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Showing posts from June, 2016

Log 12: Amidst the hills of Patzún

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We arrived at Pedro’s house in Patzún where we were greeted by out new host families. The first impression – Kaqchikel is everywhere. Our host families regularly speak it, it’s on the streets and at the market. And more – it’s a very different variety of Kaqchikel than the one in Tecpán. Also, Patzún dialect is different than a dialect from a nearby town – clearly a sign that sheer distance is not everything.




Patzún is beautifully located on the hills. It means we’re climbing them all the time. It’s mindblowing how a tuk-tuk can go up or down such a cline. It’s also surrounded by stunning volcanoes one of which, Fuego, nomen omen, smokes occasionally. It rains heavily in the evenings but the days are bright and sunny. And from time to time there’s a thunderstorm spectacle over the mountains. We’ll keep working on Kaqchikel, but also branch out and look at other Mayan languages –closely related Tz’utujil and very different Mam. We’ll have lots of fun (and work).

Flyer for our presentations at UVG-A

Here is a link to the flyer that Pedro has prepared for our presentations on June 29 at UVG-A (Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, Campus Altiplano).

Log 11: How to Kaqchikel

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On Monday 6th started out daily Guatemalan, to be more accurate Tecpaneco, routine. We ate frijolitos, drank coffee and tried not to forget all those Kaqchikel words for body parts and fruits (for the latter we even don't know words in our own language sometimes).

Everyday we came at Wuqu' Kawoq' office at 8 a.m. and our classes began with Xseqär k'a and ended at 4 p.m. with Chwa'q chïk. We listened and looked, remembered and spoke, tachapa' and tak'ütu, played and laughed a lot. Then we have our refacción and discusión on the roof or on the way there. Then more classes.

After classes we walked and finally met all together at our regular spot – Café de aquí. (It is not an advertisement, but they have wi-fi and, of course, panini Tecpaneco.)

On Thursday there was a market day, so we were curious to observe everything around the city centre and waste all our quetzales on pots, uqs and ch'ops. In Antigua we learned how to bargain more or less properly in …

Log 10: Kaqchikel and Tz'utujiil Elicitation

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Gesoel and I have had the pleasure to work with several speakers of Kaqchikel and Tz’utujiil for our project exploring the distribution of /wi/ , which has been described as a post-verbal focus particle in Kaqchikel.
We first interviewed Doña Toya in Tecpán. Doña Toya hosted Emma for two weeks, and will be welcoming her back to her home after our Patzún adventure. Doña Toya is a very enthusiastic person who loves to share her knowledge of Kaqchikel; to summarize some of our findings for her dialect, Doña Toya rejected the /wi/ particle in many of the environments in which it has been reported to be obligatory in the literature—for instance, we expected /wi/ to occur obligatorily after the verb upon the extraction of a locative, but she rejected it outright:
(1)  X-Ø-tzopin           Lolmaay chwa jay.
       COM-B3s-jumo   Lolmaay backyard
       'Lolmaay jumped in the yard.'

(1') Akuchi’    x-Ø-tzopin           (*wi) ri    Lolmaay?       where    COM-B3s-jump     WI  DET…

Log 9: Tecpán Farewell Party

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Our last night in Tecpán, our host families prepared a farewell party for us! All was beautifully set in Doña Marta Ajtzac Choguaj's house, where Paulina was staying. The party started with our host moms singing a song in Kaqchikel for us. We all did our best to join the group.

The families gave us gifts, which included clothes made by them in the traditional style. They will all be carried back with love and nostalgia to our home. We then had dinner, soup with chicken and vegetables (pulique), chuchitos, and jamaica.




After dinner, Guatemalan music and dancing! Specially for Emma, Rodrigo, Chris and Paulina. As for me … me dolían las piernas y no pude bailar … =)
K-oj-xajon! hort-1.pl-dance “Let's dance!”

Saudade ...

Log 8: Last week in Tecpán

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In our second week of Kaqchikel classes in Tecpán many things happened. We welcomed some guests from UVG (Universidad del Valle de Guatemala), which is a partner in the field-station project. We had with us the Director Ejecutivo Juan Carlos Villatoro, the decano (dean) Mario Morales, the coordinator of Turism Lic. Pablo Castro and one student, Samuel de León. The students stayed with us in class most of the time. They already knew some Kaqchikel and were able to catch up. The UVG people, including Pedro, and Masha met to discuss joint projects.




Dr. Peter Rohloff, one of the founders of Wuqu' Kawoq, also visited us during the week. He spoke with us in fluent Kaqchikel (picture coming soon).

In this second week, we began more advanced topics in Kaqchikel grammar such as antipassives, causatives, positionals and directionals. We learned how to use transitive clauses with ergative and absolutive marking and also how to haggle in the market!


In the last day of the our second week in…

Log 7: Iximche ruins

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On Tuesday June 14, we were taken for a tour of the Iximche ruins outside of Tecpán. Don Simeone from Patzún performed a 3-hour traditional Kaqchikel ceremony. It started by lighting 5 colored candles, each signifying a different part of the universe (the sun/creator, mama earth, etc.), on a stone altar, and reciting a Kaqchikel prayer.

Next, Don Simeone used Sugar to draw a Mayan symbol on a platform next to the altar. The symbol, along with the particular point along its circumference that was singled out, represented the date of this day according to the Mayan calendar: jun b'atz'. With the help of Pedro and the teachers, he then proceeded to place various materials in and around the symbol that he had drawn: pieces of wood, a solid block of raw sugar, incense, and dozens of colored candles arranged in a radial fashion around the center of the symbol.

The entire thing was then set on fire, and as the fire burned, we were given our own candles and other materials to place in…

Log 6: El Lago de Atitlán

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On Saturday, June 11th we went to Lake Atitlan, of which Aldous Huxley said, “It really is too much of a good thing.” The drive was about an hour and a half from Tecpán by bus, and we left bright and early to head for a nature reserve at the lake’s edge. The drive itself is worth the trip—we came around the edge of the lake on winding roads, and the views were spectacular, even with a cloudy day. The lake itself is quite large, and is surrounded by mountains and volcanoes jutting straight out from the water’s edge.
At the nature reserve, we took a short hike up the mountain. We crossed hanging bridges (six at a time—the asserted capacity of the rickety things) that hang over a little creek trickling down the mountain. We walked into a butterfly preserve, and caught a sight of a turtle relaxing in a little pond. Ted proceeded to scare the turtle, which proves definitely that the turtle might itself be afraid, even if it must be feared. The NSF should give us buckets of money for this i…

Log 5 - Kaqchikel Oral Tradition

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Doña Natividad Ajcet from Tecpán, Guatemala, remembers the following dialogue from her childhood. After dinner, Doña Nati and her siblings would sit around the fire and act out the dialogue as a sort of game. The dialogue could go on indefinitely and have variations depending on each family’s tradition—this version forms part of the Kaqchikel oral tradition of Tecpán.
Doña Natividad Ajcet de Tecpán, Guatemala, recuerda el siguiente diálogo de su niñez. Después de la cena, Doña Nati y sus hermanos se sentaban alrededor del fuego, recitándose el diálogo como una especie de juego. Este diálogo podía continuar indefinidamente y tenía variaciones dependiendo de la tradición de cada familia—esta versión forma parte de la tradición oral del Kaqchikel de Tecpán.
I present the dialogue in Kaqchikel as given by Doña Nati, with her translation into Spanish and my own into English. // Presento el diálogo en el Kaqchikel de Doña Nati, junto a su traducción al español y la mía al inglés.
KAQCHIKEL —C…

Log 4 - Trip to Universidad del Valle

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On Saturday the 4th, the group headed up to the altiplano campus of the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala (UVG). The campus is located in a vast terrain of protected land in Sololá, midway from the highway to the state capital. According to my host mom Doña Nati, the area was used as a military base during the civil war, until the land was abandoned and given to UVG following the signing of the Peace Accords, in order to establish the satellite campus. The university offers classes throughout the week, focusing on education, tourism, and environmental engineering.
The most important task of the day involved presenting our plans for the field station to UVG faculty and students. The activity began with some much needed coffee, after which Pedro gave a talk on the basic structure and goals of the field station, emphasizing in particular the collaborative nature of the endeavor, within linguistics proper and beyond. One of the special aspects of the project is our commitment to cater t…

Log 3: First days

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First day of learning, REAL learning. Classes started at 8:30 since the entire Tecpán wakes up early. It’s nothing like my usual routine, especially if you add making tortillas at 7am. But we’re still running on adrenaline. (wait ‘til posts from later this month)
We started off by getting our Mayan names. One of the traditional ways of assigning them is to combine a Mayan name for a day of birth and the year according to the Mayan calendar. So my Kaqchikel name is Waqxaqi’ Ey. It’s fun and a tricky way to prepare us for learning Kaqchikel numerals. And some of the more advanced learners managed to find a hidden meaning behind their names. Chris is a bunny apparently, or a seed.
We also learned about Wuqu’ Kawoq from its director Anna Kraemer. She told us the story of how Wuqu’ Kawoq started from recognizing the urgent need to fill in the gap in the areas of health care where neither government nor NGOs were present. And interesting enough, it was started by an doctor, anthropologist an…

Log 2: Settling in

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Hi all!

Time to give a report for our past week. We left Guatemala City on Wednesday (6/1) morning.




We split ourselves in Rodrigo's car and a Van provided by Wuqu' Kawoq. After two hours we finally arrived at the field station, which is being placed in one of the Wuqu' Kawoq buildings in Tecpán. When we arrived we met Emma, Sasha, Jessica and Lisa, the other members of the team who were already here, as well as Pedro Mateo Pedro, Soraya (who works at the Wuqu' Kawoq) and our three Kaqchikel teachers.


We then were taken to our host families to settle in, get to know them and have lunch. All of the families' houses are walking distance from the field station (only one block in my case), which is very convenient. They all were carefully chosen by Pedro, and they seem to have experience in this kind of thing. Dona Marta is the mother of my host family, she has three sons. We all have a room only for us with space to work.

After lunch, Soraya and Pedro took us to v…

Log 1: Arrival

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Welcome to the Guatemala Field Trip 2016 log! The journey has already started!

I'm part of group of Linguistics grad students and professors who will spend 30 days studying Mayan languages in Guatemala. The team is led by Dr. Masha Polinsky, Dr. Omer Preminger and Dr. Pedro Mateo Pedro, three leading Mayan scholars. The whole project is a partnership between the Language Science Center of the Univeristy of Maryland and the NGO Wuqu' Kawoq, which provides health to impoverished communities in Guatemala. Our mission in Guatemala is twofold: (i) doing linguistics; and (ii) being the first team to work on the field station fruit of this partnership. Our team includes researchers from different countries (US, Guatemala, Poland, Russia, Israel, Germany, Holland and Brazil), with a variety of interests. Some of us spent the whole Spring studying together Mayan syntax, morphology and phonology at the University of Maryland and preparing ourselves to the challenge. 
I, Paulina, Masha, …