Diidxa za: Zapotec in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec
In May 2012, I spent 10 days in the community of La Ventosa, northwest of Juchitán de Zaragoza in Oaxaca, Mexico. I am indebted to Dr. Gabriela Pérez Báez of the Smithsonian Institution Museum of Natural History, who introduced me to many people both in La Ventosa and in the local academic community, as well as providing crucial guidance in many things. With her help, and funding provided by NSF through the MesoSpace Project (BCS-1053123), I collected linguistic data on spatial reference frames in discourse using the referential communication tasks 'Ball & Chair' and 'Talking Animals'.
In October 2013, I returned to La Ventosa for 3 weeks and conducted initial field trips to the communities in which I will be collecting data for my dissertation: Santa María Xadani, Juchitán, Espinal, Ixtaltepec, Unión Hidalgo, and San Blas Atempa. I also observed and assisted where I could with the ongoing ethnobotany project led by Dr. Pérez Báez. This work included field trips for plant collection, plant processing, data management, and presentation of a pilot memory game product for the children of La Ventosa and surrounding communities.
For 5 weeks in April-May 2014, I lived in Juchitán and collected data from Zapotec speakers in the city of Juchitán and the town of Santa María Xadani using the Talking Animals and New Animals tasks (developed by the MesoSpace Project to explore reference frame use in discourse and recall memory, respectively). I also conducted pilots of various ethnophysiographic tasks to explore the lexical resources and salience of landscape features for Zapotec speakers in La Ventosa. During this time I also had the opportunity to discuss possible outcomes of the documentation aspect of my project with researchers and community leaders who are currently working intensively on similar projects.
In January 2015, I returned for 3 weeks to collect additional linguistic reference frame data in Juchitán and collect data on landscape lexical inventory and route description strategies in La Ventosa, Juchitán, and Xadani.
I plan to return for at least one more trip for my dissertation research to perform follow-up semantic analyses with primary consultants and to discuss possible documentation outcomes for the communities. The trips in 2013-2015 are funded via my NSF DEL grant "Doctoral Dissertation Research: Documentation of Diidxa za (ZAI) spatial language" (BCS#1264064) (pdf available here), as well as my grant from the Mark Diamond Research Fund provided by UB's Graduate Student Association.