At this very place! The Actions Accomplished with the Speech Acts of the Western Apache.

TOPIC: #5 Speech Acts
TITLE: At this very place! The actions accomplished with the speech acts of the Western Apache.
SOURCE: Oxford Dictionary of English, and
“Speaking with Names”: Language and Landscape among the Western Apache
Keith H. Basso
Cultural Anthropology
Vol. 3, No. 2 (May, 1988), pp. 99-130
RELATION: Robbins Cultural Anthro p. 86- Key Metaphors of Geography in Western Apache dialogue; Conformity and Conflict p. 53 Symbols (and class discussion on the same); above article by Keith Basso- accomplishments of speech acts
The Oxford Dictionary of English Defines a speech act as “an utterance considered as an action, particularly with regard to its intention, purpose, or effect. The Western Apache of Cibecue (located in east-central Arizona) can accomplish many such actions with a basic phrase. This “Speaking with names,” as it is called takes a series of sentences, seemingly incoherent to those outside of the language, and with them arrive at a destination of mutual understanding, offering ancestral wisdom, and advice and therapy in topics which may be socially taboo to speak of outright.
The phrase spoken by the speaker typically surrounds a well-known geographic location, for example: “tsé hadigaiyé yὐ ágodzaa (It happened at the line of white rocks extends upward and out, at this very place)!” Geography is the key metaphor, or dominant attribute used to convey the experience (Robbins 86) to begin a pictorial depiction in the hearers mind. The intention of the geographic reference is to not only create a mental image of a specific place in the hearers mind, but to create an association to a known ancestral story that has occurred at the place. To, as Basso interpreted from the Western Apache, “Travel in your mind… and allow the past to inform your understanding of the present.”
There are many things accomplished socially by the Apache in speaking with names, as Basso lays out; it produces a mental image of places, conjures stories linked to such places, brings ancestral wisdom to the conversation, allows a way to “dance around” a taboo social subject, brings personal support, offers advice, change worry into hope, and “heals wounded spirits” (Basso 121).
The English language doesn’t have a single speech act, or even a formal systematic way of speaking capable of accomplishing as much as speaking with Names, but we can accomplish the “Travel in your mind” portion, particularly with our use of symbols. Spradley’s Conformity and conflict defines a symbol as anything we can perceive with our senses that stands for something else (p. 53). For example, if someone mentions Disneyland (assuming one has been there), you’re mind formulates a visual representation of your memory of the place. Likewise with the word “dog” as mentioned in class, your mind develops a representation of a specific dog. But this only fulfills one or two of what speaking with names can do. The western Apache are efficient speakers compared to the variety of words and phrases that would need to be used by American English.

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