-10-2014

Major Department or Program



Suzanne Morrissey


The developing prominence of Native American language revitalization efforts demands a renewed consideration of the theoretical tradition of linguistic relativism, as it pertains to the varied contexts of language shift in which revitalization is pursued. Such a reexamination of relativist theory is crucial, particularly because much of the debate concerning the validity and effectiveness of revitalization efforts can be traced back to basic and conflicting notions of language and its relationship to human thought and culturally-rooted intellectual practice. In order to engage this deeper theoretical debate, the present paper adopts a modified version of Paul Friedrich's "poetic" approach to linguistic relativism. Examined on the basis of various case studies, this poetic approach — which emphasizes diachronic and associational processes largely ignored by recent mainstream linguistic theory — shows itself exceedingly well-suited to grappling with the linguistic questions of revitalization. A final chapter considers the implications of such a theoretical approach in some detail, both as regards the practices of linguists involved in revitalization work, and the broader picture of language that might eventually arise from detailed investigation of its use in settings of shift and revitalization.

Page Count


Subject Headings

Language and languages, Indigenous peoples -- United States -- Languages, Anthropological linguistics, Whitman College -- Dissertation collection 2014 -- Anthropology Department

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Public Accessible Thesis

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