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Lessons from a Quechua Strongwoman

Ideophony, Dialogue and Perspective

By Janis B. Nuckolls

Publication Year: 2010

Using the intriguing stories and words of a Quechua-speaking woman named Luisa Cadena from the Pastaza Province of Ecuador, Janis B. Nuckolls reveals a complex language system in which ideophony, dialogue, and perspective are all at the core of cultural and grammatical communications among Amazonian Quechua speakers.

This book is a fascinating look at ideophones—words that communicate succinctly through imitative sound qualities. They are at the core of Quechua speakers’ discourse—both linguistic and cultural—because they allow agency and reaction to substances and entities as well as beings. Nuckolls shows that Luisa Cadena’s utterances give every individual, major or minor, a voice in her narrative. Sometimes as subtle as a barely felt movement or unintelligible sound, the language supports an amazingly wide variety of voices.

Cadena’s narratives and commentaries on everyday events reveal that sound imitation through ideophones, representations of dialogues between humans and nonhumans, and grammatical distinctions between a speaking self and an other are all part of a language system that allows for the possibility of shared affects, intentions, moral values, and meaningful, communicative interactions between humans and nonhumans.

Published by: University of Arizona Press


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pp. vii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xii

It was late June in 2008 when my family and I, squeezed into a pickup truck functioning as a taxi, were driving down the last stretch of a muddy dirt road along the outskirts of Puyo, Ecuador. We were closing in on our destination: a partly finished cinderblock house covered with a tin roof--the home of my closest Quechua-speaking friend, Luisa Cadena...

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pp. xiii-xv

Many people and a number of institutions deserve heartfelt thanks for various kinds of assistance and support. The following granting agencies funded the research for this book at various stages: the Social Science Research Council, the National Science Foundation, the Wenner Gren Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Fulbright Commission...

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A Note on Transcription and Orthography

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pp. xvii

My representation of Quichua words aims to make their sound qualities as accessible as possible to readers who may not be familiar with standard practices for representing written forms of Quichua in Ecuador or with SIL-influenced practices. The pronunciation of the following conso- nantal sounds is comparable to their English language counterparts: p, t,...

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pp. 1-28

In contemporary linguistic anthropological work, interlocutors construct, interpret, and negotiate meanings through processes and within frameworks that are largely human-centered. The novel contribution of this work is to show that the linguaculture of Quichua-speaking Runa in Amazonian Ecuador expands the boundaries of human-to-human inter- actions, because...

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1. On Riveting Objectivity

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pp. 29-48

There was a look of amusement and embarrassment on the face of Alfredo,1the man who was helping me teach Quichua in the spring of 1993 at Indiana University. His suppressed laughter finally erupted as he confessed to my students and me that the utterance I had asked him to say was too much like "a woman's way (of speaking)," and he couldn't bring...

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2. On Ecological Dialogism

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pp. 49-77

The chikwan bird, or squirrel cuckoo, scientifically named as piaya cayana, is described in Canaday and Jost as having a "long tail, bright reddish color, and [a] habit of climbing around in the branches and vines of forest trees (1997:26.) I first became aware of it one day in 1988 while walking with my friend Camila in her agricultural field in Puka Yaku...

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3. On Nonhuman Role Models and New Correspondences

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pp. 78-97

In this chapter I focus on Luisa's own remarkable life, through her narrative presentations of unconventional experiences and new discoveries. What I intend to demonstrate is that the complexities involved in translation go much deeper than a word class and a grammatical distinction. Ideophony, perspective, and dialogue may conspire together to produce...

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4. On the Nature-to-Culture Continuum

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pp. 98-124

The idea that nonhuman life-forms have a capacity for expression is foundational for the translation of Luisa's narratives. The capacity for dialogical interaction is what makes it possible for every lifeform to have a perspective. This chapter expands upon the concept of perspective to show how multifaceted the perspectives on one nonhuman life-form, the...

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5. On Tenaciously Persisting

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pp. 125-142

Luisa often chooses the Quichua verb awantana 'to persist, endure' to describe how she has managed to survive some of her most difficult experiences. For this reason I have used the theme of persisting as the title of this last chapter. For Luisa, persistence is a key virtue, referring not only to stubbornly defending oneself against any kind of assault and...

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Concluding Thoughts

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pp. 143-145

I have used the words of Luisa Cadena to focus on three features of Quichua linguaculture: ideophony, dialogue, and perspective. Although these three features represent distinct linguistic forms, usages, and mor- phological categories, they also overlap and complement one another. Ideophony represents a type of dialogue that entails a perspective. Ideo- phones are...

Appendix to Chapter 1

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pp. 147-148

Appendix to Chapter 2

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pp. 149-156

Appendix to Chapter 3

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pp. 157-166

Appendix to Chapter 4

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pp. 167-184

Appendix to Chapter 5

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pp. 185-199


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pp. 201-210


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pp. 211-220

Index [About the Author]

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pp. 221-230

E-ISBN-13: 9780816501793
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816528585

Publication Year: 2010