Language on the move: an investigation of Dâw motion categories in context

Projekt: Forskning



This project proposes a novel investigation of the concept of mobility among mobile hunter-gatherer groups through the lens of language. It will do so by examining verbs of motion – a bona fide linguistic category reflecting mobility – in indigenous lexicons and grammars. But what can verbs of motion tell us about hunter-gatherer mobility? And, how can occurrences of motion verbs map onto identifiable environmental and cultural features of a given society? Here, I explore these questions treating Dâw (Naduhup; Northwest Amazonia) as a focal case. Dâw is ideal for examining this topic because it harbors a rich system of motion verbs and a typologically unusual pattern of motion event encoding; it heavily encodes the notion of the terrain in the verb. I will conduct an innovative investigation into hunter-gatherer representations of motion as these unfold in the Dâw peoples’ surroundings while speakers are on the move. While walking, semi-structured interviews will be performed in which speakers will be asked to describe what kind of motion they are performing. This will be recorded in audio, video and GPS for subsequent exploration of the motion verb usage and meanings in relation to measurable topographical features. A second layer of analysis will be provided by speakers’ posterior descriptions of the respective motion events. Multi-factorial analyses, bringing together measurable spatial manifestations and speakers’ perceptions of a motion event will result in a record of geographically mapped motion categories. Hence, I pursue the overall goal of substantially advancing our understanding of the linguistic encoding of motion in its language-and-culture-specific and motion-related context. This will both deepen our knowledge of the representation of mobility in a cultural context, which is of crucial concern to human history and diversity, and at the same time advance our understanding of motion semantics at the intersection of language, culture, and environment.
Gällande start-/slutdatum2022/09/012024/08/31