Sunday, July 10, 2016

Log 18: The last post? K'isib'äl?

This is probably the last post that we are going to release concerning the first research field trip in the field station. We have been back home for one week and I have to confess that I have been postponing this moment. This experience, which was a field work debut for most of us, was intellectually and personally challenging. The rewards that we got though are beyond measure.

The time just went so fast ...

After our presentation at UVG, the day before our departure (6/30/2016), Pedro and Ana invited us for a final dinner with them. There was good food, good drinks, good conversation, good stories, plans for the future, laughter, ...

The farewell next morning was the worst part of the trip.

My host family in Patzún
Omer and Pedro

It was difficult to leave our host families and people who helped us so much. It was also difficult for most of us to express in Spanish or in Kaqchikel how grateful we were to all of them.

I would like to express here my gratitude to all people from whom I learned so much last month. I'm deeply thankful:

- to my host families for the good food, for their hospitality and for letting me enter their lives and learn from them;
- to my Kaqchikel teachers (Ka'i' Kawoq, Ixkamey and Lajuj B'atz ) for the knowledge they shared with us with patience and happiness (ja' ..., manaq ..., takultu ...., tachapa' ...);
- to my informants for sharing their knowledge with us and for their patience;
- to Dr. Canú from Wuku Kawoq who saw me when I was sick in Tecpán;
- to those who so willingly accepted taking part in this blog during this busy trip;
- to my old colleagues and new colleagues, who became all close friends during the trip;
- to my professors (Masha, Omer and Pedro) for taking care of us in so many different ways;
- for the cultural exchange that sometimes came from places far away from Guatemala in a poem by Maiakovisc, or in a song by Jorge Ben Jor or in a song by Ehud Banai, ...;
- for the cultural exchange from Guatemala in a poem by Humberto Ak'abal or in the pages of Luis de Lión.

We all brought a piece of Guatemala back home. Here are some pieces that I brought to remember ...

Ak'abal, Lión, Asturias

Grammar and Mayan literature

I end this post with a poem by the Guatemalan poet Humberto Ak'abal. I provide here both the K'ichee' and the Spanish versions, given by the author, and also an attempt of English translation made by me.

kinto che k'o jun kach'awik
kintor ri uchi' ja re ri nuk'u'x k'aslemal
xa ne k'ut maj jun kinriqo.

kinna'o che k'o jun petinaq pa ri be,
kinwa'lajik che urilik wene at ri'
xa ne k'ut xuwi kink'ulaj
ri utewal ri kaqiq' re ri chaq'ab
ri kujorjotisaj wa jun q'aq' ri kinnuporoj.

Oigo que llaman,
Abro las puertas de mi corazón
y no encuentro a nadie.

siento que alguien viene en camino,
me levanto a ver si acaso eres tú
y sólo me encuentro
con el frío viento de la noche
que refresca la fiebre que me quema.

[Humberto Ak'bal in "Are Jampa ri abaj kech'awik"/ "Cuando las Piedras Hablan"]

I hear a call,
I open the doors of my heart
and don't find anyone.

I feel that someone comes on the way
I stand up to see if it is, by any chance, you
and alone I find myself
with the cold wind of the night
that refreshes the fever that burns me.

[English translation by Gesoel Mendes]

I hope this was the first of many field trips to Guatemala. I look forward to learning more about Guatemalan languages and seeing again the volcanoes and the colors of the Guatemalan tejidos all around.

UMD students

Thank you,

Log 17: Pacaya Volcano

On 26/6, our last Sunday in Guatemala, part of the group went to a hike in the Pacaya volcano.

 View from the Pacaya Volcano - starring: Volcano de Agua. (credit: Omer)

Starting the hike

We arrived there around 9am and after some negotiation we hired a guide and started our journey. The path was steep, but the group was excited to reach the top of the mountain (especially after the eruption demonstration that we had from one of the volcanoes in the area the week before).

Halfway up the mountain
Our guide told us about the last eruptions, the last one in 2014. Almost at the top, we halted at the place where one of the last eruptions happened and we were able to prepare some marshmallows in a small crack on the ground, which still emanates heat (no one believes me when I tell this part of the story, but it is true – I swear!).


We then went on and had lunch at the highest part of the mountain that tourists are allowed to go.

Resting after lunch (almost) at the top of the mountain

On our way down, we took a different path. We ended up being surprised by a sudden rain and hail, which added a special charm to the landscape, a bit of a adventure to our journey, and a lot of mud on our clothes!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Log 16: Nostalgic/curious about the Kaqchikel classes?

