Tuesday, January 31, 2012

First Few Annotated Sources

-Descola, Phillipe. "Head-Shrinkers Versus Shrinks: Jivaroan Dream Analysis." Man 24.3 (1989): 439-50. Print.

In this article Descola outlines the way that oneiromancy (dream interpretation) works in the culture of the Jivaroan Achuar people of the Upper Amazon. The author attempts to show that the metaphoric interpretation of dreams depends on a system of rules and codes based on the gender of the dreamer and the content of the dream, rather than on a specific meaning for each symbol in a dream the way a dream dictionary works. The article is relevant to my research because the Jivaroan Achuar people live in the same area as the Pastaza Runa and have interacted with them for centuries. They share a similar culture to Runa people, who also have a rich culture of dreams, visions and dream interpretations which weaves itself into their personal and traditional narratives. It is useful for me to have this cultural information about dream interpretation in order to understand their perspective better.

-Dingemanse, Mark. The Meaning and Use of Ideophones in Siwu. S.l.: S.n., 2011. Print.

The purpose of this article is to explain the semantics and usage of ideophones in Siwu, a language spoken in Eastern Ghana. Another goal is to look at ideophones as they occur in natural discourse and to expand upon other linguistic research dealing with ideophones in general. This source is very applicable to my project as the author is writing about the same aspect of language that I want to study and explores many aspects of it. He also specifically addresses prosody in ideophonic utterances, usage in natural conversation and other aspects of the intersection between language use and culture that are relevant to the linguistic research in my project.

-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.

This article discusses the singing style of Napo Runa women and how it shows their perspective of the relationship between nature and the self. It draws on work by Descola and Viveiros de Castro as well as Overing and Passes, who have all discussed the Amazonian view of nature as a part of human sociality. Songs in Runa culture are an important mode of exercising shamanic power and attracting both animals and humans, and one way that women's songs word is to make use of aesthetic features to embody other species and take on their traits. This article is relevant to my research because it discusses performative elements used consciously by Runa singers that may relate to similar performative elements in speech. It also provides insight into Runa interactions with and view of nature, which I am very interested in and is related to ideophone usage as well.

-Woodbury, Anthony C. "Meaningful Phonological Processes: A Consideration of Central Alaskan Yupik Eskimo Prosody." Language 63.4 (1987): 684-740. Print.

In this article, Woodbury argues that there are postlexical, optional phonological rules in the Central Alaskan Yupik Eskimo language (CAY) which modify meaning. These rules "assign stress, geminate consonants, lengthen vowels, and rearrange syllable structure" like other prosody rules. Woodbury asserts that this challenges the principle of articulation proposed by Martinet because in this case, phonological processes carry meaning. This article is relevant to my project because the idea that prosodic elements carry meaning is essential to my investigation of the performativity of ideophones.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Roommate Blends

I've been thinking about the excerpt from Michael Agar's book ever since we read it at the beginning of the semester. One thing that hit me at the time was that the conflict I was having with a friend was a matter of cultural difference. I'm going to try to describe this difference without a qualitative judgment: one of my dear friends (a roommate in fact) has a different way of making requests than I do. The "would you mind..." or the "could I ask you to maybe..." formulas that I use to soften requests and allow people room to decline just aren't a part of her thought process.

At first I thought this was because she didn't care about me or the trouble I might go to in order to help her out, but now that I think about it I go through all sorts of verbal performances in order to fulfill standards of thoughtfulness or to make myself feel that I am not going to offend others. So what if she doesn't do the same? It doesn't mean that I need to be offended, or that she doesn't value our friendship. I still feel sincerely when I speak this way, I don't think that I am using affectations or being superficially polite. But I have come to realize that it's more a matter of style and one mode of expressing my inner values of empathy and thoughtfulness than it is the only way to prove that you value those things. Furthermore, I might say that even though I relate to and value those virtues, even they are not universal and are just how I want to conduct my own self rather than being necessary guiding principles in other people's lives. There are some principles which are universal (I think), but I think I would do best to give people the benefit of the doubt on those and leave everything else to their personal business while I continue to conduct my own and attempt to live by my own internal value system.

