Spanish and Portuguese ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 5-1-2023


This dissertation reports on documentary research on vernacular toponymies in Manito communities in Nuevo México and Colorado. These toponymies are erased, obscured and delegitimized in official maps. Within the study area, vernacular antecedents for 49.5% of official names for natural features were documented, along with 280 previously unmapped names. These data were compared to the state-sanctioned toponymy to determine a typology of linguistic mechanisms of toponymic silencing. While a majority of official toponyms are based on Manito oral tradition, only 15.4% of the labels for natural features represent unaltered versions of names in that tradition. This dissertation theorizes the conceptual and social meanings of place names in light of cognitive-functional and sociolinguistic theory, and argues the official toponymic inventory results in impoverished construals of named places and misconstruals of Manito linguistic practice and geographic knowledge. Manitos contest this erasure in their everyday toponym usage and surrounding discursive practices.

Degree Name

Spanish & Portuguese (PhD)

Level of Degree


Department Name

Spanish and Portuguese

First Committee Member (Chair)

Damián Vergara Wilson

Second Committee Member

Enrique Lamadrid

Third Committee Member

Christian Koops

Fourth Committee Member

Catherine Rhodes


Nuevomexicano Spanish, place names, documentary linguistics, toponymic silencing, critical toponymy

Document Type



This is a revised version following suggestions from Mayra Estrada.