Voices in the desert: Contemporary approaches to language maintenance and survival of an ancient language, Tohono O'odham

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Abstract

In the summer of 1995, only a blink away from the 21st century, several members of the Tohono O'odham Nation came together for a two-week training workshop for O'odham language teachers at the college and university level. Within the short two-week period this group began to experiment with various alternatives for turning the tide of language loss among the Tohono O'odham community, including building on the rich oral tradition of the people and pilot projects using the latest computing equipment. This article considers these and other language-maintenance efforts in light of the current status of the Tohono O'odham language of Arizona. The goals of the article are to describe the present status of spoken and written Tohono O'odham and prevailing attitudes held by members of the O'odham Tribe about their language; to describe approaches being attempted to maintain the O'odham language; and to consider the current economic and political stance of the O'odham Nation relative to language survival. Finally, the article considers the current role of the Tohono O'odham's lucrative gaming industry: will there be revenue available now for the tribe to help itself in turning the tide of language loss? Both realistic and hypothetical solutions to O'odham language maintenance and survival are proposed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-57
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of the Sociology of Language
Issue number132
StatePublished - Dec 1 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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