I came to these conclusions shortly before reading the "Culture Blends" article for class, and when I read it was struck with a feeling of recognition. Not only does each group's culture manifest differently, but each individual's culture (aka personality) may differ in ways that seem to connote value differences but in reality are just a different way of expressing the same humanity. Next situation to tackle with that mindset, what to do when our kitchen looks like this to me:

Last year's paper

Below is a copy of the paper I wrote after my field experience last summer. Looking back on it I have mixed feelings, because I think it was a valuable learning experience and I even think it describes a sliver of real knowledge that is new to the world, in a way. At the same time it's easy to see the shortcomings of my research project and my writing, and it's easy to remember my frustration as I tried to carry out research in the field for the first time.

A few things I would include in my paper the next time around: (1) a better description of ideophones, (2) a more thorough review of Sounds Like Life, (3) evidence for my claim that ideophones reflect Quechua culture, (4) clearer organization.

A few things I would change about my research next time around: (1) explore the dialect difference in ideophones as it relates to their iconicity, (2) gather more qualitative descriptions, (3) change elicitation method completely?

I'm intimidated by the prospect of writing publishable papers, but I think I'm beginning to head in the right direction. Continuing to read lots of academic articles will help, and I look forward to this summer's field research because I will already be so far ahead of where I was last summer. Last year I spent about two months in the field trying to learn the language, pick up background information about the culture, design my research project and conduct my interviews. This year I already have a step up on the language and culture as well as more familiarity with research methods. I'm also working on my project design already and will have at least 90 days in the field to find and talk to consultants, plus I won't have classes to attend so I foresee a much more solid outcome. I think that taking extensive and well-organized field notes will make a huge difference as well; last time around I didn't keep daily notes the whole way through.

And now, the visible result of my efforts last summer:

Ideophone Investigation of Napo and Pastaza Quechua

I Introduction

The purpose of this research project is to study ideophones as they occur in Quechua spoken in Amazonian Ecuador. Ideophones in Quechua constitute a class of words with distinct characteristics including sound symbolism and adverbial behavior, which contribute to their unique syntactic and performative functions within the language. These words are described in detail in Sounds Like Life (Nuckolls 1996), where Nuckolls argues that ideophones in Quechua are integral to expressing animacy as well as grammatical aspect. She also asserts that they are integral to Amazonian Quechua culture and that by studying them we can understand more about the worldview of Quechua speakers. The study of this language and culture is important in part because it is so perfectly suited to life in the rainforest and also because it represents an endangered and undervalued way of life.

This investigation relies heavily on previous research performed on by Nuckolls on Pastaza Quechua, and also attempts to discover more about ideophone usage in both the Napo and the Pastaza dialects. The questions explored by the research include: how does the use of ideophones differ between groups of speakers and what are the speakers' perceptions of the importance and meanings of these words? I also investigated the differences in the forms of ideophones between the Napo and Pastaza dialects after preliminary research.

I am interested to find out if cultural or economic factors (such as the increasing prevalence of Spanish spoken by younger people with more formal education or by men who have worked or lived in a Spanish-speaking environment) appear to have an influence on speakers' views of ideophones in their native language. I expect that men and younger people will be less likely to use these words than women and the older generation, since the words are so closely tied to the culture of living in the rainforest and have no direct equivalent in Spanish or English, the languages of prestige and economic power in Ecuador.

II Methodology

In order to answer these questions, I conducted structured interviews based on thirteen ideophones commonly found in Quechua. Nine interviews were conducted with Napo speakers and seven with Pastaza speakers. Dr. Nuckolls provided sample sentences for each ideophone and assisted me in conducting the first few interviews as well as revising the survey after the first Napo consultant provided new forms of the ideophones. A copy of the two surveys used is provided in Appendix A.

In order to measure the usage of ideophones, each sample sentence was stated both with and without the ideophone included and the speaker was asked for a judgment of acceptability of each sentence. The speaker was then asked to choose the better of the two options if both were deemed acceptable. If the speaker stated again that they were both correct, I then asked how they would say the sentence personally and based the speaker's preference on whether or not they used the ideophone in their restatement of the sentence. This research technique is meant to create a kind of a forced choice for equal comparison between many speakers, however the interviews were still somewhat open-ended and the consultants did not always provide a direct answer to each of the questions I asked. I compiled the direct answers in Appendix B, and an analysis of the data is included in the next section.

