MELANIE McCOMSEY, then a student at University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California, was awarded funding in April 2011 to aid research on 'Bilingual Spaces: Socialization to Spatialized Practice in Spanish and Juchitán Zapotec,' supervised by Dr. John B. Haviland. This project offers a fresh perspective on the classic problem of linguistic relativity associated with Humboldt, Sapir, and Whorf. It draws on ethnographic and semi-experimental linguistic data collected over two years of fieldwork with bilingual speakers of Spanish and Juchitan Zapotec, an Otomanguean language spoken in Juchitan, Oaxaca, Mexico. Because the languages differ in their spatial grammar, and because the speakers differ in their bilingual proficiency in the two languages, the researcher was able to investigate whether different cognitive styles are related to specific linguistic codes. Research found that some changes in spatial cognitive style are happening independently of changes in the grammars of Spanish and Zapotec. This suggests that ways of thinking about space may not be coupled to individual linguistic codes, but can vary as part of a local system of practice and communication. It was also found that embodied interactions with the rapidly modernizing built environment in Juchitan affect how children learn particular styles of spatial problem solving. This project contributes to the fields of linguistic relativity and language contact, showing how multiple worldviews are created and lived through practice within a single speech community.
Dissertation Fieldwork Grant
California, San Diego, U. of
McComsey, Melanie, U. of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA - To aid research on 'Bilingual Spaces: Socialization to Spatialized Practice in Spanish and Juchitán Zapotec,' supervised by Dr. John B. Haviland