THERE is nothing unusual in the fact that conversation is the most popular pastime of the Koyukuk. It is so with almost every people. But it is just because of this universal importance of talking that it is a subject worthy of special attention in the study of any community. Indeed, I would suggest that there is nothing which characterizes men so distinctly as their normal conversation when they are neither inhibited by the presence of a stranger nor stimulated by some external factor to vaunt their erudition.
In this chapter I shall analyze the talks of the white people to find what subjects they cover and what fraction of their conversation each subject occupies. I obtained my figures by actually recording the subject matter of some 5,016 minutes of ordinary conversation as it occurred in the roadhouses, at the stores, in dozens of different cabins, and even in the mines where the men were working. In making this investigation it was necessary to take several precautions. First, I myself could not take any part in the conversation, otherwise the data I was trying to study would be altered. Second, I had to be especially careful not to arouse suspicion of what I was doing, because quite obviously if people felt they were being studied they would not talk naturally. A third necessary precaution was not to include any conversa