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.

more annotated sources

-Bowser, Brenda J. “The Amazonian House: A Place of Women's Politics, Pottery, and Prestige.”

In Brenda Bowser's article “The Amazonian House,” she relates a story of a typical local political interaction in lowland Amazonian Ecuador. In Runa culture, illness and death in the family are always considered to be the effects of spirit darts or 'brujería' sent by another community member, usually out of jealousy or malice. Therefore the appropriate response to a death in one's family is to ascertain who is responsible for the murder and take action against that person. This is the situation in the narrative at the beginning of Bowser's article, which is where the politics of the Amazonian household begin to come into play: a man's daughter has died and a friend encourages him to keep the peace rather than seeking vengeance for his daughter's death because the negative consequences of such a conflict will be too great. This advice is received in the context of drinking aswa or chicha beer together in the house. The ritual of sharing aswa that is served by the wife of the host and the stylized conversation in this situation is key to the resolution of conflict.

Bowser’s goal in the article is to explain the role of pottery, and thereby women's work, in political interactions. Bowser's method of research was to stay in the community for nine months conducting interviews and observing interactions in order to get a feel for the social and political alliances and interactions of community members. She presents a few of her conclusions in the article, stating how women affect political interactions and how the spheres of male and female politics are separated in public but overlap in the home through the conversations between husbands and wives. She points out that women have political influence and mediating abilities and that their pottery and houses have an impact on these situations as well. The article is a good introduction to the connection between material culture and politics.

This article does not relate directly to my linguistic research but it provides useful cultural information about people in the same area of the Amazon as those that I am interested in. The article also describes how these small communities mediate conflict, which is important to understand when doing field work in the area.

-Kohn, Eduardo. "How Dogs Dream: Amazonian Natures and the Politics of Transspecies Engagement." American Ethnologist 34.1 (2007): 3-24. Print.

Kohn’s goal in this article is to broaden the study of anthropology and ethnography to include nonhuman participants. He uses Runa society as both the subject (through their interactions with dogs) and an example of a people who interact with nonhuman species in a much different way than the cultural academic tradition of the West. Kohn argues that anthropology will benefit from viewing the world (ie other species) as an active rather than a passive participant with humans in everyday life. He points out that humans interact with other beings in a two-way relationship rather than simply imposing their will on the world.

Kohn uses an ethnographic description of Runa people interacting with their dogs as his method of persuasion. According to Kohn's observation of Runa culture, animals and plants are seen as “selves” much as humans are. Though Kohn acknowledges that humans are distinct creatures, he wants to broaden ethnography to give a similar kind of recognition to the wider world.

Kohn creates a strong argument for a shift in paradigms that would result in the expansion of the anthropological field. Kohn's treatment of nonhuman subjects in reference to Runa culture is very relevant to my research because it helps to describe the worldview of the Runa people in an area that is very different from Western, academic and American (US) culture. This difference is also evident in the Kichwa language, especially in their traditional and mythological narratives as well as their use of sound-symbolic adjectives and evidential suffixes in the narrative context. All of these aspects of the language also relate to the issue of embodying and relating to other selves, in varying levels of anthropomorphism. I also like Kohn's emphasis on communication between human and nonhuman selves, which shows his appreciation of the importance of language. (Another great source for exploration of Runa perspectives and relationships with nonhuman selves is Lessons from a Quechua Strongwoman, by Janis Nuckolls.)

-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.

In this article Swanson discusses the relationship between Quichua-speaking Ecuadorian Runa and plants. He uses ritual songs that are sung to the plants and mythical stories about their human origins as the evidence for their relations to these species. In the article Swanson uses two main songs sung to plants before harvesting from them and one story about the origin of two plants used for pigment as examples. Through the songs he shows that plants are seen as individuals to whom Runa people relate, singing in order to convince the plant (or the person inside the plant perhaps) to be helpful, almost like we might ask a friend a favor. These songs also contain an element of male-female romantic relations, which Swanson explains by stating that the singer is relating to the plant as a potential lover, using courtship traditions to induce a gift from the spirit of the plant.

