Pima Swallow Songs

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Essay Excerpt

Much anthropological ethnopoetics (roughly speaking, the study of other peoples' literatures) has been concerned with how to find valid linguistic reasons for dividing previously unwritten texts into lines. As Bright summed up the situ­ation in 1979, the strophes and lines that Tedlock discerned in a study of Zuni narrators' pauses (long pause terminates strophe, short pause terminates line) may correspond to the verses and lines discovered by Hymes in a study of Chinookan sentence initial particles. Bright made this judgement after studying a Karok text with both pauses and particles in mind (1979, republished in 1984).

Tedlock, Hymes, and Bright supplied Zunis, Chinookans, and Karoks with terms  and definitions  for  the internal segmentation of texts. It is not known whether the natives had their own terms and definitions for this purpose and, if so, whether their named and defined units correspond with those proposed by the anthropologists. To judge from my experience with yet a fourth American Indian people, the Pima-Papagos, the natives probably did not have such units. Or, if they did, they did not divulge them. (I am familiar enough with the Pima-Papago to state that this was not the case.)

Donald Bahr is Professor of Anthropology at Arizone State University

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