Learning to Listen: Confronting Two Meanings of Language Loss in the Contemporary White Mountain Apache Speech Community

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Abstract

This article describes a controversy that emerged around a language maintenance program with which the author was involved on the White Mountain Apache Reservation in Arizona. It argues that the controversy had its source in conflicts between two language ideologies, each informing a different pedagogical model within the local speech community. One had its locus in the educational institutions, and the other was more broadly dispersed throughout families and homes, extending to other contexts of everyday life in which Apache standards of communicative competence set the tone for interactions. The article argues that language education programs were perceived by some as threatening to replace Apache pedagogical practices and to undermine relations of authority between younger and older Apache generations. It concludes that language maintenance cannot be narrowly construed as such, but must take into account local meanings of the problems of language loss and survival in the formulation of solutions.

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