Swanson is successful in portraying a relationship between Runa and plants that is more like a human, interactive relationship that a relationship between a human and an inanimate object. Unlike the Western habit of perceiving plants only in terms of the quantity of their usefulness to humans (which is based in traditions of Western philosophy and religion), Runa people see plants as individual beings and only expect to harvest some benefit from them after performing the proper rituals in order to convince them.

I think that the article makes it seem as though Runa relations to other species can be entirely encompassed within the descriptions of children or lovers, and this is perhaps too narrow a categorization for the complexity of Runa relations to their surroundings. However the article addresses the Runa perspective in an insightful way based on the evidence presented and years of fieldwork and living in a Runa community (in fact, Swanson married a Runa woman). The article was good practice of my Quichua language skills to read the original text of the songs and stories, and it helped me understand the use of language when dealing with nature and language as a performance and a speech action in Runa culture.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Brother's Keeper (part 1 of 2)

I watched this great documentary last week. It's called Brother's Keeper and I highly recommend it. I love it when documentaries focus on personal stories rather than trying to tackle broad, usually controversial social or political issues as a whole, and this one did an excellent job of that. As a bonus, the film did address wider issues as they were involved in the story, but it did so without sweeping voiceover generalizations or a stated bias; instead quietly pointing the camera in the right direction and leaving the viewer to sort through the implications created. It explores the story of four elderly brothers living together in rural New York and what happened when one of them died and another was charged with his murder. All four were illiterate farmers, never married and living on their own with little contact with the outside world, or even with the other town members in Munnsville.

The documentary makers, Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, interviewed the brothers, townspeople, Delbert's lawyer, and various officials in the criminal justice system who were involved in the investigation and prosecution of Delbert Ward. They even filmed the courtroom proceedings and include a scene of the brothers watching a news story about themselves on the television, both of which were painful to watch. I found them painful because I was so attached to these men despite how foreign their lives are to my experience, and I think that's because the filmmakers succeeded in portraying them with compassion and understanding-- a level of empathy that many people involved in the story didn't seem capable of.

This film made me think about ethical research (and ethics in general) and even helped me appreciate the IRB approval that I've been grumbling about while trying to put together my application. Near the beginning of the film there is a scene where someone behind the camera asks, "Do you mind that we're makin' a film about you?" And the brother on screen (I can't remember which) says, "No. Don't bother me." At first I was a little skeptical of this 'proof of informed consent,' but I think the film as a whole is a testament to an ethical treatment of these men and of the situation as a whole. At one point near the end, one of the brothers (Roscoe maybe?) shows the camera the birds he keeps in an old bus and points out the ones he has named after the filmmakers and camera crew, stating that he gave them those names because they were his good friends. Pictures of this scene below.

Another element of informed consent in the story was the discussion of what happened when the police originally detained and questioned Delbert. It appears from the interviews with him in the film that he doesn't have a high level of language skills, that he's going deaf and he's generally sweet and a little confusable. According to a friend, when the police questioned him he agreed to waive his rights, although it's likely that he had no idea what this meant! How terrifying. The police also had Delbert sign a confession detailing how he asphyxiated his brother, which they claim was his account but which he claimed was created by them. It's hard to be sure, but seems likely that they suggested every bit of it even if he verbally consented at the time, and since he couldn't read, the validity of his signature on that piece of paper is pretty much nil. This isn't informed consent as it relates to scientific research on human subjects, but I think it's an excellent example of a similar legal act as a result of coercion and based on a false foundation of comprehension.

The interviews around this subject were an interesting point too. Delbert's neighbor/friend repeatedly and directly points out his illiteracy in a solo interview, but when the question comes up with Delbert himself he says the reason he couldn't read the confession properly was that he didn't have his glasses with him, and upon further questioning admits that they wouldn't have helped much anyway since he can't read "too good." Clearly this is a sensitive topic, and it seems that the filmmakers didn't push him too much to make a more direct statement, which to me seems like sound ethical practice.

