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Spatial language and Landscape in Diidxa za (Isthmus Zapotec)

For my dissertation research, I study the classification and use of landscape terms in Diidxa Za, a Zapotec language spoken throughout the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Oaxaca, Mexico. This research in part builds upon the study of spatial frames of reference in Diidxa za that I conducted in the context of the MesoSpace Project. In this new research I explore the interaction of various topographic features in the use of reference frames in different communities around the Isthmus. In fall 2012, I applied for and received funding from NSF's Documenting Endangered Languages program to return to the Isthmus and collect data on the ethnophysiographic classification of landscape terms, as well as investigate how such terms are used in direction giving and how they may or may not interact with the use of spatial frames of reference in language and cognition. Further details can be found in the project description of "Doctoral Dissertation Research: Documentation of Diidxa za (ZAI) spatial language" (BCS#1264064) (pdf available here). I also received some funding from the Mark Diamond Research Fund provided by UB's Graduate Student Association to supplement NSF's funds for the same project.

Initial results of data collected in La Ventosa in 2012 and earlier by Pérez Báez are presented in a paper I wrote in December 2012 for Dr. Bohnemeyer's Semantic Typology Seminar (pdf available here). I report on the variation in reference frame use in a subset of linguistic data from La Ventosa in my presentation at WAIL (abstract available here). I discuss the use of different methods to explore lexical inventory and salience of landscape features in my presentation at SAIL (abstract available here).

I've contributed data from my dissertation research to crosslinguistic analyses on the use of spatial reference frames in language and cognition in my CILLA presentation (with Bohnemeyer, Donelson, and Pérez Báez) comparing the role of language internal and external factors in Yucatec and Isthmus Zapotec, as well as a group presentation at our LSA 2016 special session Language, Culture and Cognition in Spatial Reference (with Bohnemeyer, Donelson, Hsiao, Lin, Lovegren, and Olstad).

The Principle of Canonical Orientation: Intrinsic frame use across languages

For my Qualifying Paper research, I developed new picture stimuli for the Ball & Chair task in order to explore the use of intrinsic reference frames in locating objects with respect to grounds that are not in their canonical orientation (for example, a chair that is not upright). Previous research has asserted a "Principle of Canonical Orientation" (POCO) that states that speakers are less likely to use the axes of a ground object when that object is not in canonical orientation. My research compared the use of intrinsic frames in speakers of English and Yucatec (the latter for which data was collected and coded by Dr. Juergen Bohnemeyer), and found a significant difference. Further details can be found in my qualifying paper manuscript (pdf available here). I've also presented on the influence of POCO in multiple languages of the MesoSpace sample at the International Cognitive Linguistics Conference, using data collected and analyzed by project members (pdf handout available here).

As part of my continuing work as a leading researcher in MesoSpace 1b, I am assisting doctoral student Ali Mohammad Alshehri in organizing the analysis of data on the Principle of Canonical Orientation in languages such as Isthmus Zapotec, Yucatec, K'iche, Barcelonan and Nicaraguan Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and Japanese.

The MesoSpace Project: Spatial language and congition in Mesoamerica and beyond

From January 2010 to July 2014, I worked as Research Assistant to Dr. Juergen Bohnemeyer on the NSF funded MesoSpace Project, a large-scale collaborative project of 25 languages on five continents.

In July 2010, I worked with Dr. Bohnemeyer to submit a grant proposal for the expansion of the project, "MesoSpace 1b", and from June 2011 to July 2014, I served as the research assistant for that project as well. In addition to the project's management and administration, I coordinated the Semantic Typology Lab hosted at UB Linguistics, as well as ran the wordpress blogs for both MesoSpace and the Lab. Though funding for the project's research assistantship has ended, I have continued to serve as a core organizer for research on factors influencing reference frame use, especially in our large-scale population studies and our study of the Principle of Canonical Orientation.

As a research assistant, I gained experience in:

  • project planning and management
  • training workshop planning and leading
  • field trip planning
  • budget management
  • Internal Review Board protocol writing and management
  • data archiving
  • website creation and maintenance
  • grant proposal preparation and writing
  • conference planning and management: Meronymy Across Languages
  • abstract writing
  • publication planning, writing, and editing
  • student guidance
  • course preparation
  • Causality Across Languages

    In Fall 2015, I became Research Aide to the NSF-funded project Causality Across Language (PI J. Bohnemeyer). In addition to helping train new Research Assistants, I act as Project Manager, overseeing administration of the grant, including:

  • budget management
  • project planning and management
  • training workshop planning
  • Internal Review Board protocol writing and management
  • website creation and maintenance
  • Last updated: Apr. 10, 2017