In the course of conducting my research many challenges arose. The interviews were hampered by my lack of Quechua fluency at the beginning as I had trouble pronouncing the sentences correctly as well as remembering their meanings, which affected the intonation of my delivery as well as my ability to answer any follow-up questions from the consultants. I found it difficult not to pronounce the sentences with a rising intonation like a question, both because I was unsure of my delivery and because I was presenting the sentence to ask about its acceptability. At times this intonation may have been confusing to my consultants, who did not hear a question in the content of the sentence and neither did they hear a plausible statement. Since I was asking consultants if my sentences were acceptable, I tried to make sure that I communicated as clearly as possible and often made slight adjustments to the syntax or word choice of a sentence at their suggestion. I did this in order to focus my questions on the presence or absence of the ideophone. Thankfully this limitation to my research was greatly eased as my language skills improved over the course of conducting the research.

Despite the communication challenges in Quechua, interviewing a number of consultants who spoke Spanish worked to my advantage. In Spanish I could communicate much more easily and even ask the speakers for a metalinguistic commentary about their preferences and the meaning and purpose of the sound-symbolic words.

Speakers of Spanish generally seemed more aware of what I was trying to ask for than those who spoke no Spanish and would answer more quickly and concisely even if the interview was conducted entirely in Quechua. This may be due to the structure of the questions I used and its familiarity to speakers who had studied a second language formally. Based on lectures at the field school, I think that breaking down sentences into constituents, categorizing words and comparing all the parts of language is partly just a cultural difference between the use of English and Spanish as opposed to the common uses of Quechua, therefore those consultants who only spoke Quechua were much less likely to provide clear answers to my questions. Since my questions were phrased as two restatements of the same event and a comparison, Quechua-only speakers (specifically Pastaza Speakers 1 and 4, or P1 and P4) often responded to the acceptability of my utterances as a whole or commented on the content of the sentence. One consultant (P1) corrected the sentence that I offered which meant “The children dive into the water” by exclaiming that this was dangerous and we want to keep the children away from the river instead of letting them jump in. Luckily I was able to rephrase the sentence with the more neutral “the lomochas dive into the water” and ask the question again. In contrast, some consultants with high Spanish competency (N4, P3, P6, and P7) figured out the focus of my questions quickly and rushed through parts of the interview by giving answers only to the questions they saw as most important. Both of these reactions left me with fewer direct replies than I was looking for but taught me something useful about their perceptions in another way.

One final challenge of working on this project that I will mention was the influence of other speakers on my interview with an individual. It was advantageous to have Napo Speakers 1 and 4 in the room during my interviews with two consultants who did not speak any Spanish (N6 and N7); having been interviewed already and trying to be helpful, the former two rephrased my statements and questions for their understanding. However this may well have influenced the outcome of the interviews since they clearly had opinions as to the correct answers. A similar situation occurred during my interview with Napo Speaker 5 when Napo Speaker 8 was in the room for the beginning of the interview and seemed to be communicating with her from behind my back, but it's impossible to say for sure whether this changed her answers or not.

III Analysis

A visual representation of the data I gathered in interviews with speakers is included in Appendix B. The content of these tables comprises all answers provided by the speakers to the questions of acceptability and preference for the sentences in the surveys. There are also audio recordings of all of the interviews except one (with Pastaza Speaker 7) which contain responses about the meaning and perceived purpose of ideophones, some of which I will discuss in this analysis.

Due to the consistency of certain responses and the limited sample size for this research project, the numbers included at the end of the columns and rows can only serve to point out a few general observations, so I have not used a complex statistical analysis. It is also important to note that many of the individual responses were not provided by consultants and so they do not contribute to the numbers at all. This provides an error range for some of the observations.

One question which I set out to research was how the usage and acceptability of ideophones changed across different speaker groups. These speaker groups could be determined based on dialect, gender, age and foreign language skills, which are related to a formal education background in this culture. Below is a representation of my notes on which consultants speak Spanish along with their gender and approximate age. Napo speakers are listed as N1, N2, etc. while Pastaza speakers are listed as P1, P2, etc. Age and Spanish skills are only estimates because I did not conduct proficiency tests or ask the speakers about these traits as part of the interview. Instead I based this information on my interactions with them and background knowledge about them. This is meant to help answer the question about how groups of speakers differ in their usage of ideophones, but might have been more accurate and therefore useful to my analysis if I had gathered explicit data.

