Moving forward while looking back: a Kwakwaka'wakw concept of time as expressed in language and culture




Nicolson, Marianne

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The Kwak'wala language of the Kwakwaka'wakw First Nations is in rapid decline as a living language. How much does the loss of the Kwak'wala language affect Kwakwaka'wakw culture? Influenced, in part, by a contemporary re-evaluation of Benjamin Wharf's 'principle of linguistic relativity' this thesis presents an analysis of the concept of 'time' as it is expressed in the Kwak'wala language and assesses how that concept is then manifested in other Kwakwaka'wakw cultural forms such as myth, songs, ceremony and art. Building on Judith Berman's assessment of George Hunt's explanation of historical concepts this thesis presents a model of Kwakwaka'wakw time that is based on a premise of 'the alternation of opposing states'. Time is situated as state based and the concept of the past and the present are aligned with the physical (form) and the spiritual (essence) and the summer and the winter. It is shown that this concept of time, as expressed in the Kwak'wala language, is also expressed in Kwakwaka'wakw cultural manifestations such as ceremony and art, rendering them conceptually bound.



Kwakiutl Indians, Kwakiutl language, time, culture