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.