On the whole, all speakers thought that most of the sentences containing ideophones were acceptable. Out of 13 ideophones, all of the speakers except one accepted at least 10 of the ideophones, and N9 accepted 9 of them. This seems to show that ideophones are still widely used in Quechua and their meanings understood by speakers. All consultants also thought that the survey sentences were mostly acceptable without the ideophone. In a few cases (N4, P6 and P7) the speakers rushed through the question of acceptability without the ideophone in the sentence but it seems clear that the sentences used in the survey are grammatically and semantically stable both with or without their corresponding ideophone.

Regarding individual speaker preference for the sentence with or without the ideophone there is a much wider range of reponses. None of the speakers preferred every single sentence with the ideophone as opposed to without it, with Napo speakers N8 and N9 preferring only one sentence each with an ideophone. On the other end of the spectrum, Pastaza speakers P5, P6 and P7 each preferred 11 of the sentences with the ideophone, though each preferred different sentences without it. These speakers are probably in such perfect agreement in part because all of the speakers were interviewed in the same room on the same day. Another possible reason for their high preference for ideophones is that they are all close family members of one of Dr. Nuckolls' most prolific consultants on Quechua whose speech contains a very high frequency of sound-symbolic expressions.

Looking at groups of speakers, I did not find the difference in preference for ideophones that I expected to find between males and females. I thought that men would be less likely to prefer to speak with ideophones, but this doesn't appear to be the case. In fact, two of the speakers with the lowest preference (N8 and P1) for ideophones are women. Pastaza speaker 1 may be a separate case though, since her lack of Spanish and my lack of Quechua skills made that interview one of the most difficult.

Comparing the speakers solely based on approximate age does not yield any significant patterns, although the categories of age and Spanish skills overlap with all 3 of the oldest speakers being also speakers of only Quechua. The 4 consultants who did not speak any Spanish (N6, N7, P1 and P4) also seemed to have the most difficult time responding to the focus of my questions and responded the most to the content of the sentences. The group of speakers with some Spanish skills actually range from very little to quite a bit of knowledge and don't seem to share any distinguishing characteristics in their answers.

Fluent Spanish speakers were most likely to generalize and give almost the same answer for all of the questions (N8 and N9) or to rush through the answers and not provide a response to each question, like Pastaza Speaker 3. It's interesting to note that the results of interviews with P3 and P4 look similar, but are that way for very different reasons. When speaking with Pastaza Speaker 3, who is young and lives in Puyo, she seemed to decide what I was asking about after two or three questions and only provided a judgment of preference twice, switching to Spanish to tell me that the sentences were the same with or without the ideophone. She made the comment that the sentence without the ideophone was exactly the same in meaning, just shorter, but then pointed out that using “tsupu tsupu” seemed to increase the number of participants in the action, which points to the graphic quality of the ideophone. This was actually a very useful metalinguistic commentary. Pastaza Speaker 4, in contrast, moved through the interview slowly but began to tell stories about the sentences rather than answering my questions. He continued to do so even after other speakers in the room tried to explain to him the intent of my questions.

The final group distinction to be made is that of speakers from Pastaza as opposed to those from Napo. One speaker, N5, was born and raised in Pastaza but speaks mostly in a Napo dialect, being a permanent resident in the area with her Napo Quechua husband. The difference between these two regional groups does not seem to be their preference for or against the use of ideophones. Although there are 3 Pastaza speakers with a higher preference for ideophones than the rest and 2 Napo speakers with a lower preference, this is most likely due to other factors and in a larger sample size would probably be balanced out by other speakers. The main difference between the two groups is dialect, and not surprisingly the forms of the ideophones changed along with the expected dialectical differences in morphology and phonology. The usage of ideophones seemed to change slightly as well, with kalla being significantly more preferable among Pastaza than among Napo consultants (3 out of 8 preferring it among Napo speakers and 5 out of 7 from Pastaza). More research would probably show that certain ideophones are more common among each group, though from this investigation is also appears that both variations of pulang/punglang and tsupu/tupu were strongly preferred.

Whenever possible, speakers were asked to elaborate on the reason for their preference of an ideophone or to explain how the meaning of a sentence changed with the use of an ideophone. Most of the time speakers said “es lo mismo” (“it's the same”) with or without the ideophone, and several also stated that the ideophone created “shuj tono” (“a certain tone”) that differed slightly from the sentence without an ideophone. However in order to understand the nuance of this difference it helps to look more closely at other explanations.