Good news! The audio recordings of our Kaqchikel classes are now all organized and available online in .mp3 version (for .wav you need to contact me directly)

Here's a good visual representation of how much fun we had - bursts of laughter and/or clapping every 20 sec in this sample waveform:
There are also many gems like this:

Monday, July 4, 2016

Log 15: Antigua Guatemala Mini-Trip

Conexíon Brasil in the bookstore!
On Thursday, June 23, Gesoel, Omer, Paulina, Rodrigo, and I took a mini-group trip to Antigua to have dinner with two renowned linguists and Mayanists, Ryan Bennett (Yale) and Robert Henderson (Arizona). We arrived in Antigua in time to have a late lunch at Hector’s Bistro, right across the street from Iglesia La Merced, a gorgeous colonial church. While our dining experience in Patzún was delightful (I’m still craving frijoles!), it was lovely to have a taste of fine dining at Hector’s. We followed up our leisurely lunch with a little bit of gift shopping for our host families at the market and at a lovely little bookshop.
Learning about Kaqchikel from the experts!
After a brief nap at the hotel, we took off to meet Ryan and Robert in the central park of Antigua. We grabbed drinks and chatted up a storm about all manner of Mayan linguistics–phonology, syntax, and semantics included! The conversations continued at Micho’s, where we enjoyed the stormy night at a table in the inner courtyard of the building. We stayed for hours, talking up a storm and having a blast. We didn’t stay too late, because our intrepid dinner companions Robert and Ryan had to head to Uspantán (about an eight hour ride away) first thing in the morning to do some of their own fieldwork.

Fuego erupting!
In the morning, we went to Café Condesa for a nice breakfast. After the rainy day we had before, the sun was much appreciated, and we again ate a delicious meal in the building’s courtyard. We made two stops before hitting the road. First, we sent off some postcards at the post office (who doesn’t love getting international postcards from their loved ones?). While we were waiting, we noticed Volcán de Fuego erupting a little. It was mostly ash (no lava!) and was really quite a sight to behold. Afterwards, we stopped by Doña Maria Gordillo, a confectionary shop that has been in Antigua since the 1870s. You can get all manner of delicious candies there­, including delicious marzipan apples and milk candies. We left shortly after our stop in the candy shop, and made the drive back to Patzún through Chimaltenango and Patzicía. While we were happy to enjoy a little decadence in Antigua, it was good to get back to work in Patzún!
On the hotel roof!
On the hotel roof!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Log 14: Presenting our work!

On June 29th, we made our way back to Universidad del Valle (UVG), altiplano campus in Sololá, to present the results of our research in Tecpán and Patzún. This part of our trip was particularly important, since we wanted to showcase what we’d accomplished in a short period of time and also encourage/invite UVG students and scholars to work with us in future trips. One of the main drives of the research station is to create opportunities for researchers like us and local students to collaborate across disciplines, so it was crucial that we piqued the attendees’ interests.

Rehearsing the talks at Pedro's in Patzún

Following opening remarks by Pedro and Omer, we each gave the following talks—Gesoel and I’s was a joint endeavor, so we got to give a more detailed account of our data:


a.         Gesoel and I: Extracción de Adjuntos en Kaqchikel y Tz’utujiil (Adjunct Extraction in Kaqchikel and Tz’utujiil)
b.         Paulina: Consonantes Adyacentes (Consonant Clusters)
c.         Chris: Tiempo y Aspecto (Tense and Aspect)
d.         Carola: Reflexivos y Recíprocos (Reflexives and Reciprocals)
e.         Emma: Cambio de Código (Code Switching)

Syntax talk with Gesoel

Question time! 
It was a big plus that we had different sub-disciplines of linguistics represented, so the audience could be exposed to a variety of linguistic research. We all strived to make the content understandable for a non-specialist audience and the reactions were very positive. For instance, there were Kaqchikel (Tecpán dialect) and Tz’utujiil (Santiago dialect) speakers in the audience who remarked on the generalizations Gesoel and I found regarding Aˈ-extraction of adjuncts, wishing to know more and proposing that we bring in UVG students who speak different dialects of the languages into the project. Paulina and Chris impressed the audience with their handling (in excellent Spanish!) of complex material in the phonology and semantics of Kaqchikel, while Carola provided a broad typological perspective on the phenomenon of reflexivity in Mayan.