There is so much more I want to say about this film. For now though, just a few last thoughts. I wish I could talk to Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky more about the making of this film, because it seems like they did such a remarkable job of treating the Ward brothers as humans instead of means to an end. In comparison with the TV journalism shown in one scene of the movie, they showed such respect to the people they interviewed. And I don't know what sort of reciprocity or compensation they might have provided for cooperation, but Roscoe's description of them as friends certainly speaks well of them. There is also a scene at the end where the brothers are talking to them about how they should return for a visit, for a vacation in the countryside after the project is finished. I wonder if they ever followed through on this idea, just as I wonder if I will return to Ecuador after this summer. I felt compelled to return after last summer, but I'll be doing more research rather than coming only as a friend.

I'm glad I was able to see this example of thoughtful research in film form. I hope that wile practicing my field methods of reciprocity and consideration and rigorous participant observation, I will remember to be sincere in my interactions as well and build real relationships. I hope that genuine relationships will also aid in a good research outcome, and that these two goals will strengthen each other rather than compete while I'm in the field.

(Here are some screen shots of the setting in the film. For context, and to show that the documentary must have been filmed over the course of at least 6 months.)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Courtesy and Culture

The more I think about culture and communication, the more it shows up all around me. Same goes for anything you focus on, of course. I keep noticing the different values and frameworks painfully colliding in US politics at the moment, for one thing. Each time I feel like I'm watching a car crash that's avoidable, but I'm just far enough away from it that I can't communicate to the drivers to keep it from happening. I just can't yell loud enough to get either side to turn around and see the other; they're both driving backward and looking straight ahead and then angrily stomping out of their smashed up vehicles and cursing at each other for careless driving.

Anyway this article about courtesy on called "Please Read This Story, Thank You" caught my eye and I immediately spotted another subject that (in my opinion) could be more fully explored with a multicultural/anthropological/whatchamacallit perspective than the treatment that it gets in the article. In it, Linton Weeks explores the change of certain American cultural customs as a possible decline in courtesy and formality. The dwindling use of "please," "thank you," and "you're welcome" is seen by many as a dehumanizing process that removes gratitude and helpfulness in our daily interactions. I immediately thought of the "Life Without Chiefs" article by Marvin Harris which we read for class, where he asserts (based on Dentan's work in Malaysia) that saying "thank you" can be a terribly rude thing in some cultures. As a member of the generation that no longer uses the same "magic words" we were taught growing up and as a student of cultural understanding, I wanted to explain this change of symbolic behavior in terms of underlying values (like the iceberg drawing from class, yada yada).

So in Weeks' article, I look for underlying values in the words of an etiquette expert who says that "The principles of respect, consideration and honesty are universal and timeless." This seems culturally bound to me rather than truly universal, but I can relate to those values for sure. In Harris' article, saying "thank you" might be a sign of overly calculating the process of reciprocity. He also writes about Richard Lee's "Eating Christmas in the Kalahari" experience with another culture's concept of egalitarian reciprocity, where the Bushmen he works with never praise or compliment a gift because it might make the gift giver (often a successful hunter) arrogant and even lead to violence. Well our culture doesn't highly esteem arrogance or violence either (in theory), so it's interesting that the values are not entirely different even though the logic that dictates customary behavior diverges sharply.

Now to explain the thought process behind ditching "please" and "thank you." This may only apply to my own personal thought process, but "no problem" always sounded more humanizing and considerate based on my values. To me, the meaning behind "you're welcome" can either be a heartfelt "I invite you to come and see me/ask me for help/receive a favor again any time in the future," or it can go something like "why yes, I did help you out: aren't I nice." Something akin to the arrogance issue there. The use of "you're welcome" is still acceptable to me and sometimes used in more formal contexts, but has always grated slightly in other situations. The one that stands out to me most I remember from childhood (though this has happened once or twice since as well). A friend paid a compliment to me and when I said "thank you," they responded "you're welcome." Huh? I know that you can "give" or "pay" a compliment in English, but was it really such a great gift to me that they had to acknowledge their generosity? (Perhaps this problem would be alleviated if I knew a better rule for accepting a compliment; I know this is a matter of custom and culture as well; e.g. "Oh, this old thing?")