Napo Speaker 4 stated that the ideophone tyaun in the sentence “Tyaun voltiarisha rikukani” (“turning tyaun I look behind me”) emphasizes the speed of turning around, as if to catch someone following you. He elaborated similarly about uktalla in the sentence “Saulira uktalla hapikani,” (“I grabbed hold of the machete uktalla”) saying that he would use the ideophone to describe grabbing a machete quickly in order to protect oneself from danger. Both of these explanations point out the vivid nature of sound-symbolic communication and its purpose in Quechua of recreating a situation forcefully in a narrative. The speaker also provided these explanations of a situation where the ideophone would be appropriate despite the fact that he chose not to use them when I asked his preference. Perhaps this is because in the context of the interview the situation was not immediate or true enough to call for such language in his mind.

Consultant P6 offered an explanation of the ideophone tyapi in the first sentence by saying “porque se pega,” (“because they're stuck”) which is actually a restatement of the verb “llutarina,” “to stick” as well as a description of the ideophone. He did the same thing for tsupu tsupu, explaining that it means “nadar y meterse en el agua,” or in English “to swim and enter into the water.” Again this is the meaning of the ideophone which refers to the moment of hitting the water and the movement continuing underneath the surface, though it is also the meaning of the verb “zambulina,” “to dive.” (Nuckolls 1996)

Speaker 9 from Napo also provided some explanations of ideophones, despite the fact that he displayed a strong preference against using them in his own speech. His description of tyaun involved a demonstration of turning around, followed by a comparison to the shape of a canoe, which could be turned over tyaun. To describe tupu tupu the consultant explained that the meaning was the same as the verb in the sentence, which is supported by the other speaker's statements as well.

IV Conclusion

This research project provides further evidence for research conducted by Dr. Nuckolls in the past and demonstrates the continuing relevance of ideophones in Quechua speech. It also contributes to knowledge about Quechua by providing forms of sound symbolic words which differ from those in the Pastaza dialect. Because these words show a dialectical difference and yet remain symbolic in their sound shapes, it would be interesting to find more of these ideophones and compare their use of iconicity and perhaps the phonology of ideophones between the two dialects.

The data collected for this project supports Nuckolls' conclusions about the nature of ideophones as imageic, self-apparent to speakers and also cinematographic in their ability to focus attention of an utterance (1996), based on the metalinguistic comments of speakers. This new research also provides evidence that ideophones are still being used and understood by Quechua speakers in both Napo and Pastaza, which is a positive addition because of the importance of these words in both the language and the culture of the Quechua people.

VI Reference Works

Nuckolls, Janis B. Lessons from a Quechua Strongwoman: Ideophony, Dialogue, and Perspective. Tucson: University of Arizona, 2010. Print. (background information)

Nuckolls, Janis B. Sounds like Life: Sound-symbolic Grammar, Performance, and Cognition in Pastaza Quechua. New York: Oxford UP, 1996. Print.

Appendix A: Ideophone Surveys

Below are the two sets of sentences used in interviews with Napo and Pastaza speakers respectively. The Pastaza survey was used for the first consultant from Napo, who helpfully provided forms which sounded more correct in her dialect and which were used for the Napo survey. Transcription is phonemic, with “sh” for /ʃ / and “ch” for /tʃ /, “r” for /ɾ/, and “ll” for /lʲ/. Ideophones are represented in italic, and word order of the sentences without ideophones is sometimes switched to maintain grammaticality.

Napo Ideophones Survey:

1. Churuguna tyapixlla llutarianaun.

Churuguna llutarianaun.

2. Tyaun voltiarisha rikukani.

Voltiarisha rikukani.

3. Angilla rukura chyu pitikani.

Angilla rukura pitikani.

4. Atun papa kosashkara kalla partikani.

Atun papa kosashkara partikani.

5. Kamisara hapisha sha llikikani.

Kamisara hapisha llikikani.

6. Wasi kuruna tsung hukusha ismuka.

Wasi kuruna ismuka hukusha.

7. Yaku amarun rukuga punglang wamburika.

Yaku amarun rukuga wamburika.

8. Tupu tupu zambulinun wawwaguna napu yakui.

Wawaguna zambulinun napu yakui.

