Thursday, July 12, 2012

Ideophone Infiltration

I'm a fan of ideophones. I think the aesthetic, social and cultural functions of these expressive words makes them fascinating (see writings of Nuckolls, Dingemanse, Doke and others for more information on their form and functions since I don't have the eloquence or brainpower to get into it now). I also have a sort of aspirational attitude about ideophones; I like the idea of ideophones being more widely and productively used in Western languages. This is partly because the eventual demise of many languages worldwide seems inevitable at this point (a prophecy which just about makes me hyperventilate)--so any way humanity might retain some of the unique knowledge and beauty of fated languages is a welcome idea to me. Also I would love them to appear more in English just for the fun of it. Ideophones are a prime area for the creativity of the individual speaker to shine, and for the conversation participants to interact in a vivid experience created by language.

The biggest obstacle to ideophones becoming more productive in languages like English and Spanish is probably that they don't thrive well on paper. Writing is a huge portion of the communicative use of these languages, and often their most highly regarded form. But if they got to be a part of colloquial language, they would creep into movies, right? And lots of dialectal speech variations have been recorded both in print and on film, first in Pygmalion then My Fair Lady, also Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, parts of Faulkner's works and many of the Coen brothers' films, just to name a few. Anyway my point is that film is a great resource for the preservation and distribution of language as it is spoken, so I would love to see ideophones occurring in film even more than in everyday conversation. And I think this would happen if they were to become a common conversational occurrence.

Enough wishing though. I mostly just wanted to write this post because I have seen more Western language ideophone usage on the ground, this time in Spanish. I wasn't good about writing down the specifics the first couple of times I heard them, and even now I don't have everything verbatim, but I have a few actual examples now that I would like to share.

(1) tarararara, imitation of the phone ringing. In this case there was no Spanish verb to indicate that the phone rang, such as sonar, but the ideophone was incorporated basically as it would have been in a Kichwa conversation, indicating the ringing by its appearance and the context. This isn't an actual Kichwa ideophone that I recognize, but there seems to be a lot of room for creation in the realm of onomatopoeic ideophones in Kichwa so I expect it would be accepted if it had occurred in a Kichwa conversation instead.

(2) pag, in reference to a cashier being caught for stealing from the register. This same ideophone occurred again just a bit later in the conversation, used by someone else to refer to the act of stealing. Unfortunately I didn't get to write this down until well after the conversation so the context is mostly lost, but pag (also pronounced with a devoiced or even fricative final consonant) is a common ideophone in Kichwa. It might or might not be used by Kichwa speakers in this context, since its usual sense has to do with a falling object, but I have also heard it used in a few other ways and it might be broad enough to be acceptable here as well. If I were to guess, tak would be the best Kichwa ideophone for the idea of grabbing something, which was the context here. (3) tas, to describe the act of relocating a joint that is out of place. Two speakers used this one several times in a conversation, in place of a verb but with accompanying gestures and expressive force. It took me a minute to figure out what they meant by it actually, since they didn't use any Spanish words for "joint" or "relocate," I had to derive it from the context of two different stories.
First, a woman expressing concern about an injury to her hand, planning to go to a doctor but worried that the doctor would go tas to fix it and it would hurt. Then her friend told a story of seeing a boy fall on his bike, comforting him and then going tas without warning him, which both frightened and essentially fixed his problem.
In this case, tas would absolutely be an acceptable ideophone in Kichwa to describe the action of popping a joint back into place, since it describes "an action... considered as accomplished and complete... in space" (Nuckolls 1996). That is an abstract (and partial) definition, because it's a rather broad and abstract ideophone. It's also a very common one from what I have heard.

I have heard a few other uses of Kichwa-style ideophones in Spanish conversation, but unfortunately my observational energies aren't turned up to 11 in Spanish conversation like they are when I'm listening to and speaking Kichwa. Luckily my comprehension is at least ten times better. It's frustrating to me how much I feel like I'm guessing here, especially since I'm just transferring notes from after the conversation and I don't have a recorded version to refer to again. But I think even these poor examples are enough to point out a trend that deserves some more attention, and I will try to continue to pay attention and make notes on this... Even though it has nothing to do with any of my projects directly.

It's also worth noting that all three of these examples come from native Spanish speakers, people who don't speak Kichwa fluently and have no inherited ties to the language or indigenous culture. They are Ecuadoreans who interact with Kichwa speakers occasionally, sometimes professionally, and who most likely have picked up Kichwa phrases here and there (like US citizens often do with Spanish).

So it looks like overall, there is some evidence for my hope of ideophone infiltration in Ecuadorean Spanish. Now if only it would occur more reliably, and spread to other dialects of Spanish as well. I don't know much about language contact, but I would not be surprised to hear that this sort of thing is happening in other regions near ideophonic languages as well, at least a little.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

one of those good news/bad news kind of days

I've had some of the most encouraging experiences this week, alongside some of the most frustrating ones.

First for some of the pleasant news. A friend of mine has taken to dictating sentences to me lately, often in my own voice, watching to make sure that I write them down verbatim. This is a painstakingly slow way to communicate, but it's her idea for how to make sure that I don't forget any Kichwa. ñuka rimashka, ñuka rimashka, killkangi, she commands (I speak, I speak, you write), adding a gesture of dragging her finger across the tablecloth for emphasis. The exciting part of this story was a few sentences into her dictation, but I'll provide a transcription of a whole paragraph here for good measure, to give you a bit of a feel for Kichwa:

escuelata tukuchirani; colegiota tukuchirani, kunan universidadbi mauni, yachauni.
I completed primary school; I completed high school; now I am in University, constantly learning.
Runa shimita maskauni, yachangawa.
I am searching for Kichwa, in order to learn it. (she said it just the way my blog is titled!! woohoo)
Shuj watata rirani Iyarinai runa shimita yachangawa, sachata purirani, riksisha sachata.
One year ago I went to Iyarina [field school] to learn Kichwa, I walked in the forest, becoming acquainted with the forest.
Canoa Yakuta, pichka kilómetro purirani. Chimanda ñuka suerte kunai churirai armarani, supai tYuka uktuta riksirani.
In Canoa Yaku stream I walked five kilometers. From there I bathed in a waterfall, a demon-spit waterhole.

A few disclaimers. First, that last line still sounds off but I wanted to somehow communicate what a great image supai tYuka is for waterfall, the spit of a spirit/monster/demon, and then uktu is the hole part of that, referring to the pond at the base of the waterfall. Second, I would have liked to include a more professional breakdown of morphemes and a literal translation along with the Kichwa and English lines, but I'm already subpar on the blogger formatting so I think it would take a long time and still turn out atrociously. Also the Kichwa is roughly phonetic but obviously not IPA. Some other time I'll provide a better transcription, more like I would put in an actual linguistic paper.

Now for some of the more frustrating thoughts. I haven't worked through them but I was glad to see my friend Rem articulate some similar frustrations in his post about the frustration of not being around other academic-minded people while in the field. As he mentions, you can send emails and keep in contact with peers about such highminded topics (as Rem called it, postmodernism), but it would be so much more satisfying to talk to people right here in the thick of it, to share ideas and have discussions and arguments and develop thoughts together.

Personally I think it would be perfect to do linguistic/anthropological field research as a partnership with someone (especially after meeting an amazing couple from UCLA who came to speak to us last year). Even apart from that dream, though, it would be so great if I could spend time with local scholars, people who see the culture from the inside but still share my background of Western-style critical thought. I guess that's where it breaks down, that style of thinking is culturally based so what I'm missing might just be a part of my Culture Shock. Or maybe critical thinking is so superior that it successfully transcends the boundaries of culture and really does provide us with the most important thing in life, Truth with a capital T. (tongue in cheek, guys)

Either way I am looking forward to processing all of this when I get home and immersing myself fully in academia again, because I'm enjoying real human interaction here too much to be in the same theoretical frame of mind that I was during the winter. Does that make sense? What I'm trying to say is, while I was preparing to enter the field I was exercising the abstract academic part of my brain, and now I'm exercising the practical language-learning and human sociability parts, and I can tell that some of the former is slipping away a bit. Maybe one day I will get better at holding both at once but for now I'm (relatively) content with the trade.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Anecdotes and Photos

I'm so jealous of my friend Holly's blog update, full of rich description and bursting excitement. I hope that the posts I have written so far don't make it seem like it's boring here or so stressful that I'm not having a good time. I think I forget to mention how beautiful it is here and what my daily activities are because it seems like the norm to me. I was here (well close to here) last year with a group of people, and I forget that no one else knows quite what I'm up to down here. Also I'm used to writing blog posts that come from questions that have been itching my brain.

