Tuesday, July 4, 2017

UVG Presentations

On Friday, June 16, we went to the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala to give presentations on our research to a group of students who are interested in studying Mayan languages. There were five student presentations and one workshop.

The goal of the presentations was (i) to show the local student community the different things that we were working on while in Guatemala and (ii) to get feedback on our work. It was a really great lesson in presenting in our non-native language (Spanish), and also gave us experience in presenting our work to non-linguists.

Irine Burukina presented first and discussed the idea of Universal Grammar in regards to Mayan languages and their similarities to, and differences from, other world languages. Her research talked about the similarities between reflexives in Kaqchikel, English, Hungarian, and Spanish, and the differences in quantifiers among the same four languages.
Irine at UVG
Then, Justin Royer presented his current research on definite and indefinite articles in the two Mayan languages that he has been working on – Kaqchikel and Chuj. He also presented on how the classifier system of Chuj has implications for the theory of specificity.
Justin discusses definiteness (apologies for the bad quality of these photos, but we had to turn the lights out to see the projector!)
Next, Rodrigo Ranero presented his joint work with Theodore Levin and Paulina Lyskawa on the Santiago dialect of Tz'utujiil. They are looking at optionality in the conjugation of Tz'utujiil verbs. According to their data, Tz'utujiil verbs show optionality of agreement markers conditioned by (in)animacy of the targeted argument.
Rodrigo teaches us about Tz'utujil
Then, Alicia Leclair talked about heritage language speakers. Her discussion focused on defining what a heritage speaker means in the context of Mayan languages.
Alicia talking about defining heritage speakers
Finally, Emily Speed talked about her research, which looks at variation in numeric systems and their influence on bilingual education.
Emily presenting about number systems
I gave a workshop to a group of students who are working in their home communities on their native languages – Awakateko, Chalchiteko, and K’iche’. 
Me and my workshop class
They are working on a project called "Mayan Languages in Contact" and will be documenting their languages using traditional field methods, such as audio recording and storytelling. The basic idea of the workshop was to create a space online where the researchers could store their audio files, photos, and text files as they continue their documentation work. They will also be writing a sister blog (in Spanish) about their experiences in the field.

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