9. Avion chupa hui warkurika.

Avion chupa warkurika.

10. Saulira uktalla hapikani.

Saulira hapikani.

11. Yuturiga tsak tuksishka chakira.

Yuturiga chakira tuksishka.

12. Kaspira ling satkiani allpa uktui.

Kaspira satikani allpa uktui.

13. Ata muyura tas tuvyaka.

Ata muyura tuvyaka.

Pastaza Ideophones Survey:

1. Churuguna tyapi llutarinaun.

Churuguna llutarinaun.

2. Tyam voltiarisha rikurani.

Voltiarisha rikurani.

3. Angilla rukuta chyu pitirani.

Angilla rukuta pitirani.

4. Hatun papa kosashkara kalla partirani.

Hatun papa kosashlara partirani.

5. Kamisata hapisha shaka llikirani.

Kamisata hapisha llikirani.

6. Wasi kuruna tsung hukusha ismura.

Wasi kuruna ismura hukusha.

7. Yaku amarun rukuga pulang wamburira.

Yaku amarun rukuga wamburira.

8. Tsupu tsupu zambulinain wawaguna napu yakui.

Wawaguna zambulinaun napu yakui.

9. Avion chupa hui warkurira.

Avion chupa warkurira.

10. Saulita tak hapirani.

Saulita hapirani.

11. Yuturiga tsak tuksishka chakita.

Yuturiga chakita tuksishka.

12. Kaspita ling satirani uktui.

Kaspira satirani uktui.

13. Ata muyuta tas tuvyara.

Ata muyuta tuvyara.

Appendix B: Data

Because I refer to the interview situations often in the data analysis section, here is a summary of the dates of the interviews, with those performed in the same room together listed on the same line:

In order to organize the content of the sixteen recorded interviews into a slightly more concise written form I made two tables of results from interviews, one with Napo ideophones and one with Pastaza ideophones. I have represented the answers to three questions about each ideophone with the notation 1/2/3 where “Y” stands for an affirmative, “N” for a negative answer and “--” for an answer that was not explicitly provided. The three questions were (1) is the sentence acceptable with the ideophone? (2) is the sentence acceptable without the ideophone? and (3) which does the speaker prefer?

Ideophones and Ecuador

Here are a few places on the interwebs where people are sharing their knowledge about my same research interests:

First, Mark Dingemanse's blog ideophone.org, where he writes very insightfully-- he is a research staff member in the Language and Cognition group of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, so he's obviously pretty smart. Also his (lengthy) thesis, on the meaning and use of ideophones in Siwu, is my main read right now. His research utilizes new methods of data elicitation, takes into account new aspects of ideophone usage like daily conversation, and generally does a thorough job of reviewing past literature on ideophones and explaining his own ideas clearly. I will probably write a bit more about his thesis when I've finished, I'm only in the 4th chapter right now and I think there are at least 9.

Second, Michael Uzendoski has been studying Napo Runa culture for a long long time and his new book, The Ecology of the Spoken Word, which has not yet been released, has a website full of intriguing supplementary materials like videos of Runa women singing songs and other Runa recounting traditional stories. I read several articles by Uzendoski during last summer's research, and I've been meaning to read the whole of his book The Napo Runa of Amazonian Ecuador as well because I think it would give me more insight into Runa and Amazonian culture as a whole that would be useful in the Pastaza province as well.

It's really amazing to me how accessible knowledge is these days; at the same time, one of the things that drew me into the study of Kichwa culture was the mystery and obscurity, for example the fact that these people have knowledge about the rainforest that we can't even begin to compete with, or the traditional stories that could one day be lost along with their language and way of life. Now that I write that it seems perverse, like I want to know about Kichwa culture only because it will go away, but I would love to be able to share this knowledge and make it more accessible and prevent it from being lost, I'm not after some gnostic idea of secret perfection.

Friday, January 27, 2012


I brushed up the format a tiny bit, I think I like this better. You can't rally see the background picture though, so here's a full representation, plus a second view:

this is the river at dusk, when the water looks pink and a mist rises from it. I've heard that this is a time when supai, spirits* are about, and when children are not to play by the river for fear of their being taken away or falling into the river, though they are perfectly allowed to play in the water at other times of day.

