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A Grammar of Southern Pomo

Neil Alexander Walker

Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Imprint: University of Nebraska Press
Published: 03/2020
Pages: 438
Subject: Social Science
eBook ISBN: 9781496218896


A title in the Recovering Languages and Literacies of the Americas initiative, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.A Grammar of Southern Pomo is the first comprehensive description of the Southern Pomo language, which lost its last fluent speaker in 2014. Southern Pomo is one of seven Pomoan languages once spoken in the vicinity of Clear Lake and the Russian River drainage of California. Prior to European contact, a third of all Pomoan peoples spoke Southern Pomo, and descendants of these speakers are scattered across several present-day reservations. These descendants have recently initiated efforts to revitalize the language. The unique culture of Southern Pomo speakers is embedded in the language in several ways. There are separate words for the many different species of oak trees and their different acorns, which were the people's staple cuisine. The kinship system is unusually rich both semantically and morphologically, with terms marked for possession, generation, number, and case. Verbs similarly encode the ancient interactions of speakers with their land in more than a dozen directional suffixes indicating specific paths of movement.A Grammar of Southern Pomo sheds new light on a relatively unknown Indigenous California speech community. In many instances Neil Alexander Walker discusses phenomena that are rare or entirely unattested outside the language and challenges long-standing ideas about what human speech communities can create and pass on to children as well as the degree to which culture and place are inextricably woven into language.  


Neil Alexander Walker is a research fellow at the Cairns Institute at James Cook University.   


"This detailed grammar of recently extinct Southern Pomo is an important contribution to our understanding of the Indigenous languages of North America and a fitting tribute to the language's speakers and to the community in which it was once spoken."—Bernard Comrie, Distinguished Faculty Professor of Linguistics, University of California, Santa Barbara    

"This is a beautiful, sophisticated description of a language of extraordinary phonological and morphological complexity. The Southern Pomo language is described in a remarkably accessible way, always with attention to its cultural and historical context."—Marianne Mithun, professor of linguistics at the University of California, Santa Barbara

"A Grammar of Southern Pomo is a remarkable contribution to the scholarship on Indigenous languages of California. It is full of rich, well-illustrated phenomena at every level and should be of interest to anyone concerned with American Indigenous cultures."—Andrea L. Berez-Kroeker, associate professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa and director of Kaipuleohone, the University of Hawai'i Digital Language Archive