So in the interest of sharing some of my experience so far, here are some pictures and anecdotes:

rambutan. This fruit is native to Thailand but grows well here because of the tropical climate. It's quite fun to eat, but not very flavorful in my opinion. It wins my heart in the looks category for sure.

a kitten (cause how can you not love them). I have noticed a few differences in the treatment of pets here from in the US, though I can't say how well these differences apply in general. Dogs are seen on the streets a lot more here than in the US, but usually keep to themselves and only bark if they're close to their house. In the Runa household that I visit most often (almost every day), there are about 4 dogs and 5 cats who survive on table scraps and what they catch themselves. To my mind the dogs seem just as affectionate and needy as dogs I know in the US, but they are given little to no physical attention from humans. The cats are played with by girl children and one kitten is my particular companion as well, but adults usually don't pay them attention except to shoo them away from the food in the kitchen. Similarly for dogs, their main attention is in the form of negative commands, stop barking (when someone passes by the house), get out of here, etc. Again I don't know if this treatment is how it is for most people but I would suspect it's similar, even if more well-to-do families buy manufactured pet food. And the animals all seem to be doing fine, it's been interesting to watch this difference without making one way or the other worse. (I could easily feel contempt for the American pet culture with its smothering and unnecessary commercialization, or worry about this culture and whether or not the dogs are being loved enough, but I won't spend too much time thinking about it.)

God on the bus. Christianity is pervasive here, both the Catholic and Protestant varieties. I especially notice on buses that there are lots of religious images and sayings, in various states of legibility or disrepair. I wonder if the reminders that Jesús te ama are noticed by others here and if they bring a bit of light into people's day the way I assume they are meant to, or if they fade into the background. I don't think there is a corresponding culture of atheism or agnosticism here, or bitter rejection of Christianity as there sometimes is in the US. I mention this only because I thought of how these images would be viewed if they suddenly popped up everywhere in the United States, and it would be uncomfortable at best. (Not that I'm aligning with the "Christianity is so persecuted in the US" mentality. But it is more secular, perhaps because it's better for business.)

There was a parade for my birthday. Well, the 12th of May also happens to be the anniversary of the founding of Puyo as I mentioned before. It was a good activity for a birthday far away from home.

my current residence.You can tell that my landlady's family and friends (especially those who have lived here before who she considers to be a part of her family) are very important to her. Even though I'm not living with a Runa family as I had originally planned to try to do, it has been very helpful to have her support and some space of my own.

local greenery. I am living and working in town, but every empty or natural space reminds me of the lush jungle that was even closer last summer. It's still breathtaking to me.

So I'm noticing that these were all taken on my iphone, many altered using the instagram application. It's the only digital camera I brought (I also have some disposable ones). What a typical representation of American international travel these days, ah well. It has been such a useful device on this trip, and even though I justified getting it in order to record videos for my research it has been a whole lot of fun to have, too. I'm keeping in touch with family through internet-enabled SMS messages, making friends with kids by lending it for them to play games on, and of course using it for research and personal documentation. Thanks MomenDad.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


I have no excuse for not updating my blog on schedule (that would have been three days ago according to the syllabus). This week has been difficult, my brain is exhausted from understanding only 5-30% of the Kichwa spoken to me during the majority of each day, despite the feeling that I understand at least 80% of the words spoken. When I'm not listening to or attempting to speak Kichwa, I'm usually listening to or attempting to speak Spanish. Or reading something in English in order to "relax," which hasn't been helping lately.

I have probably also been worn out by the constant attention to trying to behave in a culturally acceptable manner, which instead of being calm and self-possessed about I have decided to handle with the maximum amount of anxiety possible. I know this is counterproductive but I do it anyway. But enough complaining.

First an update on the situation I wrote about last time. I am now living in a small town outside of Puyo and I have noticed that the harassment here is much less. People here often greet each other as they pass, and if I am walking in town with my landlady we will undoubtedly run into several people she knows along the way and stop to talk for at least a minute. If I am out alone I still sometimes get stares or whistles, but I'm going to attribute at least part of that to my foreignness rather than my gender, and the rest doesn't feel nearly as aggressive as it did in Quito. So overall it has become much less of a concern, and I'm not slipping into the paranoid antisocial spiral that I feared at first.

However I still have a few questions about how to build a working cultural framework for concepts like sexism. What I mean to say is, in the United States I have no problem feeling indignant about all sorts of things that happen within my culture and which I think should change, manifestations of sexism, racism, homophobia and the like. And in a lot of ways our collective culture has changed in a positive direction, even though there are plenty of things to be concerned about. But when I'm in another culture, I'm not sure I have the right to judge anything. I'll go for racism and marginalization of indigenous communities within the larger context of Ecuador, but that's about it. Mostly I want to be an effective ethnographer and participant observer, so I want to be in a descriptive mode for the time being rather than an evaluative one. But somewhere along the way, that breaks down.

On one hand, I'm concerned that I will compare the two cultures and judge my own to be superior. This would be anthropological blasphemy, wouldn't it? At first I think of course I don't think my culture is better, if I consider the culture of the US to be mine, because there are a lot of things about it that I reject. But then I realize, the US is not "my" cultural region if I reject so much of it, and besides it's too heterogeneous to count as just one region. My actual cultural alignment is in large part to a very small sector of the population, actually several different groups including linguists, NPR, and academia as a whole (obviously some overlap). And the strongest cultural attachment I have is to questions of Right and Wrong. Luckily I don't have too strong an attachment to the Right and Wrong ways of eating, drinking or riding on a bus, so I can adapt to new ways of doing those things mostly without judgment. (Although I will admit to slight apprehension on the drinking clean water front--it's my weakling American body, can't handle the same types of microbes as strong Ecuadoreans can.) Even in the realm of religion I feel I have a very strong opinion that the Right way to handle things is to pretty much always respect other people's beliefs and when possible to try to understand why their spiritual beliefs are valid and valuable to their lives. So that seems to balance things out-- I explicitly don't have an opinion about whether or not other people's religions are right or wrong for them, I just trust that they are right for the most part.

Interestingly though, I'm finding there are still lots of things* that I have a moral attachment to or judgment on, and I don't know quite what to do about it. *(See previous list including racism and sexism, those are big ones.)

Okay pardon the rambling since I'm composing this without much editing, but I suppose I do know what to do about it. First, observe my judgments without necessarily trying to prevent them. Second, allow this question to remain unsolved in my mind without being an anthropological "sin." That's how it's done, right? Apologies for the lengthy and quite possibly confusing blog post. If I stop to edit any more this will never be published.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

quick notes from the field

My father left for the field yesterday too. Well, the military field; he´s in Qatar for about 75 days. He should be back before I return and will be in an air-conditioned office more often than in the cargo plane (C-130) that he pilots. Probably even safer than my adventure, and I daresay less exciting.

There is a festival in town this week, so there are banners hung between buildings and a few streets were closed to cars yesterday for a parade (I think; I didn´t see it myself). I think the reason for the celebration is the anniversary this Saturday of the foundation of Puyo on May 12, 1899. The coincidence of this event and my birthday seems like a good omen.
(Yes, I will use superstition to lighten my mood; especially at a time like this.)

Research updates: I went to visit a few of the people I know here this morning. They are willing to talk with me and help me learn Kichwa, so now I just have to get down to work. I have forgotten too much of the language and need to be prepared to be more talkative than I naturally am if I am going to get any research done.

My sociableness (and therefore my potential for effective research) has been affected by my interactions in the past few days: after training myself not to make eye contact with men and not to hear their whistles, hisses and whispers I have become even more withdrawn than usual as a result. In contrast I have been mostly ignored by women. I want to get out of the antisocial mood this defensiveness has put me in so that I can make more friends and reach out to the women who might be able to help me. I will have to work on initiating contact with those I want to know as well as continuing to reject contact with others.

Anyone else in the field feeling frustrated by gender issues? It´s not as if I didn´t see this coming but it´s a hassle, and difficult right now for me to decide how to view the situation in terms of ¨cultural values¨ or other things we were supposed to have learned in the field studies prep course...

Saturday, May 5, 2012

From the Field

Just a quick update, since Rem mentioned that people in our group haven't updated from the field just yet-- I'm officially in Ecuador, but not yet in my precise field location. I'm finding plenty to write about in my daily field notes already even if it isn't directly relevant to my study, and everything is going well so far. Well my checked bag is taking an extra day to arrive, but that feels like a much smaller setback because it happened to me last year as well and I know what to do.

I'm so glad I've been here before, I wasn't sure if I would feel more anxious traveling alone this time, but so far the familiarity of everything here is very comforting (even speeding taxi drivers and men on the street whispering things to me that I try to tune out... just another day in the capitol city).

I don't have much more to say at the moment, but I'm looking forward to getting down to the rainforest and meeting up with people from last summer's adventure. I'm also enjoying my time at this hipster/backpacker hostel, everyone here is very nice and helpful.

Okay, I'll write more later when I really have something to say. Best luck to all of my field study companions!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Half-baked Ideas

(disclaimer--This is not a fully developed idea, despite how long it's been rattling around my brain now. I just have to put it out there anyway. Suggestions/criticisms/encouragement of this sort of musing are welcome.)

I was reading an article by Mark Dingemanse the other week that describes current ideophone research and semantic typology and it sparked my thoughts on ideophones in English again...

So my mentor Dr. Nuckolls has written about the ideophonically impoverished state of English (2004), being that it only contains ideophones that mimic sound (onomatopoeia) and relegates them to contexts of juvenile literature or connotations of whimsy (2010). However I recently noticed several ideophone-like performances by native English speaking friends of mine that were definitely not depictions of sound. I would also argue that they were creative and original expressions worthy of more than a whimsical status.

