Off to Peru
May 12, 2008
Tomorrow morning my partner Chris Beier and I return to Peru for a summer of fieldwork. I plan to keep blogging as much as I can while in Peru, and it’s my hope to break some new ground in terms of from how close to the edge of the wired world I can post. Internet access is spreading further and further into the jungle, so who knows how far I’ll be able to get.
We have a very busy summer planned. In fact, I feel that I have transitioned into a phase of my life where I would like to do much more fieldwork than I possibly have time for. We first plan to return to the Nanti community of Montetoni, where we actually have a house, if the thatch hasn’t given out by now. Apart from seeing our friends and drinking huge amounts of manioc beer with them during village feasts, and continuing our long-term health- and education-related work with the community, I have a number of research goals.
I’m presently writing a paper on the fascinating Nanti reality status (realis/irrealis) inflectional system, and I need to check on reality status marking in epistemic conditional constructions. They’re rare as hen’s teeth in texts, so I need to get some more examples. I’m also planning to do some more work on the Nanti stress system. A few years back Megan Crowhurst and I wrote a paper that focused on stress in Nanti verbs, and I now want to write a paper looking at the nominal stress, which behaves quite differently. Finally, in writing my dissertation, I noticed an interesting gap in the textual data I have on an exotic and discursively rare morphosyntactic alignment system found in Nanti ditransitive verbs: I realized I had no data at all on first or second person theme/patient arguments. Curiously, a perusal of the literature on the languages most closely related to Nanti showed the exact same gap, without a word of explanation from any of the authors. So now I am intensely curious if this empirical gap is accidental, or if it represents a restriction that the patient/theme argument must be lower in the speech act participant hierarchy than the beneficiary/recipient argument.
We’ll also be returning to the Iquito community of San Antonio, to say hello to our friends there, see how the language revitalization program is doing, and do a couple of weeks of research. I’m working on a comprehensive reference grammar of this language — along with several colleagues — which I will finally be getting back to, now that my dissertation is out of the way. I’ll be working on a few outstanding things for the grammar, including nailing down the complicated prosodic system, which features some subtle interactions between stress and tone. I feel we have a good analysis of the system, and I think we’ll be able to clear up the remaining questions quickly. I also hope to settle the semantics of one stubborn corner of the evidential system, and in particular, the semantics a morpheme that appears to exhibit visual evidential, mirative, and malefactive (!) meanings. Once again, this morpheme is textually very rare, so it has proven difficult to figure out.
The single most exciting project we have planned for this summer, however, is an attempt to do some fieldwork on Andoa, a language of the same family as Iquito. The word on the street was that the last speaker of this language died in 1993, but in late 2006 we ran into a French anthropologist who had located two elderly speakers and made several hours of recordings with them, some of which I listened to. The speakers seemed quite fluent, as far as I could tell, so there may still be a chance to get some basic data on the language. In the coming years I’m hoping to do some historical work on the Zaparoan family, and a few weeks of work to gather to basic lexical and morphological data on Andoa would be hugely helpful.
Now, back to packing…