Languages and Cultures of Amazonia - UT Direct - The University of

Languages and Cultures of Amazonia - UT Direct - The University of

UGS 302 Fall 2016 Languages and Cultures of Amazonia Meets TTh 2-3:30pm, CLA 0.120 Prof. Patience Epps Email: [email protected] Office: CL...

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UGS 302 Fall 2016

Languages and Cultures of Amazonia Meets TTh 2-3:30pm, CLA 0.120 Prof. Patience Epps Email: [email protected] Office: CLA 4.736 Office hours: T-Th-F 9-10am and by appointment The Amazonian region of South America is incredibly diverse in its indigenous peoples and their languages. Described only recently as a ‘linguistic black box’, research over the past few decades has yielded fresh insights into the languages and cultures of indigenous Amazonians, their histories, and their contemporary adjustments to the changes they face. In this course, we will investigate the languages and cultures of indigenous Amazonian peoples, with an eye to understanding their past and the challenges of their present. In the process, we will develop skills in academic writing and in finding and evaluating information. PLEASE SEE THE ONLINE COURSE GUIDE FOR OUR CLASS:

Class requirements: READING: You are expected to have read the required readings by the class day on which they are listed on the syllabus. This class does not have a textbook; readings will be available on Canvas. We will have short, unannounced pop-quizzes on the reading from time to time, so be sure you keep on top of it! CHOOSING AN AMAZONIAN GROUP/LANGUAGE SPECIALIZATION: Each student will choose a different Amazonian people/language to focus on for the semester. Please choose from the list I provide you, since these have adequate, accessible ethnographic and linguistic literature (not true for many groups!). Note that I have listed the major ethnographic and linguistic sources, but that in most cases there are others; you are expected to investigate some of these (we will discuss how to do this – via Interlibrary loan, online libraries and bibliographies, the Benson Library collection, etc.). ASSIGNMENTS: The major assignments for the course consist of 3 papers (with required revisions), an in-class debate, and a presentation at our class' final 'Amazon Symposium'. You will receive feedback on all of your papers; for the first two, students will form teams of three people, and each person will read and comment on the two other students' papers. The grade for the revisions phase of the papers will be based on a) how well you incorporate the feedback you receive, and b) overall quality of the final version. See end of syllabus and handouts for further details about assignments. ACTIVE PARTICIPATION: Active participation means 1) consistently doing the reading; 2) contributing regularly and appropriately to class discussions and activities; 3) being fully engaged in class rather than distracted by internet or other activities. Note that participation is worth 5% of your final grade. REGULAR ATTENDANCE: Attendance will be verified by sign-in sheet. Significantly late arrival or early departure will count as an absence. You are allowed up to two ‘free’ absences; each additional absence drops your final grade for the course by 1 point (out of 100, not to exceed 5 points). Emergencies and extended illnesses will be considered on a case-by-case basis. You should inform me in advance of the class you will be missing, and you should provide appropriate documentation within a few days of the absence.

Languages and Cultures of Amazonia


UNIVERSITY LECTURE SERIES: You are required to attend at least one of the following (both from 78:15pm in Bass Concert Hall): ‘Election 2016’ (Sept. 19) and ‘Research that Changes the World’ (Sept. 20). For information about the lectures, see To fulfill the requirement you should pick one of these lectures, attend it, write a one-paragraph summary of the lecture, and submit it within one week of the lecture date. Note that this is worth 2% of your final grade. See me if you anticipate any problems.

Grading: Grades will be assigned according to the following scale: A: 94-100, A-: 90-93, B+: 87-89, B: 84-86, B-: 80-83, etc. Your final grade will be determined as follows: Paper 1 bibliography: 4% Final paper draft: 13% Presentation: 8% Paper 1 draft: 8% Final paper revisions: 13% Reading pop-quizzes + final Paper 1 revisions: 8% Class debate (participation paper thesis statement: 7% Paper 2: 10% & position statement): 6% Class participation: 5% Paper 2 revisions: 10% Lecture series: 2% Peer reviews: 6%

Flags: This course carries the Writing Flag. Writing Flag courses are designed to give students experience with writing in an academic discipline. In this class, you can expect to write regularly during the semester, complete substantial writing projects, and receive feedback from your instructor to help you improve your writing. You will also have the opportunity to revise assignments, and to read and discuss your peers’ work. A substantial portion of your grade will come from your written work. Writing Flag classes meet the Core Communications objectives of Critical Thinking, Communication, Teamwork, and Personal Responsibility, established by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. This course carries the Global Cultures flag. Global Cultures courses are designed to increase your familiarity with cultural groups outside the United States. You should therefore expect a substantial portion of your grade to come from assignments covering the practices, beliefs, and histories of at least one non-U.S. cultural group, past or present.