I'll share just one example because it's the one I can most clearly remember. My roommate was asking to borrow a sweater that's sort of a faux wrap. In other words it has two parts and looks as if it wraps around to close; in fact it's sewn together so it's not a genuine wrap but rather a pullover. (See picture below.) The difficulty of describing this or coming up with a precise term for it is pointing out to me why my roommate may have chosen to use a sound effect (ideophone?) + gesture combination to portray the image of the sweater to me. So there's the setting. What she said to me was, "do you know where that shoop shoop* sweater is? can I borrow it?" And while saying shoop shoop she gestured with each hand down and across her body in the way that the sweater wraps (one swoop** of the hand for each word).

(Neiman Marcus faux-wrap cashmere sweater)

It feels like a stretch to call this an ideophonic performance, per se, but maybe that's just because my English-speaking mind wants to dismiss it as a "shortcut" description. I think this comes from the Western tradition of careful and extensive categorization of the world around us, where each object or concept has a name specifically applied to it in an attempt to craft a perfectly accurate, no-context-necessary language. (Kind of like in Tyler Gibb's "Specificity Specifically" Inquiry Conference presentation, or the whole practice of binomial nomenclature.) From this point of view, my roommate's use of an ideophone is imprecise and almost lazy. I think that might point to the problem with exhaustive categorization though, it puts the burden on the speaker to keep track of labels and requires tremendous memorization, as anyone who has tried to learn a professional or academic jargon can attest.

Anyway back to the ideophone. Ideophones have been said to occur in an "informal language register" in order to "dramatize a narration" (Doke, as cited by Dingemanse). While the former is true in my example, the latter does not apply and it seems more along the lines of usages reported by both Nuckolls (1996, etc) and Dingemanse (2011). I can't quite put my finger on the name for it, but this was a high-context communication situation (we live together) and the function of the ideophone was to facilitate the creation of an image in my mind, which it did successfully.

This "ideophone" is not conventionalized, which argues against true ideophone status. But it does potentially draw on a conventional English adjective (swoop), and it's fun to think that maybe this sort of performance could become more common in English. Certainly Nuckolls' use of the adjective "impoverished" (2004) indicates a potential richness or valuable quality that ideophones contribute to a language, so a development of English ideophones could be desirable.

In terms of describing the full meaning of the word I'm still struggling. I don't know whether to call this a depiction of movement or of visual perception; it's something like a visual depiction of lines along with the suggestion of wrapping. So in terms of the hierarchy of ideophone depiction proposed by Dingemanse (in press): there is some movement involved, and potentially a visual sensory element as well. Much more thought to be done here. But again, it's exciting for me to look at the possibility of English ideophones moving further along the ideophone hierarchy, with the use of ideohpone and gesture in English conversation occurring on a level closer to depictions of movement or other sensory perceptions than previously thought. (I haven't copied Dingemanse's exact hierarchy here but the idea is that languages with more developed ideophonic systems will move beyond depictions of sound to those of movement, visual images, and other sensory perceptions.)

* this is an approximate spelling of the pronunciation. I would say there was an accompanying rise in pitch for each word but I can't remember for sure.
** notice how the word "swoop" is close to her utterance, possibly an inspiration? that's the image/word association that came to my mind anyway.

1.Dingemanse, Mark. “Advances in the Cross-Linguistic Study of Ideophones.” (will be in Language & Linguistics Compass 2012)
2.Nuckolls, Janis B. Lessons from a Quechua Strongwoman: Ideophony, Dialogue, and Perspective. Tucson: University of Arizona, 2010. Print.
3.Nuckolls, Janis B. Sounds like Life: Sound-symbolic Grammar, Performance, and Cognition in Pastaza Quechua. New York: Oxford UP, 1996. Print.
4.Nuckolls, Janis B. “To Be or Not To Be Ideophonically Impoverished.” Proceedings of the Eleventh Annual Symposium about Language and Society — Austin, Texas Linguistic Forum, 2004. 131-142. Austin.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ophelia Syndrome

I just realized something about this reading. I think I am paradoxically the most and least prone to this syndrome. Least because I have a long educational history of seeking after learning in different places and being invested in my learning experience, and I have practiced examining problems from different points of view for a long time too. Most, however, because I read and read and read and don't keep up with this learning journal assignment (or other writing assignments) precisely because I don't trust (have confidence in) myself and my own thoughts.
I keep going back to the experts in the books because it's much easier and more interesting for me to be reading than writing. I mean honestly what am I going to write that's worthwhile for others to read? Really. But as Plummer states, experts disagree often too (I don't know about his quantification "more often than they agree," but certainly it's a lot). I'm well aware of this and of the ephemeral nature of "newly discovered" knowledge, but I think I let the uncertainty get under my skin too much. His advice is to "learn to live with the uncertainty"-- I'm not sure how to take that next step.

I could also argue that I have vanquished the Ophelia Syndrome by following his suggestion to make learning more important than the grade, particularly in my field studies preparation class. And I know I have worked ridiculously hard for the knowledge I've gained this semester. But I will have to put his admonition to trust myself to better use before I can believe that I've done well enough. And I will have to learn to live with uncertainty, rather than being too frustrated by the contradictions I see all around me and in my own actions and self-perception.

Source: Plummer, Thomas G. "Diagnosing and Treating the Ophelia Syndrome." BYU Magazine, January 1991.
(available here)

Summary of my progress in the 6 suggestions made by Plummer:
1-Seek Out and Learn From Great Teachers, Regardless of What They Teach. check.
2-Dare To Know and Trust Yourself. got the introspective part down, just not the confidence.
3-Learn to Live With Uncertainty. awareness of uncertainty, check. acceptance, not so much.
4-Practice Thinking from Different Points of View. check.
5-Foster Idle Thinking. hm... maybe one day.
6-Plan to Step Out of Bounds. check. going to Ecuador counts right?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Project Proposal

This one's a doozy. I'm kind of proud of it. My research plan for my project this summer has been a long time in the works and even though it's far from perfect, I think it's a few good steps further in the right direction than my paper from last year. I think having this level of preparation will help propel my work for this project far beyond the last one.

Field Study Proposal: How Performative are Ideophones in Pastaza Quicha?

Statement of Intent

The goal of this project is to investigate performative qualities of ideophones, a category of expressions which are sound symbolic and play a major role in the indigenous language of Quechua. Quechua is the most widely spoken indigenous language of the Americas, and is described as either a dialect cluster or a family of languages mainly appearing throughout the Andes (Adelaar 2004). I will study the lowland dialect of Pastaza Quichua that is spoken along the Pastaza river in Ecuador. (This dialect is spelled with an “i” because it has no /e/ vowel; an alternative, more phonetic spelling is Kichwa.) Specifically, I want to gather data from consultants to study usage and to measure the performative qualities of ideophonic utterances. These features have been described qualitatively and impressionistically in previous research by Dr. Nuckolls (1996, 2004, 2006, 2010). I plan to seek quantitative evidence for these descriptions using acoustic analysis of sound spectrographic imagery. I also plan to gather more data on usage and meaning in conversation, narratives and other language and analyze gesture as a part of performativity.
This work continues my independent research begun during Spring and Summer terms in 2011 while on a Linguistics Study Abroad Program in Ecuador. During the Study Abroad, I lived at Iyarina Field School on the Napo river with seven other BYU students as well as undergraduate and graduate students from several other universities. There I researched and learned to speak the Napo and Pastaza dialects of Amazonian Quichua under the instruction of Janis Nuckolls (BYU) and Tod Swanson (ASU). At the end of the Study Abroad program I felt I had learned just enough to start doing more and better research on the language, and I had fallen in love with the culture so I determined to return in order to find out more and to improve my skills as an anthropological linguist. I hope that the final product of this Field Study will be a published paper and that the experience will help prepare me to do field work in Linguistics for my postgraduate studies and my future academic career.
I think this Field Study will be a good opportunity for personal growth based on the progress that I made last Summer while in the field. Last year, I became aware of my own limitations in the endeavor to understand a foreign culture and realized that I can never really transcend the bounds of my personal background and experience (e.g. white, american, female, mormon, privileged, college student) in order to fully comprehend the experience of another culture from the inside. I think the context of culture is so critical to capturing the whole picture of language, so this was frustrating for my linguistics work as well as my growing interest in anthropology. At the end of last summer I was left with serious doubts about the ability of research in general to reveal the complexities of life and especially about my ability to contribute meaningful knowledge to the disciplines of Linguistics and Anthropology. Despite my passion for these studies, reconciling this has been a difficult task during the Field Studies Preparation course and I'm glad that it has provided me with the time to prepare and much more knowledge about field work.
This summer in the field I hope to balance my staggering realization from last year with valid inquiry and discovery through the practice of rigorous anthropological methods. Although I was right in my discovery that Truth is elusive and humans are extraordinarily complex and dynamic, I've come to appreciate the value of not only exploring the world but also striving to describe and analyze it to the best of my abilities. I think that there is value in our descriptions and the models of the systems and structures around us, especially when we can gain insight into the perceptions of others and use this to become a more cooperative global society. I also think that we will continue to be able to learn more and do better work even as the world continues to change and reveal more complexity. With the help of many insightful scholars before me, I think that I have a chance to build on previous work and contribute to the elaboration of these theories. I hope that through participant observation and linguistic elicitation I will be able to gain an academic and a cultural understanding that wouldn't be possible otherwise, even though it will at best be approximation of the truth that will capture a brief moment in the history of human experience. Armed with curiosity, thoughtfulness and the rigorous methods of field work I think I will have a rewarding field experience.
I plan to carry out numerous field studies in the future working with minority and endangered languages, therefore I think I have a lot to gain from going to the field independently and conducting research on my own while an undergraduate student. The skills and methods of making contacts, keeping notes, organizing data, and especially synthesizing new meaning from collected data will be fundamental requirements for my future work in the field as well. Further, if the paper I write as a result of this project is published, I will gain experience in the writing and publication process.

