John J. Gumperz Memorial Lecture: John Haviland (Anthropology, UCSD)

Event Date: 

Friday, March 9, 2018 -
1:30pm to 3:30pm

Event Location: 

  • Education 1205

John J. Gumperz Memorial Lecture

Speaker: John Haviland (Anthropology, UCSD)

Topic: "K'alal Lajyak'bekon Notisia, "Bweno Ta Xinupunkutik," Gloria a Dios, Háganlo Bien (When they told me “Well, we’re getting married”—Glory to God! Do it well!): Changing Tzotzil Discourses of Marriage"

Generously co-sponsored by the Language & Globalization Lecture Series of the Mellichamp Global Dynamics Initiative


K'alal Lajyak'bekon Notisia, "Bweno Ta Xinupunkutik," Gloria a Dios, Háganlo Bien (When they told me “Well, we’re getting married”—Glory to God! Do it well!): Changing Tzotzil Discourses of Marriage

John B. Haviland, UCSD

In one of the first years of my field research in Zinacantán, Chiapas, Mexico, I was dragooned into being the godfather for a wedding. Although my conversational Tzotzil was reasonably fluent, I was woefully ill-equipped to manage even the most rudimentary couplets of the elegant, parallel speech then required in a godfather’s admonitions to newlyweds about how to negotiate married life. I sought out a tutor to give me a basic template and managed to limp through that first wedding. However, the challenges of producing the highly structured formal and semantic layering of what Gossen characterized as speech for “heated hearts” have plagued me ever since, for half a century now. The parallel forms and stereoscopic imagery of this elevated register, which surpass the normal repertoire of many if not most native Tzotzil speakers, emerge in ritualized and highly structured events (ranging from shamanistic curing to wedding admonitions), as well as in quotidian and down to earth interaction (from scolding and gossip, to parody and ribald joking). These were topics of long conversations with John Gumperz—often over the telephone—when we first met in the 1980s. But as the structural regularities of the institution of marriage have changed in modern Chiapas, so have the discourses imparted to those who indulge in it. This talk will trace some of the apparently iconic links between the resulting social forms and the corresponding forms of words, ending with a wedding of just a few months ago in which a radical transformation not only of the register but of the language(s) involved emerges.