*this is not an accurate translation, as such concepts almost always come with their own lore and connotations and superstitions. Supai is often translated as demon or devil but they are much more ambiguous in nature and a little more flesh-and-blood too. I'll try to find something more on this to post because it's one of the most fascinating aspects of Runa culture, to me.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ecuador's diversity

I have less distinctive pictures of Tena, Puyo and Iyarina to show the contrast than I thought I did. To give you an idea of the town and the rainforest though:
This was a pretty typical street in Tena, with one of my BYU peers posing for me.

The street in Tena where the LDS church building was located. It was a small branch and a rented building but had the nice detail of green tinted windows which I thought were quite pretty actually.
Here is a view of the Napo river from my room at the field school.
This is a typical house outside of Tena on the same road as the field school. The Runa who worked at the field school and were our Quichua language consultants lived in similar places. To me it seemed like not a bad lifestyle as long as you have enough land to be self-sufficient. I imagined myself settling happily in the rainforest, as unrealistic as that sounds.
One day we discovered a caravan of caterpillars, which these Runa ladies became quite excited about and began harvesting to eat later. I never saw them on the table, but we did eat grubs once.
This was just a cool bug that was hanging out on our window-screen one night. I think I saw at least 3 new bugs per week. And the ones that were familiar (praying mantis, walking stick bug, caterpillars and butterflies) were usually much larger and odder than any I have seen in the states. (It felt like Jurassic park when I saw a walking stick as thick as a branch and about a foot long.)

Obviously I took less pictures in town than in the rainforest because (1) I spent more time in the latter and (2) was much more enchanted by it. Puyo is a bit prettier than Tena at least; and I found more to like about Tena after returning several times and going to the right places. I learned not to judge locations too quickly, because cities are far too large to know at first glance, if that makes sense. Just like people, they have this kind of infiniteness that is impossible to quantify.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

an orientation to Ecuador

There are a lot more indigenous communities and different ethnic groups in the Americas than we (mostly WASP-heritage) US Americans usually realize. Ecuador is just one example, with 24 languages spoken there (as listed by Ethnologue) and at least 16 distinct cultural groups, as depicted in the map below:

The two main places where Lowland Quichua is spoken are in the Napo and Pastaza regions, shown on this second map and bordered by the Napo and Pastaza rivers:

(source of both photos)

Last summer I stayed just outside of Tena in Napo right along the riverbank, and this summer I plan to work in Puyo, which is just a little South from there. From my experience in the towns of Tena and Puyo and at the more rural field school, as well as from traveling around the country a bit, I can tell that I will have a much different setting this summer if I stay in town than I did last summer in the rainforest. I'm trying to modify my expectations, because there will be many things that change in this upcoming summer compared to the last time I was there. I will to add more pictures to make the setting clearer, so look for those in the near future.

Monday, January 23, 2012

reading commentary

Here's a link to one of our first readings for my Field Studies prep class: "What Students Don't Learn Abroad". That way when I comment on it there is some context.

The article, by Ben Feinberg, really made me think about my experience on last summer's Study Abroad program in Ecuador. I want to say that I learned a lot about other people and another culture, but I will admit that a lot of my learning was internally reflected as well. The things I learned about myself there were mostly along the lines of "there are experiences I will never have access to because I was not born a member of this culture," or "I guess I will have to take charge of my own learning here," or "there is so much that I don't know about (insert anything here)." I also learned about my own ability to do things and gained confidence, which Feinberg asserts is not the main goal we should have when studying abroad. But I think the above statements show a different type of learning, and one that should be encouraged.

Basically, even though we had some classroom time in the field I started to appreciate the concept of learner-owned and directed studies through being frustrated by what those classes weren't offering me. I also noticed the impossibility of objective observation and had to accept that I would not be able to deny being a young, white, American female even if that meant something different to me than it did to others. The most obvious difference (to me) was that in my mind, I am seeking to become a scholar and join an academic tradition of thought that enlarges our view of the world-- while to most Ecuadorians and Runa (Quechua-speaking people), I was a tourist, someone with money and free time and a pinch of curiosity. The Runa people in the community got to see more of my curiosity and desire for knowledge than other Ecuadorians, but they still saw me (and all of the other students) as a little daft, not very independent, and very fortunate. I agree with them in some ways, but I also think I have gained more of a value of strength and self-reliance through contact with Runa culture, so I'm working on those qualities.

Anyway, I'm still working on focusing my learning outward toward understanding other things and people in the world while I'm trying to see how I fit into it and learn more about myself, so I hope that I don't fall right into the middle of Feinberg's classification of "What students don't learn abroad."

A couple other thoughts on the reading which I haven't been able to answer myself: if anthropology majors are writing commercials these days, are they so culturally insensitive because studying anthropology doesn't improve our limited mindset, or just because the anthro majors understand the American culture well enough to exploit our fascination with the "exotic?" Also, in the Audi and the Eskimo (or Inuit or other northern American Indian) commercial, was part of the objective to make the car seem like an exotic (and therefore desirable) product? Or was it just the idea that even people in remote places and cultures recognize our superb engineering. Just a couple of thoughts.

For my next post, I'll put up some more background info about the area of Ecuador where I have been and will go.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How Performative are Ideophones in Pastaza Quichua?

Here is a short description of my intended project this summer:

The aim of this project is to investigate the performative qualities of ideophones, a category of expressions which are central to many linguists’ debates about the nature of language as a system. Ideophones are words that are sound symbolic, meaning the sounds of the words reflect their meaning. They are most similar to onomatopoeias in English, but in Ecuadorian Pastaza Quichua they act differently and play a much more significant role in the language. They play a specific syntactic role and are often performatively emphasized in order to depict an image of an experience for the audience.

Ideophones are linguistically interesting because they challenge one of the basic assumptions of linguistic science, namely that the sign symbol of words is arbitrary. Understanding how ideophones work thus contributes to fundamental knowledge about the diverse ways in which languages are used to communicate.

Specifically, I am interested in gathering data from consultants to measure the performative qualities of ideophone usage. These features have been described qualitatively and impressionistically in previous research by Dr. Janis Nuckolls (1996, 2004, 2006, 2010). I would like to seek empirical evidence for her work using acoustic analysis of sound spectrographic imagery. This work continues my research begun during Spring and Summer terms in 2011 while on BYU's Ecuador Study Abroad Program.

I will be using the linguistic software system Praat, used by many phoneticians, in order to analyze prosodic features of ideophones as used in personal narratives, casual conversation and traditional stories. I'm looking to provide evidence of the performative features described in Dr. Nuckolls' book Sounds Like Life (1996). These features include pitch change (in comparison to other parts of speech), intonation, and lengthening that sets them apart from the rest of an utterance. Nuckolls has argued (2010) that the way Quechua speakers consciously manipulate ideophones in order to simulate experiences for the listener moves these background characteristics to the foreground of their language usage.

I'm still working on how to describe this project as well as the methods I will use to collect and interpret data; largely I will be conducting interviews and trying to participate in regular conversation as well. My knowledge of Praat has increased greatly in the last few months thanks to a linguistic internship I'm working on with English News Broadcasts, and I think that my experience with it will transfer to a better ability to analyze Quichua speech as well.

Questions? I've been working with this idea for a while so it seems clear to me, but I would love to hear feedback and work on describing it more clearly while I'm working on my own questions in relation to the project as well.

preliminary thoughts

I've been putting off my first post here because I haven't felt like I had the time to finish gathering my thoughts; but I'll just try to keep it concise instead of waiting for the perfect thing to write.

The purpose of this blog will be to serve as a place for me to develop my research plans for this summer. I plan to return to Ecuador, where I studied Amazonian Quichua last summer along the Napo river near Tena. This time I plan to stay in Puyo and perhaps travel elsewhere along the Pastaza river to gather more information about ideophones in the same dialect that my professor Janis Nuckolls has worked with for many years.

I am already familiar with the culture and the language in this area, but I still have a lot to figure out before leaving, so I'm looking forward to the motivation and support of my Field Studies class to help me prepare.

By the way- I may change the title of this blog, but I've called it "runa shimira maskani" for the moment in an attempt to say "I'm [re]searching Quichua," which is called Runa Shimi by its speakers. Quichua is an indigenous language in the Quechua family, which is the largest group of indigenous languages currently spoken in Latin America. Wikipedia provides a little more information on Nothern Quechua/Quichua/Quechua II here.

More about my project and the first few days of class readings to come soon! In the meantime, here's a picture of me doing research and drinking chicha (more on that later) in the field: