8383 - Atypical Spaces: Orientation in Ancash Quechua Interaction and Storytelling

The typology of absolute, intrinsic and relative frames of reference has provided rich comparative data and advanced understandings of cognitive diversity. Yet much real talk that references space draws as much on common knowledge of place names and unique geographical features as abstract terms. The current typology has tended to exclude this kind of linguistic practice from understanding of spatial orientation. To address this problem, I analyze data on multimodal interaction and storytelling in Huaylas Quechua (central Peruvian Andes). I first consider a joke about the variation in meaning between Ancash dialects of the word uma, respectively ‘head’ or ‘up’. I show how language, social interaction, gesture and access to knowledge of local environments are bound together in talk. I argue that the orientation of speakers, characters and objects in space is not a function of systematic grammatical paradigms, but a creative product emergent from all the social and material contingencies of face-to-face interaction. I then turn to a mythic narrative about the witch Achikay. This provides an example of the interconnection of grammatical and social categories in the bleeding of the aspectual and directional paradigms and an emergent honorific system. The use of directionals, speech levels, and geographical features aligns of ways of speaking, social characteristics, and cultural places. The goal of this paper is not to challenge typologies of spatial orientation. The purpose is to point out avenues of investigation that provoke research with broad interest across disciplines. I suggest that spatial language represents a nexus of human interaction and behavior where we can study articulations of cognition, grammar, gesture, sociality, architecture and agriculture. By looking at how reference to space produces, reproduces and draws on knowledge about cultural practices, social categories and landscape, spatial language can be a broader window onto the relations between language, sociality and culture.

Keywords: Andes, Quechua, Interaction, Orientation, Environment

Author: Shapero, Joshua (University of Michigan, Dept. of Anthropology, Austria / Österreich)


University of Vienna | Dr.-Karl-Lueger-Ring 1 | 1010 Vienna | T +43 1 4277 17575