Social Interaction, Social Context, and Language: Essays in Honor of Susan Ervin-Tripp

By Dan Isaac Slobin; Julie Gerhardt et al. | Go to book overview

7 1
LANGUAGE SOCIALIZATION AND LANGUAGE DIFFERENTIATION IN SMALL SCALE SOCIETIES: THE SHOSHONI AND GUARIJÍO

Wick R. Miller2 University of Utah

Child language studies have come of age over the past thirty years or so, a development in which Susan Ervin-Tripp has played a major role. Some of the readers of this volume will know that I was associated with her in an early study, one which influenced some of the work that I have done since that time. Readers whose main interest is in child language may think that I disappeared into the academic woodwork, since I have done little work in this field since our work together in the early 1960s. Most of my research before and after that study has been with American Indian languages. I have developed a particular interest in trying to understand the social and cultural context of language transmission in small scale societies, an interest that was sparked and shaped in important ways by my early association with Susan.

I have had the good fortune to observe language in its social and cultural context for two small scale societies, the Shoshoni in the Great Basin of western United States, and the Guarijío in the mountains of northwestern Mexico. I would like to contrast and compare them with each other, and with the contexts in our own society that we are more familiar with.


SHOSHONI

The Shoshoni were nomadic hunters and gatherers when they came into contact with Euroamericans a century and a half ago. Their territory was sparsely populated: perhaps only ten thousand people stretching over a huge area in what is now southwestern,

____________________
1
This paper is based on my Shoshoni and Guarijío field observations, some of which have been published ( Miller, 1970, 1971, 1980, 1984, 1986; Silver & Miller, 1993). The discussion of the aboriginal Shoshoni cultural context is also based on Steward, 1938. For a discussion of the problems raised in this paper, see also Hill, 1978.
2
Our colleague Wick Miller died tragically, in the midst of an active life, on May 9, 1994. We feel fortunate to be able to bring this chapter of his to the light of day, memorializing both his work with Susan Ervin-Tripp and his life's work with native American peoples and languages. -- Editors

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