Date of Award

5-1-2011

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Applied Linguistics

First Advisor

Baertsch, Karen

Abstract

Despite more than a century of anthropological research, the origins of reindeer domestication remain elusive. A range of theories has been proposed as to the identity/identities of the first people(s) to tame reindeer for human use, and of the conceptual origins of reindeer husbandry (e.g. as an alternative to cattle, horses, dogs, etc.). While only a few of these theories still have adherents, none can be said to be demonstrated. This thesis seeks to contribute to the solving of this question by examining the origins of reindeer terminology--those words in the the many circumpolar languages for 'tame reindeer' and 'wild reindeer'. Examining data in nearly three hundred (mostly-northern) languages and dialects, the author hopes to determine which vocabulary is native to the peoples who use it and which terms are borrowed from other sources; these borrowings may mirror the transmission routes of reindeer husbandry as a form of economy. When plotted on maps, the linguistic data give credence to the most popular anthropological theory of the origins of reindeer domestication.

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