So I generally reserve "you're welcome" for communicating with the older generation (showing deference?) or when at work, where I'm clearly providing someone else a service and it's generally acknowledged as such. When I say "no problem" to a friend in response to an expression of thanks, what I mean is "I care enough about you as a human that I either didn't notice I was helping you because it happened so naturally," or "I was made happier by the opportunity to serve you and I see this as a mutually beneficial relationship." Perhaps a prescriptive manner coach would see "no problem" as just a manifestation of casual behavior or laziness. But for me, it's a way of trying to show humility and reject any unnecessary gratitude, a way to be more fully altruistic rather than self-congratulating. Perhaps it's even a way to avoid thinking of myself as so lazy that it's a real pain to help others. That would be a direct connection between out underlying values (not being lazy) which still manifests as an opposite behavior on the surface. And this within the "same" American culture! It must say something about shared or shifting generational values, although I'm not sure what. More research needed.

This is clearly a truncated explanation of cultural perspective and change since I only addressed one phrase and only from about one and a half perspectives*, but it's a start. Hopefully good practice at identifying different possible values and behaviors that will be useful in the field this summer. I can see it being very applicable, especially since I so want to practice reciprocity appropriately and form good relationships with people there.

*(One perspective would be mine, the half is what I imagine others think based on readings and personal experience...)

Monday, March 5, 2012


Just want to post a short semantic description of this word iyarina, which was the name of the field school/lodge where I studied last summer. iyana is "to think," (-na for the infinitive) and -ri- is kind of a reflexive marker that can attach to many different verbs, sometimes with idiomatic results and other times with pretty logical ones. For iyarina, a pretty good definition would be "to ponder," since the verb in English emphasizes personal, reflective thought. The word can also mean "to remember," I suppose because you remember when you dwell on a thought rather than letting it pass through your mind. Personally I like to think of iyarina as meditation, or even as developing my thoughts, something I want to do more of lately.

In my field studies preparation class I've had trouble finding a balance between reading and thinking and doing. I usually err on the side of reading too much, and all of these readings pull my brain in different directions but I don't have time to stop and think about them or to remember them, much less to develop my thoughts and reactions further and integrate them into my preexisting knowledge. Having neglected to fully ponder or think these things out, the "doing" aspect gets completely pushed out of the way. (Well I'm doing lots of things, like working 15-25 hours per week, ballet class, Arabic and TESOL homework assignments and keeping my house just clean enough not to drown in dirty dishes or laundry. Just not turning in all of my assignments for my field studies class.)

So in terms of my preparation for this summer, I haven't been moving forward much. I'm relying partly on my old project idea that was conceived in the Fall in order to apply for an ORCA grant; I'm lucky that I have that to fall back on and even luckier to have gotten the grant. But I really want to dedicate some time to the process described by iyarina, because if I can do this well I think that my full project proposal will be much easier to put on paper. I still don't know how to write a literature review, but I have a feeling it will be a matter of doing a very rough draft and then going back in to improve it, since staring at blank pages hasn't been very inspiring so far. Anyway, instead of reading and looking for the answers to my project questions, I'm going to stop and think for a minute and see if that works out better. I'll just have to trust that I've read a decent amount already, and that anything I read in the future will help me to improve my project rather than seeing it as a task to finish before my project even gets started.

(Blah blah blah, fin. This "learning journal" is starting to look eerily similar to my personal journal. woops.)

blog title change

I made two small edits to the Kichwa title of this blog. First, I changed the objective marker to -ta instead of -ra (on the word "shimi"), indicative of the Pastaza instead of the Napo dialect. Second, I added the durative -u- before the first person marker on the verb, which seems appropriate since this is an extended sort of search. One that feels like it's taking a long time already, to be honest, and I'm not even in the field yet.

Sidenote to the sidenote, the durative marker in some highland dialects of Quechua is -hu-. This matters mostly because of syllabification and what seems to be free variation between a hiatus or a diphthongized pronunciation of verbs in this form. Only noting this because I'm working on vowels this week in my Quechua Phonology research group so it's on my mind but I don't have a definitive answer just yet.