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Broadening the Horizons: A Linguistic Anthropological Case Study of Language and Landscape at Acoma Pueblo


The locus of linguistic landscapes scholarship has fallen upon the investigation of macro-level patterns and broad sociopolitical themes (e.g. diversity, ecology, economy, hegemony, identity, multilingualism, social solidarity, vitality, etc.) as they are mediated through textual verbal modalities (e.g. displayed signage or other publicly accessible digital and print media), approaching analysis through predominantly quantitative, observational, and empirical methods. I present my discussion on the broader topic of linguistic landscapes scholarship, as well as observations from my own research examining the linguistic landscape at Acoma Pueblo in the Southwestern United States. With this, I aim to connect my work to current debates in linguistic anthropology and social theory. I draw on contemporary and classic literature from within the linguistic anthropological canon, engaging a discourse that covers a dynamic range of relevant theoretical concepts and methodology. I endeavor to reconcile the epistemological divide that exists between a linguistic anthropological approach to linguistic landscapes research and the largely decontextualized quantitative and empirical approaches that pervasively influence the domain of inquiry to date. Therefore, I advocate for adapting an analytic and methodological framework that is oriented toward more ontologically predicated forms of analysis within the field. I also argue to expand the criteria that are used to conceptualized and define the linguistic landscape. I seek to provide a more ethnographically substantiated, contextualized account of the linguistic landscape as it articulates with local language policy and sociocultural practices within an indigenous Puebloan context. Through my examination of policy and practice on the linguistic landscape at the Acoma Pueblo, I attempt to provide basis for a multimodal language ecological understanding of the linguistic landscape. Particular to this undertaking, I investigate a variety of ways that members of the local community engage the linguistic landscape-not only through contemporary textual verbal modalities endemic to the conventional purview of linguistic landscapes research, but also through traditional verbal modalities (e.g. oral literature and narrative). The linguistic landscape proves to be more than an assemblage of verbal signage displayed in public or community spheres within urban contexts. Rather, the linguistic landscape is a conceptual frame inherent to both literate and preliterate language traditions as a socio-structural phenomenon.

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