Presentation Title

Mapping Ideologies: Place Names in Glacier National Park

Authors' Names

Kaitlin Pipitone

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Abstract/Artist Statement

The present-day place names of Glacier National Park largely reflect a history that excludes the long-time native residents of the region. This project aims to expose the language ideologies that emerge in documentary sources regarding current and historic place names of Glacier National Park. By examining various documentary sources through the theoretical lens of language ideologies, I propose that authors’ language ideologies are constructed through the three semiotic processes identified by Irvine & Gal (2000): iconization, fractal recursivity, and erasure.

Beyond their mere referential function of distinguishing one place from another, place names evoke a wide range of associations (Barber & Berdan 1998, Basso 1996). Though place names form a near-universal linguistic category (in that all communities name places), place-naming conventions vary cross-linguistically (Basso 1996; Burenhult and Levinson 2008). Different communities name topographic features in ways that reflect their own cultural values (Burenhult & Levinson 2008). Consequently, Indigenous and Euro-American place-naming traditions differ greatly from each other; it has been suggested Indigenous people rarely named places for people, as is commonplace in the Euro-American tradition (Afable & Beeler 1996, Barber & Berdan 1998, Cowell & Moss, Sr. 2003, Feipel 1925).

After outlining relevant circumstances surrounding the establishment of the park, I present data from a selection of documentary sources related to place names in Glacier National Park. In differentiating between place names and place-naming conventions, the authors' language ideologies, or “beliefs and attitudes about language” (Field & Kroskrity 2009: 4) including “beliefs about the superiority or inferiority of specific languages” (Field & Kroskrity 2009: 11), often seek to rationalize the choice of Euro-American place names over indigenous place names. Through iconization, a linguistic form becomes linked to the people who use it; through fractal recursivity, an opposition at one level (for example, a social level) may be projected onto a linguistic 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 (Irvine & Gal 2000).

The theoretical framework of Irvine & Gal (2000) succeeds in isolating these “beliefs and feelings about language” (Field & Kroskrity 2009: 4) and the processes that authors use to construct these beliefs and feelings. This research extends the application of Irvine and Gal’s language ideology framework by providing the theoretical groundwork for approaching language ideologies as they emerge in place names studies. Specifically, this conceptual framework could serve as a means of identifying what ideologies motivated the official changing or creation of place names due to the establishment of national parks in the United States. As discussions about changing place names or restoring indigenous names happen regularly in the both the national and local arena, this type of research could contextualize and impact these discussions by recognizing the motivations, attitudes, and effects of choosing one place name over another (Davis 2015, Gopnik 2015, Heygi 2018, Lessard 2015).

Mentor Name

Leora Bar-el

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Mapping Ideologies: Place Names in Glacier National Park

UC 332

The present-day place names of Glacier National Park largely reflect a history that excludes the long-time native residents of the region. This project aims to expose the language ideologies that emerge in documentary sources regarding current and historic place names of Glacier National Park. By examining various documentary sources through the theoretical lens of language ideologies, I propose that authors’ language ideologies are constructed through the three semiotic processes identified by Irvine & Gal (2000): iconization, fractal recursivity, and erasure.

Beyond their mere referential function of distinguishing one place from another, place names evoke a wide range of associations (Barber & Berdan 1998, Basso 1996). Though place names form a near-universal linguistic category (in that all communities name places), place-naming conventions vary cross-linguistically (Basso 1996; Burenhult and Levinson 2008). Different communities name topographic features in ways that reflect their own cultural values (Burenhult & Levinson 2008). Consequently, Indigenous and Euro-American place-naming traditions differ greatly from each other; it has been suggested Indigenous people rarely named places for people, as is commonplace in the Euro-American tradition (Afable & Beeler 1996, Barber & Berdan 1998, Cowell & Moss, Sr. 2003, Feipel 1925).

After outlining relevant circumstances surrounding the establishment of the park, I present data from a selection of documentary sources related to place names in Glacier National Park. In differentiating between place names and place-naming conventions, the authors' language ideologies, or “beliefs and attitudes about language” (Field & Kroskrity 2009: 4) including “beliefs about the superiority or inferiority of specific languages” (Field & Kroskrity 2009: 11), often seek to rationalize the choice of Euro-American place names over indigenous place names. Through iconization, a linguistic form becomes linked to the people who use it; through fractal recursivity, an opposition at one level (for example, a social level) may be projected onto a linguistic 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 (Irvine & Gal 2000).

The theoretical framework of Irvine & Gal (2000) succeeds in isolating these “beliefs and feelings about language” (Field & Kroskrity 2009: 4) and the processes that authors use to construct these beliefs and feelings. This research extends the application of Irvine and Gal’s language ideology framework by providing the theoretical groundwork for approaching language ideologies as they emerge in place names studies. Specifically, this conceptual framework could serve as a means of identifying what ideologies motivated the official changing or creation of place names due to the establishment of national parks in the United States. As discussions about changing place names or restoring indigenous names happen regularly in the both the national and local arena, this type of research could contextualize and impact these discussions by recognizing the motivations, attitudes, and effects of choosing one place name over another (Davis 2015, Gopnik 2015, Heygi 2018, Lessard 2015).