Background, Significance and Current Literature

Field Location

This study will take place in and around Puyo, Ecuador, a small town that is the capital of the Pastaza province. This area is in the Eastern part of Ecuador in the lowland Amazonian jungle region also known as the Oriente. There are many indigenous groups in this province including the Canelos Quichua (Whitten 1976), who call themselves Runa and who speak Quichua (or Kichwa, or Runa Shimi 'people's tongue'). Quichua is a dialect related to the highland Quechua spoken in Ecuador and elsewhere in Latin America. This variety is spoken only in Amazonian Ecuador in the provinces of Pastaza and Napo, with further dialect distinctions between the two regions.
Although the Runa people share language origins with the highland indigenous peoples of Ecuador, their culture is much more similar to other indigenous Amazonian peoples, especially the Achuar and Jívaro people in the same area with whom they sometimes trade and intermarry (Whitten 1976). Their culture and worldview is traditionally based on a lifestyle of swidden horticulture, river fishing and hunting in the jungle. However, today many Runa are increasingly participating in the larger cash economy of Ecuador through cash crops and either commuting to town seasonally for work or permanently relocating to towns where there is more work to be found. In Puyo there are many Runa who have migrated from Quichua communities along the nearby Pastaza River, some of whom continue to maintain small agricultural gardens as well as working on other jobs or even artistic endeavors such as painting traditional pottery for sale to tourists (Nuckolls 2010).
The town of Puyo is an appropriate setting for this study because it is the capital of the Pastaza province and therefore has a sizable minority community of Quichua-speaking Runa. I will be able to work well there because I already have a few contacts in the area and have visited the town before, so I am somewhat familiar with the area. Furthermore, the Pastaza dialect is the variation that Dr. Nuckolls has investigated in almost all of her previous research and the purpose of this project is to support her findings as well as explore recent developments in the usage of ideophones among this speaker group. Having studied both the Napo and the Pastaza dialects last summer, it is clear to me that there are enough differences between the two even in the domain of sound-symbolic words (ideophones) to justify special focus on the Pastaza dialect in order to directly compare the data with previous work by Dr. Nuckolls.
A potential challenge of working in Puyo is the fact that unlike in the rural communities of Runa along the Pastaza river, Quichua speakers in this town will be a minority. This means that I will have to work toward cultural immersion within the community while navigating the majority culture as well. Strategies for finding and working within the community are outlined below in the Methodology section. Another potential challenge is the fact that many non-indigenous Ecuadoreans have contempt for Runa and some members of the younger generation choose to disown their heritage because both the culture and language are perceived as primitive (Whitten 1976). It is possible that I will encounter people who are clearly of Runa descent but who would prefer to assimilate into the wider Ecuadorean society and not speak in or about Quichua. However there are still many of the older generation who identify strongly with the traditional culture and are always delighted to hear that an outsider is interested in studying Runa Shimi (“people's tongue,” Quichua), based on my experience. I think that there is also a growing appreciation in Ecuador for indigenous communities, partly due to the fact that American and European tourists often seek a “genuine” experience of the rainforest and its people. This may mean that some people will be more willing to share their culture than they may have been in the past.
According to Tod Swanson (in lecture, 2011) both gender and age of Quichua speakers helps determine their self-identification with Runa culture in complex ways that are currently in the process of change. For example, while older women are often some of the most expressive Quichua speakers and the most knowledgeable about life in the forest, many younger women abandon Quichua for Spanish in order to try to belong to the majority Ecuadorean community and even to be seen as more eligible to date, to continue their higher level education, and to be employed. For these young women, Spanish is the way to opportunity and Quichua is old-fashioned and constricting. While this has previously been the case with many young male Runa, there may be a shift in roles and a return to embracing traditional ways of life and ways of speaking in this demographic. According to Swanson, some young men see the eco-tourists coming through regularly and have realized that their indigenous status makes them more interesting to foreign women, so they may play up their indigenous background in the hopes of financial gain, increased attention or even a potential marriage. Again this embrace of one culture and language over the other is seen as a potential for more opportunities. Although this information is all based on conjecture by Tod Swanson as a result of his casual observation from within the community, it is valuable to be aware of the different ways in which Runa people perceive their identity, their potential ambivalence and their motives for either embracing or rejecting the Quichua language and Runa culture.
It is clear that many factors influence the feelings of Quichua speakers toward their language and culture, but many speakers still identify strongly as Runa and will be willing to aid me in my Quichua research, if my positive experience with speakers last summer is any indicator. Awareness of these factors and different personal relationships with language and culture will help me to be sensitive to the comfort and willingness of consultants to speak Quichua and help me to be a better researcher.

Topic of Investigation

Ferdinand de Saussure, preeminent founder of linguistic studies in the 20th century, proposed the notion that the sign symbol is arbitrary as one of his basic principles of linguistic investigation (1959). He acknowledged the existence of onomatopoeias that keep this rule from being an absolute, but the arbitrary connection between sound and meaning was fundamental to his treatment of language as abstract and unconnected to the physical world. In "The Frequency Code Underlies the Sound-Symbolic Use of Voice Pitch," John J. Ohala uses a wide range of evidence from both animal and human anatomy influencing pitch and intonation to show that there is a correlation between small size and high pitch as well as large size and low pitch (1994). The anatomical correlation also influences behavioral usage of higher pitch in order to communicate the idea of smallness, weakness or submission and lower pitch to communicate largeness, strength and aggression (Ohala 1994). This thorough investigation provides a foundation for further inquiry into the sound-symbolic properties of human speech which take advantage of these processes as well as other properties in creating a subtle and complex system. Ideophones, also called “expressives,” “emotives,” and “mimetics” in the research of certain other languages (Dingemanse 2011) are fundamental to this inquiry.
Ideophones are difficult to define for English speakers because they occur so rarely in English or even other Indo-European languages that they do not usually constitute an entire class of expressions. However they are perhaps most accurately defined by Mark Dingemanse as “marked words that depict sensory imagery.” (p 25, 2011) Ideophones are marked as separate from other word categories in many languages in ways described by the literature, from syntactic and phonological features to the performative qualities that foreground these words and apply most directly to this study. Across different languages, ideophones are often used to depict senses other than sound, including sight (e.g. patterns, movement, color), taste, touch and even states of mind (Dingemanse 2011). However, as Dingemanse points out ideophones must also be defined as a class of words individually for each language in which they are studied as they are marked in distinct ways that are often not crosslinguistic.
According to Nuckolls (2004), the “ideophonically impoverished” state of English and other European languages has inhibited the linguistic investigation of many languages with ideophones because of the bias of the native language of researchers (2010). The closest thing to ideophones that we have in English are onomatopoeias, which imitate the sound of an action using speech sounds (e.g. bang, thwack, or other imitative sounds like moo). However these are usually constricted to narrow contexts such as comic books, cartoons and mother-to-child language, leaving them with a juvenile and simplistic connotation in English (Nuckolls 2010). In English there is also some evidence of phonaesthemes, a combination of phonemes (sounds) on a level below that of morpheme or word which occurs commonly in words related to a similar perception and may be considered iconic (Dingemanse 2011). An example of this would be the words “glisten,” “glimmer,” and “glow,” all containing the “gl-” component and all related closely to the reflection or emission of light.
Despite the scarcity of ideophones in IndoEuropean languages and the historical scarcity of discussion on them in the scientific literature (Nuckolls 2004), ideophones are widespread in the world's languages where they function as a fully-developed class of words and are used in a much wider discourse context than are onomatopoeias in English. As mentioned, ideophones can imitate experiences of the world which encompass the rest of the sensory perceptions as well as that of hearing, so they are broader in expressive utility. They occur in many contexts in Quechua, from personal narratives to historical narratives and even instructions and casual conversation (Nuckolls 1996, 2004). They occur throughout the proposed “discourse area” of lowland Amazonian languages as described in "Discourse Forms and Processes in Indigenous Lowland South America: An Areal-Typological Perspective," and are in fact one of the discourse forms that unites this group of languages which are not genetically related (Beier, Michael and Sherzer 2002). This discourse form is related to the performativity that appears in Mannheim's analysis of dialogue in Quechua narratives (1998; evidence from a highland dialect but relevant to Pastaza Quechua narrative style) and the performative and animistic elements of Quichua culture explored in work by Uzendoski (2005) and Swanson (2009).
Nuckolls argues that ideophones in Pastaza Quichua are “a type of cultural discourse through which speakers align themselves with nonhuman life forms and forces of nature” (2004). This reflects the Runa approach to nature and perception as outlined by Eduardo Kohn, where knowledge is based on firsthand experience and closely aligned with both human and nonhuman life forms of the forest (2005). The use of ideophones in communication invites the hearer to relive an experience along with the narrator, an idea that runs throughout the literature on ideophones (for example Dingemanse 2011). This property gives ideophones an immediate and poetic feeling. Essentially, ideophones are an important area of exploration to understand the relationship between language and perception, human relationships with the natural world and the connection between speech and action as originally outlined by J.L. Austin (1962).
Levinson discusses foreground and background features of language in “Contextualizing Contextualization Cues,” (2003) where he describes some of the ideas of renowned linguist John Gumperz and asserts that prosodic and features and kinesics are more often in the background of a speaker's consciousness, whereas the meaning and content being expressed are in the foreground. Nuckolls argues (1996) that for Quichua speakers, the performative qualities of change in volume, tone, pitch, and duration of ideophonic words (prosody) combined with gesture are foregrounded, in other words they use these features consciously in their “performance” of language in order to invite the listener to participate in the experience being described. This hypothesis of conscious performance is one of the research questions for my investigation as well as I will be seeking further evidence to support Nuckolls' assertion.