Chris on the prospective "aspect" in Kaqchikel

Carola on the typological perspective

Finally, Emma gave a talk that resonated strongly with the audience on the phenomenon of code-switching in bilingual Spanish-Kaqchikel communities; of particular interest were Emma's methodology and her plan to create a corpus of natural Kaqchikel-Spanish speech. Attendees remarked on their own experience with code-switching into Spanish and their negative attitudes towards the phenomenon, since it might signal an eventual shift into Spanish. Emma finished her talk with an invitation for cross-disciplinary collaboration in coming years, highlighting ways in which linguistic research can be useful for the local communities, especially with regards to language maintenance, bilingual education, and healthcare access (through initiatives like those of Wuqu’ Kawoq, our partner throughout the project).

Discussing code-switching

More questions!

All in all, we were very pleased with the outcome of the symposium, given the interest that was elicited by our projects and the field station collaboration between UMD and UVG. We’re already thinking of many more research trips and projects! 

Gazing at Lake Atitlán and thinking about returning

Omer looking happy about the talks (and the view)

Gesoel, Paulina, and the volcano 

Friday, July 1, 2016

Log 13: More Tz'utujiil and Patines

Our Tz'utujiil contributor Doña Rosario (or Doña Sara, as she's better known in Patzún) is famous in town for her “patines”, a dish from the Tz’utujiil area surrounding Lake Atitlán. Every week, she gets requests to cook the dish, which consists of a spicy tomato sauce and one of several kinds of meat: fish, shrimp, chicken, or “cecina”—beef that has been marinated in pure lime juice overnight. Our last week of working in Patzún, Doña Rosario prepared her “cecina” patines for us, and they were DELICIOUS! The photo below shows the carefully wrapped meal in “maxán” leaves—in Tz’utujiil, the dish is known by the name in (1) below:

(1)        Jk’omik           chu-pam                      tz’alem
            sauce               PREP.3sgPOSS-belly maxán.leaf
            Literal: ‘sauce in the belly of the maxán leaf’ / ‘patín’

IPA:     [χkˀo.ˈmik    ʧu.ˈpam    ʦˀa.ˈlem]

Amazing patines! 

Gesoel, Paulina, Carola, and I were lucky to work with Doña Rosario for many hours during our Patzún stay. Gesoel and I discovered how different the Santiago dialect is compared to the reported data in Dayley (1985) and García Ixmatá (1997), which are based on the Tz’utujiil dialects of San Juan la Laguna and San Pedro la Laguna respectively. For instance, both those authors report that VSO order is impossible in Tz’utujiil. However, Doña Rosario accepts such an order:

(2)        X-i-Ø-ruto’                  jala’     ixoq                 ik’e’     ak’ala’.
            CPL-B3pl-A3sg-help  DET    woman             two      children
            ‘The woman helped two children.’

IPA:      [ʃi.ɾu.ˈtoʔ    χa.ˈla   i.ˈʃoq   i.ˈkˀeʔ   a.kˀa.ˈlaʔ]

Paulina eliciting consonant clusters
We also confirmed that a particle has to appear following the verb upon the extraction of obliques and certain low adjuncts, similarly to the data reported in the grammars mentioned before—however, the particle’s form is [va] rather than [wi], as we expected. One example is shown below; we ran tests using different types of verbs and extracted adjuncts and the judgments were consistent:

(3)        Axwan            x-Ø-u-loq’                   jun       jaay      pruwi   r’-li’.
            Juan               CPL-B3sg-A3sg-buy  IND     house   BEN    3sgPOSS-mother
            ‘Juan bought a house for his mother.’

IPA:     [a.ˈʃwan    ʃu.ˈloq        χun      χa:j̥       pɾu.ˈvi    ɾʔ.ˈliʔ]

(4)        Naq    pruwi    x-Ø-u-loq’=*(wa)                  jun       jaay      Axwan?
            who     BEN    CPL-B3sg-A3sg-buy=WA     IND     house   Juan
            ‘Who did Juan buy a house for?’

IPA:     [naq    pɾu.ˈvi    ʃu.loq.ˈva     χun    χa:j̥    a.ˈʃwan]

 Here's a photo Don Noé, Doña Rosario’s husband, took of the group after our last elicitation. Doña Rosario is wearing the traditional Santiago dress in its entirety—her güipil is adorned with different birds that inhabit the lake’s forest (note also that it is asymmetrical, which is unique for güipiles). She is also wearing the headdress known as “tocoyal”, which is worn for special occasions by Santiago women—in fact, the 25 cent quetzal coin shows a picture of Doña Concepción Ramírez, originally from Santiago, wearing the “tocoyal”.

The group in front of Doña Rosario's pink house
Now that our time in Patzún is up, we’re all looking forward already to our next trip, so we can keep working with Doña Rosario and other speakers of the Santiago dialect!

Final Post 2017

We've all safely arrived back in our homes after a wonderful adventure to Patzún. A big thank you to our host families, to Wuqu Kawoq, ...