By William L. Leap
Examines the range of English in American Indian speech groups.
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Additional resources for American Indian English
Indian-oriented religious organizations may use one or more Indian languages in their liturgies, when appropriate for their congregations. Indian centers sponsor potluck dinners and other informal get-togethers where discussions in ancestral languages are encouraged. They also may sponsor Indian language classes for adults and for young people or work with Indian Studies programs at urban universities to do the same. Regardless of the success of urban Indians and Alaska Natives in retaining ancestral language skills or acquiring those skills from other parties, urban residence always involves communication with persons who do not speak their ancestral language.
This 210,000-acre reservation extends from the crest of the Manzanos mountain range across the Rio Grande to the border shared with the Laguna Indian reservation, some fifty miles to the west of the river. As at Northern Ute, there are several Indian settlements on this reservation. But there are no non-Indian settlements there, and non-Indian individuals are permitted to live at Isleta only if married to a member of the tribe. One of the Indian settlements, called the village in Isleta English, is considered by Isleta tradition to be the oldest settlement on the reservation; it was established long before the Spanish first entered the Rio Grande valley in the late sixteenth century.
I intend these profiles to show the range of opportunities for using English open to American Indians and Alaska Natives today and how fluency in Indian English coincides with ancestral language fluency and with standard English skills in these speech settings. The Definition of Speech Community The key concept in this discussion is speech community: according to Joshua Fishman's classic definition (1970: 28), this is a community, "all of whose members share at least a single speech variety and the norms for its appropriate use"; that is, members of a speech community have acquired the grammar (or knowledge of language)of that language variety and regularly use that knowledge to participate in the same, code-specific discourse.
American Indian English by William L. Leap