Everyone in Puno gets involved with raising sheep and alpaca.
To work as a linguistic anthropologist, it is important to do fieldwork. This might mean traveling to a remote location to hear people speak language. In my case, it means actual “field” work. I herd sheep or alpacas. Other times, I plant or harvest crops. I work alongside the people I am studying.
For me, this is perfect. I listen for new words and any sign that what people are saying is different from the languages I already know.
When herding, my new neighbors and I would take the animals to the hillside where they could graze all day. On these long walks, I learned a lot about the people I was with. I also learned about the landscapes where they have lived their entire lives.
All families here grow their own food. In September, families prepare their fields to plant the crops they need for the year. My understanding of these people grew, as did the crops.
A woman herds her flock of sheep near Lake Titicaca.
When I study a language, I like to interview people. I ask them to speak for me. It is called elicitation.
I ask people to say specific words or sentences into my recorder. Later, I can study these to understand the characteristics of how they’re spoken.
Other times, I do free‑form interviews. During these sessions, people talk about whatever they like. They tell me about their lives. They tell me local folktales or talk about the news. Some comment on the changes in the region and in their languages.
Most of the people who speak with me are 50 years old or older. They have lived in these hillside villages their entire lives. Many speak their languages fluently, but they are worried about the younger generations. Younger people don’t speak the languages. Many younger people only speak Spanish.
women in Puno, Peru
It is really sunny.
The people here often look for ways to celebrate life. I am invited to the annual reenactment of the arrival of Manco Qhapaq and Mama Ocllo. They are the mythical couple who are said to have founded Puno. I realize this celebration is a chance to listen to the indigenous languages.
During my studies in this region, I listened closely. I had hoped to hear a
new language, one that I did not know. While the people here do speak varieties of Quechua and Aymara, I did not discover a new language.
I consider my time here well spent, though. I learned how much more there is to discover about these people and their wonderful words.
At an annual celebration, actors portray the mythical couple who founded Puno.
See you later!
GULF OF MEXICO