21. Language loss in spatial semantics: Dene Sųłiné
This paper presents a cognitive semantic description of the ongoing process of language loss in the encoding of spatial topological relations in a Northern Athapaskan language, Dene Sųłiné. Using the <i>Topological Relation Markers </i>elicitation tool (Pederson, Wilkins & Bowerman 1998), results are presented that show a difference in the encoding of spatial topological relations between younger and elder speakers. This difference becomes visible through selected data points that show elder speakers encoding spatial topological relations on a higher degree of specificity than younger speakers. This is reflected by a larger inventory of morpho-syntactic and semantic choices. In addition, younger speakers produce rather restricted and often ungrammatical utterances; their inventory for linguistic variety is limited or simply not available. As I will argue in this paper, this limitation is due to ongoing language loss and the influence of English as the dominant way to communicate.