Class policies and Information: ATTENDANCE AND HOMEWORK SUBMISSION: Attendance will be verified by sign-in sheet and evaluated according to the requirements above. Late assignments may be downgraded (approx ½ letter grade per day late). COMMUNICATION: Announcements will be posted from time to time on Canvas – please check regularly. Particularly urgent announcements may be sent to the class by email. CELL PHONES AND LAPTOPS: Cell phones should be turned off in class. If you forget and they should happen to ring, don’t answer. Laptops should be used for note-taking only; students are expected to refrain from email, chatting, web surfing, etc. during class time. ACADEMIC INTEGRITY: All work should be your own! Where you use words or ideas within your papers that are not your own you must cite your sources, and ALL sources you use and/or cite should appear in your bibliography. If you do not cite appropriately, you will be guilty of plagiarism. Do not sign the attendance sheet for someone else, or have them sign for you. Any form of cheating is taken very seriously, and if you violate University rules on academic dishonesty you will be subject to disciplinary penalties, including the possibility of failure in the course and/or dismissal from the university. It isn’t worth it. Please keep in mind the University Honor Code: "As a student of The University of Texas at Austin, I shall abide by the core values of the University and uphold academic integrity." See RELIGIOUS HOLIDAYS: If any class deadlines fall on religious holidays that you observe, please let me know at least two weeks in advance so that I can accommodate your needs. You should both tell me in person and send me an email.

Languages and Cultures of Amazonia


STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES: If you have a disability you may request appropriate academic accommodations from the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, Services for Students with Disabilities; 471-6259 (voice) or 232-2937 (video phone). See EMERGENCIES: From the Office of Campus Safety and Security, 512-471-5767, -

Occupants of buildings on The University of Texas at Austin campus are required to evacuate buildings when a fire alarm is activated. Alarm activation or announcement requires exiting and assembling outside. Familiarize yourself with all exit doors of each classroom and building you may occupy. Remember that the nearest exit door may not be the one you used when entering the building. Students requiring assistance in evacuation shall inform their instructor in writing in the first week of class. In the event of an evacuation, follow the instruction of faculty or class instructors. Do not re-enter a building unless given instructions by the following: Austin Fire Department, The University of Texas at Austin Police Department, or Fire Prevention Services office. Behavior Concerns Advice Line (BCAL): 512-232-5050 Link to information regarding emergency evacuation routes and emergency procedures can be found at:

Resources: WRITING CENTER: In this class, you are strongly encouraged to use the Undergraduate Writing Center, FAC 211, 471-6222: The Undergraduate Writing Center offers free, individualized, expert help with writing for any UT undergraduate, by appointment or on a drop-in basis. UWC services are not just for writing that has 'problems': Getting feedback from an informed audience is a normal part of a successful writing project. The UWC’s trained consultants work with students from every department on both academic and non-academic writing. Using methods that preserve the integrity of your work, they help you develop strategies to improve your writing and become a more independent writer. Whether you are writing a lab report, a resume, a term paper, a statement for an application, or your own poetry, UWC consultants will be happy to work with you. Two UWC in-class presentations are scheduled. BENSON LATIN AMERICAN COLLECTION: A fabulous, on-campus library focused on Latin America ( We will be making a class visit to the Benson, and you are expected to draw on it for your course-related research. OTHER UNIVERSITY RESOURCES: Check out the Blanton Museum of Art ( and the University Performing Arts Series (!

Last day to drop without penalty: Aug 29 Last day to drop or withdraw (with dean’s approval): Nov 1

CLASS SCHEDULE Week 1. Introduction Aug 25. Stepping into the Amazon READ: Aikhenvald, Alexandra. 2012. The Languages of the Amazon. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Ch.1, sections 1.1–1.3 (pp. 1-17). Choose a language/culture to ‘adopt’ for the semester by Tues Aug. 30, using the list handed out in class. (We will take time at the beginning of class on Tuesday to finalize this.) Begin locating basic sources (ethnographies/grammars) and looking through them. Schedule an appointment with me to discuss by Friday, Sept. 2.

