7739 - Socio-epistemic motivations for place reference format selection in Cha'palaa

The Cha'palaa language (Barbacoan) of northwestern Ecuador features a variety of linguistic resources for referring to specific locations in space, including:

(1) Toponyms: like "Tsejpi", the proper name of a river.

(2) Deictics: 3-term system with distal (junu), speaker-proximal (enu) and addressee-proximal (aanu).

(3) Geocentric directionals: like upriver (feka) and downriver (kuwanka).

(4) Descriptive phrases: like "at the water pools" (pijuusha)

(5) Pointing gestures: primarily hand and fingers, but also lips and gaze.

This paper asks, given the range of possibilities for referring to places, how do speakers select a specific format? It argues that a major motivation for format selection is speakers' intersubjective awareness of the social distribution of epistemic states. To support this argument the paper will (1) give a descriptive account of Cha'palaa's resources for place reference, (2) present results of an exercise in which participants described video stimuli of local places, and (3) show cases of place reference from a corpus of conversational video recordings. The elicitation exercises revealed epistemic asymmetries between those who lived near the places in the videos, who tended to use proper names (Waña Payu "catfish falls"), and those who lived farther away, who used descriptive terms (aapipayusha "at a big waterfall"). These asymmetries are in turn reflected in interaction through recipient design. For example, this formulation uses a combination of strategies (deictics, proper names, geocentrics, pointing) that treats the addressee as both aware of local places and as having joint attention to the surroundings:

J: Enku jayu kuwanka (.) junka Jeradurasha

here a little downriver (.) there towards Herradura ((pointing))

Further examples will illustrate a range of different place reference formats used in the corpus in order to show how these represent different stances towards symmetries and asymmetries with others' knowledge states.

Keywords: indigenous languages, Ecuador, place reference

Author: Floyd, Simeon (MPI Nijmegen, Netherlands / Niederlande)


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