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Ideologies of descent in linguistics and law

Contemporary jurisprudence of self-determination draws on a trope of European conjectural anthropology, the Stammbaum, as it surfaces in documentary linguistics. This essay traces the work of linguist Ken Hale in Australia, first in linguistic phylogeny, later in endangered language documentation. It argues that linguists’ linguistic ideology supports multiple metaphysics of collective legal persona: one in which shared speakership is diacritic of group cohesion, two in which possession of language as a kind of property is central to collective flourishing. It juxtaposes linguists’ interventions in Australian indigenous land claims with recent debates among cultural property theorists as to the limits of property, and it proposes that linguists take a more active role in these debates. [Stammbaum; Australia; native title; cultural environmentalism; Locke, Kenneth Hale (1934–2001)]

from Language & Communication