Languages and Cultures of Amazonia


Week 2. History and interpretation 1 Aug 30. Perceptions of Amazonia READ: Mann, Charles C. 2005. 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. New York: Random House. Ch. 9 'Amazonia'. Annotated bibliography (due Mon Sept 12) and Paper 1 (due Fri Sept 16) assigned. Sept 1. Library workshop and visit to Benson Library - MEET AT BENSON AND BRING LAPTOPS WITH YOU You should be locating and familiarizing yourself with the basic ethnographic and linguistic materials for your Amazonian group. Start building a bibliography of other resources.

Week 3. History and interpretation 2 Sept 6. Indigenous histories READ: 1. Heckenberger, Michael J., Afukaka Kuikuro, Urissapá Tabata Kuikuro, J. Christian Russell, Morgan Schmidt, Carlos Fausto, Bruna Franchetto. 2003. Amazonia 1492: Pristine Forest or Cultural Parkland? Science 301: 1710-1714. 2. Meggers, Betty. 2003. Revisiting Amazonia Circa 1492. Science 302: 2067-2070. Practicum: Understanding scholarly debate Sept 8. Research and writing Undergraduate College Writing presentation: ‘Writing in Process’ Assignment: work on finding sources and building your bibliography

Week 4. Exploring language and culture Mon Sept 12: Annotated bibliography due (email to me by 5pm) Sept 13. Research and writing Assignment: Work on papers Sept 15. A plethora of languages READ: Aikhenvald, Alexandra. 2012. The Languages of the Amazon. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Ch. 1, Sect. 1.4 to end (read pp. 17-31; fine to just skim 32-61 and following notes) FRI SEPT 16: PAPER 1 DRAFTS DUE (POST TO CANVAS AND EMAIL TO YOUR REVIEWERS BY 5PM)

Week 5. Perspective and controversy Sept. 19-20. University Lecture Series: ‘Election 2016’ (Sept. 19) and ‘Research that Changes the World’ (Sept. 20). From 7–8:15pm in Bass Concert Hall; doors open 30 mins early, seating is first come first serve! Choose at least one to attend (or watch on video if you are unable to attend in person). Post 1-paragraph summary to Canvas by class time Sept. 27. ASSIGNMENT FOR SEPT. 20: PREPARE 'PEER REVIEWS' OF YOUR TEAMMATES' ESSAYS - TO HAND IN TO ME AND YOUR REVIEWEE IN CLASS. Sept 20. Writing and revising workshop Undergraduate College Writing presentation: ‘Revising Essays and Research Papers’ Bring a copy of your essay to class (digital or hard copy OK) Bring your 'peer reviews' of teammates' essays to class for discussion. Sept 22. Controversy: The Yanomami READ: 1. Chagnon, Napoleon. 2012. Yanomamö. 6th edition, Case Studies in Anthropology. Belmont CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning. Introduction (pp. 5-10) and Ch.6 'Yanomamö warfare' (last 2 pages required, rest of ch.6 recommended). 2. Mann, Charles C. 2009. Chagnon Critics Overstepped Bounds, Historian Says. Science 326:1466.

Languages and Cultures of Amazonia



Week 6. Making contact Sept 27. Fieldwork: Investigating language and culture READ: Everett, Daniel. 2008. Don't Sleep, There are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle. New York: Random House. Ch. 1 'Discovering the world of the Pirahãs'. ASSIGNMENT FOR SEPT 29: PREPARE FOR DEBATE IN THURSDAY'S CLASS – READ MATERIALS AND WRITE 12-PAGE POSITION STATEMENT REPRESENTING YOUR 'SIDE'. Sept 29. Controversy: Amazonia’s isolated peoples READ: 1. Lawler, Andrew. 2015. Making contact. Science, Vol 348, Issue 6239:1072-1079. 2. Walker, Robert and Kim Hill. 2015. Protecting isolated tribes. Science, Vol 348, Issue 6239:1060. 3. Pringle, Heather. 2015. In peril. Science, Vol 348, Issue 6239: 1080-1085. 4. Feather, Conrad. 2015. Isolated tribes: Contact misguided. Science, Vol 349, Issue 6250:798. 5. Bodley, John H. 2015. Isolated tribes: Human rights first. Science, Vol 349, Issue 6250:798. 6. Email exchange (2016) between Glenn Shepard (anthropologist) and Survival International See also: 1) Corry, Stephen. 2015. Uncontacted Tribes Don't Need the "Protection" of Western Anthropologists. Truthout, Survival International. 2) 3) In-class debate: Amazonia’s isolated peoples 1-2 page position statement (for debate) due in class

