1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

The Spatialization of Temporal Relationships in a Tenseless Language: Deictic Temporal Adverbs, Sequential Predicates and Spontaneous Gesture in Chol Maya

In this presentation I will discuss how notions of time are spatialized in the speech-accompanying gestures of Chol speakers. Chol is a Western Mayan language spoken mostly in Southern Mexico.  In most of the literature on gesture studies, particularly in research that has been conducted with languages from the Indo-European family, gestures that co-occur with time expressions are reported to be consistently linear (Calbris 1990; Cienki 1998; Cooperrider and Nuñez 2009; Casasanto and Jasmin 2012). I propose that this linearity, far from being a universal feature of temporal thought and gesture, is instead merely a reflex of the grammatical feature of inflectional tense, in which the time of a narrated event is expressed in relationship to the time of speaking. The tendency to describe “time” gestures as based in an abstract “timeline” may thus be the result of decades of research that have concentrated on tense languages. In line with the findings of other researchers who have described temporal gesture in languages that have other grammatical means for conveying temporal information, such as aspect (cf. Le Guen 2009, 2011), I argue that a linear conceptualization of time is absent from Chol speakers’ gestural repertoire. In order to determine whether Chol temporal gesture is linear or not, I have analyzed spontaneous gestures co-occurring with two different sets of grammatical constructions: 1) utterances that contain deictic temporal adverbs, in which a temporal relationship is established between the moment of speech and the time of the narrated event; and 2) sequential predicates, a type of grammatical construction that comprises two different event times, one serving as deictic anchor for the other. In this presentation, I will first give some linguistic examples of both types of grammatical constructions. Secondly, I will show examples of prototypical gestures co-occurring with each of these grammatical categories. I will also make an explicit comparison between Chol temporal gestures and the type of co-speech gestures co-occurring with similar types of grammatical contexts in English. 

  • Brooks Hall Conference Room, 2nd Floor
    Sponsored by Department of Anthropology
Event Date: 
Friday, 20 April 2012 - 1:00pm to 3:00pm
Lydia Rodriguez
Speaker Title: 
(University of Virginia)
Event Type: