Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
This paper examines the use of verbally creative language and performance in revitalization efforts focused on documentation and continued spoken Ottawa-language fluency in an Anishinaabe reserve community in northern Ontario. I look at expositional features of storytelling through the conceptual framework of metalinguistic theorizing, or “storywork” as defined by Jo-Ann Archibald (2008), and correlations between storywork in language documentation and the growing use of verbally creative language and performance in local revitalization programs. A major aspect of this community’s emerging Ottawa revitalization strategy is the production of a community-generated Ottawa dictionary. In these meetings, called “language gatherings” by participants, Elders and other fluent speakers use personal experience narratives to debate definitions and orthographic representation. Incorporating personal experience and narrative practice to theorize language aligns with the conference theme of “changing climates” in that speakers of Ottawa shift linguistic analytic authority from Western scholarship by elevating experiential knowledge of Elders and other fluent speakers. This is done through traditional methods such as storywork while continuing to draw from Western methods of language documentation, such as producing a dictionary, that are deemed useful. This synthesis of methods takes shape as a narrative-, community-, and speaker-centered shift in linguistic analysis of Ottawa. I discuss the rhetorical functions of storywork in this community’s project to document their own language and look at how metalinguistic narratives are used in order to illustrate relationships between language ideology and language revitalization efforts (cf. Carr and Meek 2013; Cruikshank 1997; Kroskrity 2012; Perley 2011; Shieffelin and Doucet 1994).