Week 7. Discourse and verbal art Oct 4. Style and register READ: Basso, Ellen. 1986. Quoted dialogues in Kalapalo narrative discourse. In Native South American Discourse, Joel Sherzer and Greg Urban (eds.), 119-168. New York: Mouton de Gruyter. Paper 2 assigned (due Fri Oct 14 by 5pm) Oct 6. Genre and performance READ: Seeger, Anthony. 1986. Oratory is spoken, myth is told, and song is sung, but they are all music to my ears. In Native South American Discourse, Joel Sherzer and Greg Urban (eds.), 59-82. New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Week 8. Languages, cultures, and their surprises Oct 11. Questions of complexity 1. Bartlett, Tom. 2012. Angry words: Will one researcher's discovery deep in the Amazon destroy the foundation of modern linguistics? Chronicle of Higher Education, March 20, 2012. 2. (RECOMMENDED ONLY) Everett, Daniel. 2012. You drink, you drive, you go to jail. Ch. 11 of Language: The Cultural Tool. London: Profile Books. Oct 13. Research in Amazonia Assignment: Work on papers FRI OCT 14: PAPER 2 DRAFTS DUE (POST TO CANVAS AND EMAIL TO YOUR REVIEWERS BY 5PM)

Languages and Cultures of Amazonia


Week 9. What’s in a language? Oct 18. Grammar and its uses READ: Aikhenvald, Alexandra. 2012. The Languages of the Amazon. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Ch.9 'Evidentials'. ASSIGNMENT FOR OCT. 20: PREPARE 'PEER REVIEWS' OF YOUR TEAMMATES' ESSAYS - TO HAND IN TO ME AND YOUR REVIEWEE IN CLASS. Oct 20. Language and culture Practicum: In-class writing workshop MON OCT 24: PAPER 2 REVISIONS DUE (POST TO CANVAS BY 5PM)

Week 10. Social roles and their expression Oct 25. Gender, culture, and language READ: Chernela, Janet. 2003. Language ideology and women's speech: Talking community in the northwest Amazon. American Anthropologist 105(4):794-806. Oct 27. Ritual and shamanic practice READ: Buchillet, Dominique. 1992. Nobody is there to hear: Desana therapeutic incantations. In Portals of Power: Shamanism in South America, E. Jean Matteson Langdon and Gerhard Baer (eds.). Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. Final paper guidelines handed out; start deciding on topic and sources

Week 11. Interaction and multilingualism Nov 1. Speaking each others' languages READ: Aikhenvald, Alexandra. 2001. Language awareness and correct speech among the Tariana of northwest Amazonia. Anthropological Linguistics 43:411-430. Nov 3. Tracking interaction over time and space READ: Epps, Patience. Forthcoming. Amazonian linguistic diversity and its sociocultural correlates. Language Dispersal, Diversification, and Contact: A Global Perspective, ed. by Mily Crevels, JeanMarie Hombert, & Pieter Muysken. Oxford: Oxford University Press. NOV 3: PRELIMINARY THESIS STATEMENT FOR FINAL PAPERS DUE IN CLASS

Week 12. Contemporary challenges Nov 8. Language endangerment READ: Crevels, Mily. 2002. Speakers shift and languages die: An account of language death in Amazonian Bolivia. In Current Studies on South American Languages [Indigenous Languages of Latin America, 3], Mily Crevels, Simon van de Kerke, Sérgio Meira & Hein van der Voort (eds.), p. 9-30. Leiden: Research School of Asian, African, and Amerindian Studies (CNWS). Nov 10. Autonomy and involvement READ: Conklin, Beth and Laura Graham. 1995. The Shifting Middle Ground: Amazonian Indians and EcoPolitics. American Anthropologist 97: 695-710.

Week 13. Wrap up and Amazon symposium Nov 15. General discussion and future directions Nov 17. Presentations FINAL PAPER DRAFTS DUE THURS NOV 17 (POST TO CANVAS BY 5PM)

Languages and Cultures of Amazonia


Week 14. Amazon Symposium Nov 22. Presentations Nov 24. Thanksgiving holiday

Week 15. Amazon Symposium Nov 29. Presentations Dec 1. Presentations and final wrap-up FINAL PAPER REVISIONS DUE MON DEC 5 (POST TO CANVAS BY 5PM)


The word count requirements given below assume approximately 300 words per double-spaced page (references must be present but do not count toward text). It is acceptable to go a little over the word limit, but you should not go under.

All papers should be posted to Canvas, and papers 1-2 will also be emailed to your reviewers (please use a file format that your reviewers can access). When emailing files, including all relevant material in a single file, and give it a transparent title.

