Date of Award

December 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Bernard C Perley

Committee Members

Paul Brodwin, Margaret Noodin


Language and Identity, Language ideologies, Nahuatl Language, Shame, State Education Policy


This ethnography is a topical analysis of the Indigenous Education system in rural Guerrero, Mexico. The purpose of this research is to draw out the correlations between coercive monolingual ‘Spanish only’ language policies implemented during the mid 20th century and the systematic disintegration of the Nahuatl language within what were once monolingual Nahua communities in the Upper Balsas valley. The data presented in this paper is framed and analyzed through language ideologies discourse. The conceptualizations of language held within the cultural ideology allow for the complexities surrounding language loss and revitalization to be taken into consideration within their dynamic and fluid states. As an ethnography of the particular, this work compiles and analyzes data gathered from rural, historically Indigenous, and linguistically diverse populations in southwest Mexico. The foremost goal in this research is to determine if trans-generational shame is a plausible explanation and subsequently a contributing factor to Nahuatl language loss. The coercive nature of the language practices outlined in this ethnography, which caused, in my summation, psychological trauma due to the use of humiliation, shaming, which corresponded with a loss of agency, further stigmatized the Nahua communities. The secondary focus of the research is to look at the lasting effects or intergenerational manifestations of shame and stigmatization as it pertains to the cessation of language transmission leading to language dormancy. This ethnography is structured through interviews from three generations within the target population to capture the generational effects of Spanish only and monolingual bridging policies, which undermined Nahua agency regarding language transmission from the 1950s to the present. Through interviews, surveys and participant observation, the work presented in this ethnography comes together to create a snapshot of language shift within the region focusing primarily on the bilingual classroom. The implications drawn from the research illustrate the varying levels of shame, stigma, value, and prestige placed on language usage and includes Nahuatl, Spanish, and English. The research presented takes note of the speech communities and contexts in which ideologies are maintained, making this study significant to ongoing research in the fields of Indigenous Language Education policy, anthropology, and sociolinguistic research.