Sociolinguistics Lunch: Nick Williams (University of Colorado, Boulder)

MAR 29, 2019 | 2:00 PM TO 4:00 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue




March 29, 2019: 2:00 PM-4:00 PM




Nick Williams (University of Colorado, Boulder) presents:

Ideology and practice in the multilingual Vaupés region: An interactional approach

In this talk, I revisit the system of “traditional” or “small-scale” multilingualism in the Vaupés region of the northwest Amazon through interactional analysis of multilingual practices documented in video recordings of spontaneous conversation in Kotiria and Wa’ikhana (Eastern Tukanoan). The “traditional” multilingual system of the Vaupés is characterized by long-standing cultural and linguistic contact among speakers of more than twenty languages from four different language families, facilitated by a system of linguistic exogamy (Sorensen 1967; Epps & Stenzel 2013). Among the Kotiria and Wa’ikhana, most individuals speak four to eight languages, including their father’s language (linked to ethnic group affiliation), mother’s language, Tukano, other East Tukano (or Arawak) languages, and Portuguese/Spanish. Though well-known and oft-cited, this system has primarily been studied from ethnographic and language contact perspectives, highlighting the role of an ideology of “loyalty” to one’s father’s language (Jackson 1983; Aikhenvald 2001; Stenzel 2005; Chernela 2013). Through sequential analysis of the deployment of resources associated with distinct languages in specific interactional contexts, I begin to move beyond the claim that speakers stick to their own (father’s) language by exploring contexts in which not speaking one’s own language becomes appropriate and ordinary.