Project Significance

Since ideophones are not a distinctive word class in most European languages and especially in English, the literature on ideophones in the past has been impeded by the biases of English-speaking and other European linguistic investigations (Nuckolls 1996, 2004, 2010). Thus there is a need for more in-depth understandings of how ideophones represent the perspectives of distinct cultures and their role in language and metacognition in a wider sense. This study hopes to contribute to this conversation, and to continue to challenge the structuralist viewpoint (for example that of Saussure) that upholds the arbitrariness of the sign.
In addition, Nuckolls creatively uses film terminology in Sounds Like Life (1996) to give an idea of the lifelike properties of ideophones, and I am inspired by this in my plan to show film as part of my study in an effort to recreate some of these lifelike situations in my elicitation method.
In his thesis Dingemanse discusses previous work on ideophones in many separate languages, from Japanese to Bantu languages and even Mon-Khmer languages in the Austroasiatic family, but they are called by different names in all of these works and there is little crosslinguistic work tying all of them together. Dingemanse lays a foundation for discussing ideophones in a way that is broad enough to contribute to crosslinguistic literature on ideophony, while arguing for language-specific descriptions on the meanings and usage of ideophones as well (2011). Thus my research will add to the Quichua-specific description of the usage and meaning of ideophones, and will also be informed by the wider literature on ideophones sound symbolic language.
Dingemanse analyzes prosodic features of ideophones in Siwu in depth and also includes an analysis of gesture in his thesis, remarking that “There is still not much work on the close relation between ideophones and gesture” (p 87, 2011). This study will contribute to the understanding of the relationship between ideophones and gesture as aspects of a speaker's performance and depiction of an event. Janis Nuckolls also analyzes prosodic features in qualitative descriptions in her book Sounds Like Life, (1996) and this study will contribute quantitative analyses of these features as well as further description of how they are used by speakers today to convey meaning, nearly twenty years after the bulk of Nuckolls' field work.
Another worthwhile contribution of this project is the preservation of knowledge that is embedded in the use of ideophones. Ideophones portray a unique perspective informed by the traditional lifestyle of Runa people, and this lifestyle is endangered both by the destruction of the rainforest in which they live and the movement to towns and cities in search of economic stability. Although many Runa are voluntarily moving away from the forest and participating in the Spanish-speaking culture of Ecuador, this pattern endangers not only traditional knowledge of the forest which is no longer applicable in a city lifestyle but also the usage of ideophones. As Nuckolls points out, even in a fully bilingual environment with Quechua and Spanish the lack of ideophones in the prestige language (Spanish) makes them stand out in Quechua and seems to be a marker of its inferiority; therefore it is a critically endangered mode of communication even more than the language as a whole (2010). And since ideophones are so essential to knowledge and expression in Quechua (Kohn 2005), it would be a crippled language without them.
One final area of importance for this investigation in a more holistic sense is the cultural understanding and appreciation that I will gain while in the field. I hope to bring this understanding back and will attempt to communicate the knowledge and appreciation that I gain through my actions as well as through words shared with my peers. Aside from the academic contribution I hope to make to the field of Anthropological Linguistics, I think that my influence on the understanding and thought processes of other U.S. citizens may be the most important area of personal contribution. Of course, this cultural knowledge I hope to bring home to share will only be possible through an effort to treat the people I meet in the field as whole human beings and learn from them as well as sharing my experiences with them.


Once I'm on the ground in Puyo, I plan to stay with Señora Maria D'Alfo in Shell, approximately a five minute bus ride from the town center. Sra. D'Alfo is a contact of Dr. Nuckolls and BYU alumnus Brad Miller, who conducted field work in Ecuador several years ago and stayed at her boarding home in Shell. While I am living with her for the first few weeks or month, I plan to participate in Sra. D'Alfo's community through the bible study sessions she holds and any other social events, as well as attending LDS church and/or Protestant and Catholic church congregations to the greatest extent that I can. There I will seek contacts who speak Quichua and who know about the local indigenous communities. I also have contact information for three or four of the ladies from the Pastaza province who were consultants at the field school last Summer. Some of these women may be at the field school on week days this year as well, but I hope to find other community members to speak with through them and to be able to spend time with them on weekends when they return home. Another area where I may find friends and consultants is in the settlement of Plaza Aray in the outskirts of Puyo, where Luisa Cadena lives with her family. (She is featured in Lessons from a Quechua Strongwoman and a close friend of Dr. Nuckolls; always a delight to speak with.) I also plan to visit the Centro Indígena Ñucanchi Allpa, the museum of indigenous culture in Puyo, to see if anyone there is interested in helping me to learn Quichua or can point me in the direction of other useful contacts. Another possible plan for entry into the Runa community in Puyo include going to the market in town and starting conversations with women selling rainforest medicines or other products.
My consultants will include native speakers of Quichua who are willing to teach me their language. I will try to find adults of all ages to consult and teach me, especially those who have lived in the forest, and will explain that I want to learn Runa Shimi and work with them more. Spanish will be used as a language of contact to supplement my Quichua skills where necessary, based on my imperfect proficiency in Quichua and the consultants' level of Spanish proficiency.
My plan for recruitment is snowball sampling, drawing from contacts I already have and their friends and family as I am introduced to them; I will express my desire to learn their language and I will accept any consultant who wants to help me with this. I will probably work more with women, at least directly and in the beginning, and will recruit and interview men who are members of their household so that I can conduct their interviews in a group setting.
The main procedures in this investigation will include informal interviews and conversation, video clip elicitation, and elicitation of folk definitions of ideophones (Dingemanse 2010). I will speak in Quichua to the best of my ability and will use Spanish with bilingual consultants if clarification is necessary. With monolingual consultants I will speak Quichua and enlist the aid of a bilingual speaker if necessary. The category of informal interviews includes casual conversation in a group setting or individually and the telling of traditional and personal narratives that often occurs in this setting. I may also ask about life in the forest and receive specific Quichua instruction under this category. Informal interviews may occur with each consultant only once or up to ten times throughout the field study depending on the availability of consultants. They may last several hours in a group conversation setting, but no more than one hour for a personal interview. Some narratives and conversations will be audio recorded with prior consent, and at other times I will take notes without recording (i.e. if the consultant feels uncomfortable with the audio recorder or microphone setup). These interviews may occur in public spaces but will mostly be conducted in the homes of consultants during recording in order to obtain better sound quality. These procedures will help to build rapport with the consultants and improve my Quichua proficiency as well as helping me to understand the cultural background of the individuals I'm interacting with.
The video clip elicitation task I plan to do involves showing a short clip of movement, a simple action such as those described by certain ideophones found in Quichua. For example, the ideophone sau describes movement of liquid, so a video of a person pouring water into a glass from a pitcher would be shown. Alternately for the same ideophone, a person being drenched with a bucket of water might be shown and the difference in responses for each will provide more data. After watching each clip I will ask “Imasnara ningi chai,” or “Ima shina chai,” meaning “How would you say/describe this” and “What is this like,” respectively. This task will be conducted only once with each consultant, including up to ten video clips intended to portray between five and ten different ideophones.
I was advised to try this method of elicitation on Dr. Nuckolls' suggestion. In Sounds Like Life, Nuckolls makes the case that ideophones and film are two depictive modes of communication that share a similarity to lived experience, and she uses filmic terms related to composition and movement in her description of Pastaza Quichua ideophones. Since some ideophones are described as having a “close up” effect or with other film terminology, I will try to match the perspective used in the video clip with the meaning of the ideophone as closely as possible. I would also like to use one ideophone for two videos in some cases in order to see which is more successful in encouraging an ideophonic response from speakers. In addition, Tufvesson (2007) has written a description of an ideophone elicitation task performed in Semai (a Southeast Asian Mon-Khmer language) which includes having consultants watch short video clips (about 5s) and listen to sound clips (about 3s) in order to elicit ideophones. The video clips she describes involve different manners of walking, which ideophones are commonly used to describe in Semai, in contrast to Quichua which does not commonly use ideophones for this purpose. However her idea is very similar to the elicitation task described here.
In the field manual for the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Dingemanse describes the elicitation task “folk definitions of ideohpones.” This is my plan for the second type of directed elicitation. This would consist of a half an hour to an hour long interview once with each consultant, the time depending on the speaker's elaboration of the definition. According to Dingemanse, sixty definitions can be elicited in this task in under an hour, but based on my experience with Quichua this sounds high. I will prepare a list of thirty or forty ideophones, but will only expect to get through about twenty in half an hour. It is highly possible that some speakers will not recognize certain ideophones or will not have a definition ready, as ideophones can be difficult to elicit in this language. However, I aim to interview at least ten speakers for this task so that I can gather as much information as possible. The responses to my request for meaning of the word will be video taped in order to provide additional information about how gesture and facial expressions are used to contribute to the performance of the speakers. For all of my interviews and elicitation, having a range of ages and both male and female speakers complete this task will help give me an idea of usage and nuances of meaning in the ideophones as well.

