Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Anthropology (Linguistics Option)

Department or School/College


Committee Chair

Dr. Leora Bar-el

Commitee Members

Dr. Gregory Campbell, Dr. Sarah Halvorson


language ideologies, linguistic differentiation, placenames, critical toponymy, Glacier National Park, Indigenous languages


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Linguistic Anthropology


This thesis examines the intersection of place names and language ideologies. In particular, I identify and analyze the emergent language ideologies in discussions about place names in six written sources related to Glacier National Park. I propose that the authors construct language ideologies about place names through the three semiotic processes identified by Irvine and Gal (2000): iconization, fractal recursivity, and erasure. Further, I argue that language ideologies have historically authorized choices about place names on the basis of linguistic differentiation.

Examining six written sources, the publication of which span nearly a century, I identify several excerpts in which authors exhibit language ideologies or, “beliefs and feelings about language” (Field and Kroskrity 2009: 4) when they differentiate Indigenous place names from Euro-American place names. I consider the sources educative as each provides the public with information about the park and its place names. I analyze the excerpts as examples of iconization, fractal recursivity, and erasure. Through iconization, a linguistic form becomes linked to the people who use it; through fractalrecursivity, an opposition at one level (for example, a social level) may be projected onto another level; and through erasure, linguistic forms or the people who use them are rendered nonexistent when they do not conform with an individual’s ideology.

The analysis proposed in this thesis has both theoretical and broader implications. First, this thesis contributes to the canon of language ideology research by extending the framework of Irvine and Gal (2000) to discussions about place names for the first time. Second, this research adds to the growing body of place name research dubbed critical toponymies which move the focus of place name studies from the toponym itself to the power dynamics involved in toponymic processes. Thus, within critical toponymies, this thesis offers a new theoretical approach to place name ideologies. Third, this thesis also suggests that the three semiotic processes identified by Irvine and Gal will predictably co-occur. Finally, this research raises awareness about the role of language ideologies in public discourse about place names.



© Copyright 2019 Kaitlin E. Pipitone