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Auerbach Lecture | 08.11.2021 | 18 Uhr

Augustine Agwuele (Linguistics, San Marcos): Deictic and Verbal Gestures in Construal of Future Time 


Mọ[know] ojú[face], mọ[know] ara[body]

Yoruba are socialized to ‘know face’ and ‘recognize body’- that is, be competent in body-talks. It becomes a social ill to be said of an adolescent, talk less of an adult, that they neither ‘know face’ nor ‘understand body’, an elementary constituent of communicative competence in the language, an invaluable social capital, and indelible feature of every communicative interaction. An acculturated individual knows for instance, that a thing of the past is never to be revisited, after all, the masquerades only swing their shawl backwards (Àfìséhìn ni egúngún ńfi aṣọ); that life rolls ahead and humans follow in tow, and that, the one who goes with it, dies with it, as such, we come along with it.

Taking cue from their time-related metaphor, my goal is to explain Yoruba gesture morphologies for time in the spatial domain, the cultural frame of reference that informs their conceptualization of time, and their gestural enactment of them in communicative situations. I will illustrate some of their temporal deictics and the directions to which they point relating them to their ways of conceptualizing and representing time.

Transcending this basic description, I will suggest that despite evidence of the use of unilineal deictics, (i.e., past is located in the back, the future is in the back or even mapped vertically as were it climbing stairs) there is an underlying cyclic conceptualization of the future and past that configures the location of the future. Consequently, it appears that the parsing of communicatively co-produced deictic gestures and verbal signs would then be successful when against a careful attention to the shared cultural world sense on which the patterned performance is based.

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