Ethics and Approval

Confidentiality: I will be the only person with access to raw audio and video data in the field, which will be stored on an external hard drive in encrypted format. Physical field notes with personal information will be stored in my locked suitcase with my other belongings and will be converted to electronic format and encrypted with the rest of the data both during the course of field work and after returning home if any is remaining. The physical copies of this information will be shredded upon return from the field. After the study, recordings will be shared with Dr. Nuckolls for her own research and submitted to the Archive of Indigenous Languages of Latin America ( I will retain identifying information about the consultants, along with the rest of the data in a password-protected external hard drive.
Informed Consent: At the first interview, I will explain my project interests and read my consent form in Spanish and/or Quechua depending on the language skills of the consultant. If consultant is monolingual and/or illiterate consent will be obtained orally. If consultant is both bilingual and literate I will obtain written consent as well. Additional oral or written consent for audio and video recording will be obtained when applicable. (See attached IRB protocol in Appendix E for more detail.)*I am not including the appendices here, it's long enough already.
As mentioned above, some Quichua speakers may feel ambivalent or embarrassed about their background and disadvantaged status in Ecuadorean society and therefore may not want to admit to speaking the language or to being Runa in public. I will not pursue any speaker who does not seem comfortable speaking to me in or about Quichua or who is not enthusiastic about working with me, so that they don't feel forced to work with me. In addition, it is made clear in the oral and written consent forms that there will be no negative consequences if a speaker chooses not to participate in the investigation so they are informed of this during the consent process as well.
One way in which I will minimize the risk involved in participating for my consultants is to protect their identity in the use of recorded and transcribed data. In order to maximize the benefit of our interaction for them, I plan to practice reciprocity. A few ideas I have for practicing appropriate reciprocity and showing gratitude toward my contacts and consultants is by helping out at a chagra (garden/agricultural field) any time I get an opportunity, by keeping my room clean at my host family's house and helping to clean the rest of the house if possible, or even by helping to prepare and cook food as I often did last summer. In my previous experience, this provided a good opportunity to interact with my consultants socially and to lessen the distance between my hosts and myself at the field school. I will also offer reciprocity by teaching English lessons to consultants who express interest in learning my language. I think the latter is a very relevant form of reciprocity since I am going into the field with the goal of learning a language from my consultants as well. In addition, if I find one or a few very reliable consultants who dedicate a lot of time to helping me, I may take them out to eat individually and/or buy a nice gift to thank them for their immense help. I hope to be able to practice reciprocity appropriately according to Runa and Ecuadorean culture and will watch for more ideas and opportunities to do so while I'm in the field.


After I return from the field, I plan to submit my paper to the journal Language, published quarterly by the Linguistic Society of America. This society also holds an annual conference in January, which I hope to attend and where I potentially could present my project. I plan to present at the BYU Inquiry Conference and submit my project for publication in the BYU Inquiry Journal as well. Additionally, there may be other conferences of Anthropological Linguistics or American Indigenous languages that I could present at and I will look into this possibility with the help of Dr. Nuckolls upon my return from the field. The completion of this field study will greatly aid me in my application process to graduate and PhD programs, and the skills I gain during this field study will apply to my work in the postgraduate program I plan to enter in the Fall of 2013 after I graduate in April. Beyond that, the skills and knowledge gained from this investigation will help me be more qualified for my postdoctorate plans to continue to conduct field research.
I would like to apply for a Fulbright scholarship during my postgraduate studies in order to do more research abroad, and the emphasis in the Fulbright program is the sharing of multicultural awareness and understanding. In the same way that this program is designed to encourage students to return to their home country and share their knowledge with peers, I hope to return after this summer and to be able to share a sense of cultural understanding with my friends and acquaintances here in the United States. Since I know few people who have been abroad in order to conduct research, I think my ability to communicate this increased awareness to people who haven't had this type of experience may be able to impact those around me positively. Whether they gain a wider cultural awareness from my shared experience or just gain a greater curiosity to find out more and develop an understanding for themselves, I would see this as a success.


I have completed many courses during the past four years at Brigham Young University which will help me in this Field Study. First, I have completed most of my Spanish minor from Span 321 and Span 322 (writing and grammar courses) to Span 339 (literature) and Span 326 (phonetics and pronunciation). I have been studying Spanish since 7th grade and was in an intensive program in high school, completing the higher level Spanish exam for International Baccalaureate my senior year. I have also spent two months living in Madrid, Spain, and two months living in Ecuador last summer which both helped cement my conversational proficiency in Spanish in order to supplement my writing and receptive skills in the language.
I have completed all of the core requirements for my major except Ling 490 Senior Seminar, and I hope to use some of the data from this project for my senior paper. Core courses which apply to this project are: Ling 330 Introduction to Linguistics, Ling 420 Phonetics, Ling 427 Phonology & Morphology. My phonetics course will help me the most in my acoustic analysis of Quichua as a part of this project. I have also taken six courses taught by Dr. Nuckolls: Ling 580R Field Methods: Swahili, Ling 551 Anthropological Linguistics, FLANG 100R Language Study: Quechua, FLANG 305R Language Skills Development: Quechua, Ling 580R Field Methods Research Project: Quechua, Ling 590R Readings in Linguistics. The field methods I began cultivating in my investigation of Swahili and the readings I completed for Anthropological Linguistics and Readings in Linguistic courses have both aided greatly in my current understanding of the process and result of field work. The Quechua courses have given me a foundation for both abstract and conversational knowledge of the language, which I hope to improve upon during this study.
In addition I am currently enrolled in IAS 360 Field Study Preparation, as well as Ling 399R Internship: with Libravox, Inc. The Field Study course has opened my eyes to many of the complex issues that come along with cross-cultural experiences and has challenged me to be fully prepared for both the academic and the practical elements of conducting this field study. For the internship I am using the software program Praat to view sound spectrographic images and complete phonetic transcriptions and analysis of sound files. My practice using this program to analyze voicing, vowel quality and intensity will contribute greatly to the completion of the first portion of my project analyzing the prosodic features of ideophones.
Projects I have worked on that prepare me for this investigation are my research project from last Summer comparing usage of ideophones in the Napo and Pastaza dialects while on Study Abroad in Tena, Ecuador. In addition, I am currently working with Dr. Nuckolls and two other students from this Study Abroad on a paper describing the phonology of Pastaza Quichua, hopefully to be submitted for publication. This project has helped familiarize me with the sound system of the language and has helped me practice comprehension as well from listening to many audio files in research.
One limitation that will affect me in this project is my usual reluctance to speak and practice language. Although I know this is the best way to learn, I am often shy and afraid to make a mistake so I habitually keep my mouth shut instead of trying out my imperfect language skills. However I have also experienced making mistakes as a way to build rapport, and I know from my courses in English teaching (TESOL) that in many studies of foreign language learners, those who speak the most learn more quickly even if they make more mistakes at the outset. I will have to consciously make an effort to practice Quichua while in the field in order to communicate and improve my skills quickly, and since I will be asking people to help teach me the language I think this will help contribute to the solution.
Some of the limitations I will face in the field are attributes that I cannot change, such as being a young white female. This may put me at risk for dangerous situations or at least cause people to make assumptions about my economic resources and my personality that could get in the way of forming relationships on an equal basis with people. Professional conduct and the right attitude will help me form relationships and learn more in this case. The latter problem will be mostly mitigated by being teachable and humble and personable, for example by pointing out that my consultants are the expert on Quichua and I know very little, and by practicing reciprocity and participating in the community so that I can get to know people on a social basis as well as for the purpose of my project. The former problem will be minimized by my own caution in meeting with male consultants alone, where and when I travel alone in the city and even how I dress (i.e. not to attract more attention than necessary).
My familiarity with the area and the local transportation system will help me travel safely and independently since I will be alone instead of with a group this time around. I now know the safe areas of Quito and how the buses and taxis work, approximately what fair prices tend to be depending on distance, and how other people in the area dress so I will be able to blend in and travel confidently despite my foreign status in the country. I was not always successful at bartering in the market or with taxi drivers last year, but I look forward to the chance to improve those skills this summer and to appreciate the different cultural experience rather than being embarrassed about the process of money exchange and the fact that prices are not as fixed as they are here in the U.S.

