The linguistic origins of Native American cultures and the connections between these cultures as traced through language in prehistory remain vexing questions for scholars across multiple disciplines and interests. Native American linguist Julian Granberry defines the Calusa language, formerly spoken in southwestern coastal Florida, and traces its connections to the Tunica language of northeast Louisiana.
Archaeologists, ethnologists, and linguists have long assumed that the Calusa language of southwest Florida was unrelated to any other Native American language. Linguistic data can offer a unique window into a culture’s organization over space and time; however, scholars believed the existing lexical data was insufficient and have not previously attempted to analyze or define Calusa from a linguistic perspective.
In The Calusa: Linguistic and Cultural Origins and Relationships, Granberry presents a full phonological and morphological analysis of the total corpus of surviving Calusa language data left by a literate Spanish captive held by the Calusa from his early youth to adulthood. In addition to further defining the Calusa language, this book presents the hypothesis of language-based cultural connections between the Calusa people and other southeastern Native American cultures, specifically the Tunica. Evidence of such intercultural connections at the linguistic level has important implications for the ongoing study of life among prehistoric people in North America. Consequently, this thoroughly original and meticulously researched volume breaks new ground and will add new perspectives to the broader scholarly knowledge of ancient North American cultures and to debates about their relationships with one another.