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Linguistic Diversity and Social Justice

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Language Evolution: The Windows Approach

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Academic Paper


Title: A Mayan ontology of poultry: Selfhood, affect, animals, and ethnography
Author: Paul Kockelman
Institution: Barnard College, Columbia University
Linguistic Field: Discourse Analysis; Pragmatics; Sociolinguistics; Text/Corpus Linguistics
Subject Language: Kekchí
Abstract: This article has three key themes: ontology (what kinds of beings there are in the world), affect (cognitive and corporeal attunements to such entities), and selfhood (relatively reflexive centers of attunement). To explore these themes, I focus on women's care for chickens among speakers of Q'eqchi' Maya living in the cloud forests of highland Guatemala. Broadly speaking, I argue that these three themes are empirically, methodologically, and theoretically inseparable. In addition, the chicken is a particularly rich site for such ethnographic research because it is simultaneously self, alter, and object for its owners. To undertake this analysis, I adopt a semiotic stance towards such themes, partly grounded in the writings of the American pragmatists Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, and George Herbert Mead, and partly grounded in recent and classic scholarship by linguists, psychologists, and anthropologists. (Linguistic anthropology, political economy, ontology, affect, selfhood, animals, chickens, Mesoamerica, Maya, Q'eqchi')

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This article appears IN Language in Society Vol. 40, Issue 4, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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