Faculty Mentor

Janis B. Nuckolls (Mentor Form in Appendix A) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Linguistics and English Language at Brigham Young University. She graduated with her PhD from The University of Chicago in Anthropological Linguistics in 1990 and with her MA in Linguistics in 1983 from the same institution. She received her BA in Linguistics from The University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1981.
While in the field this year I will be taking two courses from Dr. Nuckolls: Ling 580R Field Methods: Individual Field Study Project and Ling 590R Readings in Linguistics: Ideophones. The first course is designed to encompass my project and I will keep in contact with Dr. Nuckolls weekly or biweekly during the summer in order to update her on the progress of the project and ask for advice. The only assignment other than keeping in touch is the final project, but all of my planned methods for data collection will contribute to this course as well. I will plan with Dr. Nuckolls my individual elicitation tasks and seek advice from her as the data collection develops so that I will be able to adapt to the situation with her help. My limited knowledge of working in the field will be greatly aided by her insight from working in the same area throughout her career. The Readings course is designed to give me a better background in understanding the phenomenon of ideophones in the field of linguistics so that I can write about it more knowledgeably as I complete my project, and will include 30 articles related to ideophones with an annotated bibliography as the graded material for the course. As I read these works in the field, it will also contribute to the adaptation of my methodology when necessary.
I will also be taking IAS 397R while in the field, and will communicate with my facilitator Sarah Bowers as well as with Malcolm Botto on a regular basis for this course. There are assignments of daily field notes, several ethnographic tasks and the final project for my other course will also be evaluated for this course. (Course contracts in Appendix B.) Another assignment for this course will be to update my learning journal blog while in the field, which is described in Appendix D.


April 20- Finish putting together initial ideophone list and video clips as well as reading list for Ling 590R.
*on second thought, not going to publish in-field location/time frame details online.
September 24- Coursework and project due. Begin polishing paper for journal submission. Submit data (recordings and any transcripts) to AILLA.
January 3-6, 2013- Linguistic Society of America conference, possible presentation and/or publication.
February- Inquiry Conference presentation and paper submission, hopefully.
January-April 2013- Winter Semester, use of Field Study in my Ling 490 Senior Seminar paper and presentation.


///*details left out here -Total estimate = 3,114 (-ORCA scholarship offsets cost by 1,500 so 1,614 left for me.)

Works Cited

Adelaar, Willem F. H.. The Languages of the Andes. With the collaboration of P.C. Muysken. Cambridge language survey. Cambridge University Press 2004.
Agar, Michael. Language Shock: Understanding the Culture of Conversation. New York: William Morrow, 1994. Print.
Ahearn, Laura M. Living Language: An Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology. Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012. Print.
Austin, J. L. How to Do Things with Words. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1962. Print.
Beier, Christine, Lev Michael, and Joel Sherzer. "Discourse Forms and Processes in Indigenous Lowland South America: An Areal-Typological Perspective." Annual Review of Anthropology 31.1: 121-45, 2002. Print.
Bernard, H. Russell. Handbook of Methods in Cultural Anthropology. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira, 1998. Chapters 6, 9, 11, 14. Print.
Childs, G. Tucker. “Where Have All the Ideophones Gone? The Death of a Word Category in Zulu.” Toronto Working Papers in Linguistics (1996): 81-103. Print.
Dingemanse, Mark. “Folk Definitions of Ideophones.” In Elisabeth Norcliffe & N. J. Enfield (eds.), Field Manual Volume 13, 24-29. Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, 2010.
Dingemanse, Mark. The Meaning and Use of Ideophones in Siwu. Nijmegen: Radboud University Nijmegen, 2011.
Evans, Nicholas, and Stephen C. Levinson. "The Myth of Language Universals: Language Diversity and Its Importance for Cognitive Science." Behavioral and Brain Sciences 32.5 (2009): 429-48. Print.
Ferguson, Charles. "Dialect, Register and Genre: Working Assumptions about Conventionalization." Sociolinguistic Perspectives on Register. New York: Oxford UP, 1994. 15-30. Print.
Kohn, Eduardo O. "How Dogs Dream: Amazonian Natures and the Politics of Transspecies Engagement." American Ethnologist 34.1, 2007: 3-24. Print.
Kohn, Eduardo O. "Runa Realism: Upper Amazonian Attitudes to Nature Knowing." Ethnos 70.2, 2005. 171-96. Print.
Levinson, Stephen. “Contextualizing 'Contextualization Cues'” Language and Interaction: Discussions with John J. Gumperz. Amsterdam: J. Benjamins Pub., 2003. 31-39. Print.
Mannheim, Bruce, and Krista Van Vleet. "The Dialogics of Southern Quechua Narrative." American Anthropologist 100.2, 1998. 326-46. Print.
Nuckolls, Janis B. "Deictic Selves and Others in Pastaza Quichua Evidential Usage." Anthropological Linguistics 50.1 (2008): 67-89. Print.
Nuckolls, Janis B. Lessons from a Quechua Strongwoman: Ideophony, Dialogue, and Perspective. Tucson: University of Arizona, 2010. Print.
Nuckolls, Janis B. Sounds like Life: Sound-symbolic Grammar, Performance, and Cognition in Pastaza Quechua. New York: Oxford UP, 1996. Print.
Nuckolls, Janis B. “To Be or Not to Be Ideophonically Impoverished.” Texas Linguistics Forum, Volume 47, 2004. Salsa XI.
Ohala, J. J. “The frequency codes underlies the sound symbolic use of voice pitch,” In L. Hinton, J. Nichols, & J. J. Ohala (eds.), Sound symbolism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. 325-347.
Overing, Joanna, and Alan Passes. The Anthropology of Love and Anger: The Aesthetics of Conviviality in Native Amazonia. London: Routledge, 2000. Print.
Saussure, Ferdinand de. Course in General Linguistics. New York: Philosophical Library, 1959. Print.
Spradley, James P. Participant Observation. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1980. 39- 77. Print.
Swanson, Tod. "Singing to Estranged Lovers: Runa Relations to Plants in the Ecuadorian Amazon." Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture 3.1, 2009. 36-65. Print.
Tufvesson, Sylvia. Expressives. In Asifa Majid (ed.), Field Manual Volume 10, 2007. 53-58. Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics.
Uzendoski, Michael A., Mark Hertica, and Edith Calapucha Tapuy. "The Phenomenology of Perspectivism: Aesthetics, Sound, and Power in Women’s Songs from Amazonian Ecuador." Current Anthropology 46.4, 2005. 656-62. Print.
Voeltz, F.K. Erhard and C. Kilian-Hatz, (eds.) Ideophones: Typological Studies in Language 44. John Benjamins Press, Amsterdam 2001.
Whitehead, Tony Larry., and Mary Ellen. Conaway. Self, Sex, and Gender in Cross-cultural Fieldwork. Urbana: University of Illinois, 1986. Print.
Whitten, Norman E. Sacha Runa: Ethnicity and Adaptation of Ecuadorian Jungle Quichua. Urbana: University of Illinois, 1976. Print.
Woodbury, Anthony C. "Meaningful Phonological Processes: A Consideration of Central Alaskan Yupik Eskimo Prosody." Language 63.4 (1987): 684-740. Print.

*if you made it this far you might have unending patience or OCD or something...

Monday, March 26, 2012

Brother's Keeper (part 2 of 2)

I couldn't resist taking screen shots of the fascinating cast of characters interviewed for the film. First there were the people in town who rallied around Delbert Ward, raising thousands of dollar for his bail and to pay for a lawyer and each defending him with various reasons. Even though some believe he may have killed his brother, none want to see him go to jail for it. This support is given unhesitatingly despite mentions that the Ward brothers had been sort of outcasts previous to the allegations against Delbert. They humorously remark that before, if you happened to be at the local diner at the same time as the "Ward boys," you would be sure not to sit downwind of them due to their questionable hygiene. The townspeople see these brothers as somewhat childlike, certainly innocent and sweet, and this is the characterization that Delbert's lawyer and to some extent the filmmakers present as well.

Here is Delbert's lawyer. Wearing a 90s sweater and exhorting the town members to fill the courtroom every day. He certainly wasn't a flashy lawyer but he seemed to have both a pragmatic understanding of the case and also a similar empathy toward Delbert and his brothers that Berlinger and Sinofsky must have had.

This is just one of the criminal justice people interviewed. They all had a very particular style of speaking (very legal), all sat behind official desks like this and wore distinct costumes from the other interviewees. It's easy to see why they were mistrusted by the townspeople and seen as outsiders from a different culture, despite the shared background of country and state. They seemed to be very concerned with "the facts," with defending their decisions, and seemed to be looking down on the Ward brothers and even the townspeople as somewhat backwards, owing perhaps to their rural background and different lifestyle. The film didn't seem to cast a negative light on these interviewees on purpose, but their perspective was decidedly different from that of others interviewed, and it grated on me for some reason that I can't fully put into words. I think perhaps it was that they seemed to think they had the answers, or at least reliable methods for finding TRUTH, and this attitude always makes me uneasy. (I'm too aware that as I learn more I know less about everything, why don't they feel the same?)

I look at all those books behind him, evidence of his cultural values and cognitive framework. His hands belie a certain uneasiness and struggle that his words won't admit to. He talks about how the townspeople view the police as intruders and band against outside forces without caring whether or not Delbert is actually guilty. He has a point, but why wouldn't they see the situation this way? I began to question the validity of his (our) criminal justice system too, in the context of this case.

Another thought or two and I will let it rest, there's just so much to be said and this film is so good. Another thought-provoking effect of this film was that it helped me to confront some personal prejudices which I hesitate to admit to feeling. As I tried to decide which behaviours or habits of the Lyman brothers are cultural, family-specific, or more personal, I was thinking of their personal hygiene and "standard of living" as well as what seemed to be limited social and communicative skills. I tried to smother these thoughts but still the words "simple" and "primitive" murmured in the back of my oh-so-sophisticated mind.