A trip to the Writing Center earns you 1 point extra credit (per writing assignment)! Please ask them to send an email confirmation of your visit.

More information will be provided in class for each assignment, so be sure to read it carefully.

Paper 1: Overview of chosen group/language + annotated bibliography: location, history, contemporary living situation, describe two noteworthy aspects of culture, some notes on their language (language family affiliation, number of speakers & viability, two interesting facts about the grammar/lexicon that you have observed). Bibliography should contain 4-5 of the major linguistic and ethnographic sources beyond those I have identified for you (more information regarding sources will be provided in class handouts and during the library instructional session), plus annotations for each one (short description of what the source is about and how it may be useful for you). 1000-1200 words + bibliog. Annotated bibliography due Sept 12; Paper draft/revisions due Sept 16/23. Classroom debate: Amazonia’s isolated peoples. Position statement defining the arguments supporting your assigned perspective on the debate, 400-500 words. Due Sept. 29. Paper 2: Choose one of the following topics: 1) Amazonian verbal art: Consider the text assigned in class. What artistic devices can you identify, and how do they contribute to the aesthetic quality of the whole, and/or to its cultural function? Briefly discuss how these artistic devices are similar to and/or different from those that you are familiar with in the literature (whether written or oral) in your own native language/culture (American English or other). 2) Choose one of the following two scholarly debates we discuss in class: (a) scale and complexity of preColombian Amazonian societies, (b) Pirahã linguistic complexity and its implications. Present the arguments from the opposing sides of the debate, making reference to the appropriate literature. Then take a stand (favoring a particular side), and present your arguments in support of your position. 1000-1200 words + bibliog. Paper draft/revisions due Oct 14/24. Final paper involving chosen group. 2200-2400 words. Preliminary thesis statement due Nov 3; draft/revisions due Nov 17/Dec 5.

Languages and Cultures of Amazonia


Focus on one of the following topics: (a) Discuss the history of your chosen group. What is known about how they arrived at their current location? How were they affected by European contact? How have they interacted with other neighboring indigenous groups? To the extent information is available, what traces of interaction (e.g. borrowed words, etc.) can be observed in their language, and what does this tell us about their interaction with both other indigenous groups and Europeans? In your discussion, consider the following statement: Amazonian Indians follow "a way of life unchanged since the dawn of time" (Sebastião Salgado, 2007, Rolling Stone magazine). Do your findings support or contradict this statement? How? (b) Investigate the verbal art of the group - how they use language for ritual, artistic, and other cultural purposes. What genres of speech can be identified (narrative, song, etc.)? How do these relate to the cultural activities of the group (e.g. ritual, instruction of children, festivals)? Are there any salient register or stylistic differences, such as different speech for men and women, or shamanic ritual vs. everyday discourse? Can you identify any specific grammatical or lexical devices (such as ideophones, metaphorical expressions, etc.) that contribute to verbal artistic expression? In your discussion, consider the relationship between language and culture. How is an understanding of the linguistic practices of the group important for understanding their culture, and vice versa? (c) Investigate the group's cultural practices and beliefs. Focus on a practice or aspect (or set of related practices) that you find particularly surprising, interesting, or different from what you are used to. Compare and contrast this practice/aspect with your own cultural experience, and consider both how it is different and how it might be similar to your own experience in others. Finally, consider the contemporary situation of the group – how is their culture changing due to contact with the national society? Of the aspects of the culture you have examined in your paper, which do you think are more likely to continue, and which will cease to exist? Do you feel that the abandonment of these features has negative and/or positive implications for the Amazonian group in question? For the rest of us? How so? (d) Investigate the language spoken by your chosen group. Identify some aspect of the grammar that strikes you as particularly unlike what you are used to from the language(s) you speak, and another that seems very unsurprising or familiar. Discuss these, while taking into account any additional similarities/differences that exist in both cases. Finally, consider the contemporary situation of the group and its language: is their language endangered or likely to become so? Do you feel that the endangerment and/or loss of the language could have negative and/or positive implications for the Amazonian group in question? For the rest of us? How so? (e) Some other topic, which you should discuss with me ahead of time. If your group is actually two (because of limited linguistic and cultural description), just focus on the one for which you have the most relevant information vis-a-vis your chosen topic. Presentation of findings discussed in final paper in our class' 'Amazon Symposium'. You should plan for 10 minutes of presentation time (no more!) followed by a few minutes of questions. Presentations should be accompanied by some kind of visual aid (e.g. handout, Powerpoint presentation, etc.). Remember that you will be in front of an audience – please present yourself appropriately!