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Article

Maintaining tradition: Thematic and structural coherence in personal stories by Northern Athabaskans

Tradition of oral narratives is one of the most prominent types of communicative behavior in Northern Athabaskan cultures. This paper focuses on personal stories as material for the study of linguacultural models and their persistence in the situation of a linguacultural shift. The data comes from the personal stories, told in English, by the Athabaskans inhabiting inner Alaska, namely by the representatives of the last bilingual generation speaking the Upper Kuskokwim Athabascan (UKA) language. The goal of the paper is to analyze specific formal and thematic features of the UKA storytelling tradition, to the degree in which they can be traced in spite of the language shift. A brief sketch of the UKA cultural values and sociocultural dynamics of the community in the last 50-70 years is given prior to the analysis of the culturally relevant themes and formal features of the personal stories told in English. The results confirm the hypothesis that coherence in Alaskan Athabaskan stories of personal experience is based on the integrity of the linguacultural models needed for their interpretation and Alaskan Athabaskan cultural traditions of storytelling, determining both the structure of the stories and the dynamics of storytelling situations.