Even my relating to these people and feeling empathy for them was tainted with condescending pity; it tore me up to see Lyman shaking on the stand during cross examination from nerves and I found Delbert endearing and a little slow. But are these thoughts humanizing them or just belittling them the way that I'm seeing it? I felt my voyeurism aroused by the shots of their household in disarray, I tried to tell myself it's a "different" lifestyle and not worse than mine, but I'm not taking myself seriously.

This underlying prejudice has been nagging at me for a while. Similarly, I think of my desire to appreciate the "complexity" of Kichwa last summer although its tiny vocabulary size in comparison to English sometimes made me wonder. I know that this difference arises from historical circumstances (language contact), cultural values (Western philosophy and search for one-to-one correspondence between Platonic ideals and words), and pragmatic functions (eg high context vs low context communication), but even knowing all this I can't shake the feeling that the search for truth and my impulse to describe the world with complex taxonomies and linguistic theories etc etc is fundamentally a desirable trait. And thus the paradox of my situation, as a researcher who's highly aware that my role represents cultural values as arbitrary as any others. I could also state lots of other strengths in Kichwa as compared to English (the marvellously poetic feel of ideophones, plus reasons why ambiguity and iconicity can be very desirable traits in many communication contexts) but I think that would distract from my point here. Maybe it's enough to be aware of this prejudice, not to worry too much about getting rid of it through linguistic logic (or faith) because it's better to know that I have it than to pretend that I don't. Because if I am still prejudiced (and I must at least be biased, perhaps a better word) but am blind to it my work will suffer much more than if I am self aware. This way I can practice this awareness in my interactions with others and in my interpretation of field experiences even when my cultural values persist. A perfect example of which is my nitpickiness over the difference between the words biased and prejudiced.

Anyway now that I made a point about how this question relates to my fieldwork, I want to articulate a thought which is probably very obvious and only a starting point for this explanation of some of my prejudice in the case of the Ward brothers. But it's all I have for now, since I haven't read much from other people admitting this type of prejudice or working through it. The "intelligence" I so highly value in myself, my critical thinking skills and analysis and all that is partially a product of my innate abilities and predisposition to want to cultivate the same, but largely a product of years of training and forming habits of thought. In other words, Nurture and not Nature. Literacy is an example of a skill exactly like this, despite the connotation it carries in our culture which makes Delbert feel so uncomfortable admitting his illiteracy. And I don't know how much innate intelligence these men have (or anyone really has), but at least I can be aware of this factor too when I am tempted to think that they lack intelligence. That this perceived lack may just as well be a function of circumstances other than genetics. So that lessens my prejudice and heightens my awareness slightly. Still working on it though.

Below are pictures of Delbert in his home, a view of the inside, Lyman, and an unshaven closeup of Delbert.

official citation since I didn't include it last time:

Brother's Keeper. Dir. Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky. Prod. Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky. By Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky. Perf. Delbert, Lyman and Roscoe Ward. A Hand-To-Mouth Production, 1992.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

more sources

-Levinson, Stephen. "Conextualizing 'Contextualization Cues'" Language and Interaction: Discussions with John J. Gumperz. Amsterdam: J. Benjamins Pub., 2003. 31-39. Print.

Levinson's main goal in this article is to describe a concept often used by his colleague John Gumperz over the course of many years of academic work in the area of conversation analysis. He draws from personal acquaintance with the scholar and his work and takes a conversational tone which skims over the specifics, leaving the article concise but without very much argumentation behind each of his points. In addition, he refers often to the work of Gumperz as though his research and theoretical framework are already familiar to the reader; which makes sense based on the title of the book which the article is taken from, Language and Interaction: Discussions with John J. Gumperz.

One central point of the article is his explanation of “foreground” and “background” knowledge that a speaker conveys in a conversation, which correlates basically to information that a speaker is consciously trying to communicate and that which is unconsciously communicated, often including contextualization cues which help to inform the listener of the context in which to interpret the literal meaning of the speaker's words. The features of prosody and kinesics are, according to Levinson, often to be found in the background of a speaker's awareness although they add helpful information about the context and meaning of their words. However, according to Nuckolls (in class discussion and elsewhere in writing), these features are often brought to the foreground in Kichwa, especially through the use of ideophones and the performative style of narration common in the language. This difference sets Kichwa apart from languages such as English where Levinson's theory seems to hold true, and points to a connection between thought processes and language in terms of conscious and unconscious features of language use.

Based on Nuckolls' assertions and the performative aspects of ideophone usage in Kichwa in daily conversation as well as narrative, studying ideophones in Kichwa provides an opportunity to explore cognitive processes and the connection between language, perspective and culture in a way that is relevant not only to the field of linguistics or anthropology, but also potentially to cognitive science.

-Mannheim, Bruce, and Krista Van Vleet. "The Dialogics of Southern Quechua Narrative." American Anthropologist 100.2 (1998): 326-46. Print.

Mannheim and Van Vleet propose in this article that Quechua narratives of mythological or personal events are not the self-contained prose-like stories that have been published in the past (reflecting Western narrative styles), but rather usually occur in a natural setting as a dialogue with interaction between the speaker and the listener. Their goal is to show that the nature of these narratives and their place within Quechua culture is inherently dialogic on several levels. The first way which they state that this shows is in the telling of the stories, where native speakers echo each other, interject to add details and often finish a story together if it is well known. As an interviewer, Van Vleet was also expected to acknowledge that she was following the story by repeating statements and asking questions. Another way in which the text is interactive is through the multiple tellings of the story that have occurred in the past and will occur in the future, which affects the course of the narrative in the present, through the reactions of the participants and their contributions. A third way in which the narrative becomes like a conversation is through quoted and reported speech which is shown in the evidential system. The fourth type of dialogue that the authors identify is that of different roles for the participants which overlap and change during the course of the narrative.

The conclusions in the article are drawn based specifically on field work in Southern Peru, with references to other dialects of Quechua providing some background knowledge for the distinctiveness of this form. Examples of narratives are used as evidence in the text and are analyzed thoroughly for evidential and other aspects which point toward dialogical structure.

This was a very interesting point and I think it applies also to Ecuadorian Kichwa (Quichua) of the Amazon, where stories are told and retold and perhaps serve this same sociocultural function when told among native speakers. I have not observed echoing in Ecuadorian Kichwa, but periodic affirmation of understanding seems to be a very important part of listening well in my interactions with native speakers. This paper, despite not being written about the same dialect of Quechua that I'm studying, provides insight into the language and culture that I can now use to measure against the similar language that I have contact with. I think the knowledge that listening to a narrative often involves active participation and dialogue will aid my field research greatly.

-Childs, G. Tucker. “Where Have All the Ideophones Gone? The Death of a Word Category in Zulu.” Toronto Working Papers in Linguistics (1996): 81-103. Print.

In this article Childs explores the disappearance of ideophones in Zulu. His goal is to prove that ideophones constitute a distinct word class and also that they are on the decline as a a whole within the language. In order to prove that ideophones are a distinct word class, Childs shows that ideophones are phonologically distinct, syntactically separated from other parts of the sentence, and several other criteria which help to distinguish ideophones from other parts of speech. These properties are also observed in ideophones occurring in other languages, where the argument for ideophones as a separate word category has been made.

Childs uses a survey of ideophone knowledge as the experimental basis for his second point. Measuring age, gender, area of residence and “rusticity” these factors are compared to knowledge of ideophones based on two tasks and calculated for any correlations. “Rusticity” in this study refers to the cultural values of the participants and how attached they are to traditional Zulu ways of life. Residence is used to determine how urban the interviewee is since urban Zulu speakers were expected to be less likely to be familiar with ideophones. Childs includes formulas and graphs showing the statistical outcomes of the experiment.

This paper is a valuable attempt to quantify information about the shifts in Zulu with respect to ideophones, but this measurement turns out to be a difficult task; in fact some of the weaknesses of this study were very apparent in my own research project in Ecuador last year. Childs points out that Zulu speakers perceive women as using ideophones much more often than men (sometimes expressed by Kichwa speakers as well, see Nuckolls 2010), but since his experiment only tested for knowledge of ideophones rather than usage the fact that women and men have almost the same amount of knowledge about ideophones does not disprove or support this claim. Childs also states that his hypothesis of urban Zulu speakers having less ideophone knowledge was not supported by the data gathered in this experiment. (His survey doesn't address usage in this case either though.) Overall his conclusions were scattered throughout the article and not stated very clearly, and it seems that the knowledge gained from the experiment could have been explained more clearly and completely.

This paper deals with an important aspect of ideophonic research, which is the (potential) decline in usage of ideophones among speakers who move to urban areas and adopt a different culture and language. In a bilingual environment where one language has much greater prestige, the study and pedagogy even of the minority or indigenous language (in the case of my research, Kichwa) will be greatly influenced by the prestige language, quite possibly resulting in a loss of features unique to the minority language (eg ideophones). In my study this summer I will not be looking for the decline in ideophone usage among specific groups, but I am interested in how the Runa cultural worldview relates to the usage of ideophones and I think that ideophones are important to study precisely because they are so threatened in Kichwa by the dominance of English and Spanish as prestige languages lacking in this class of words.