Everyone in Puno helps raise sheep and alpaca.
As a linguistic anthropologist, I have to do fieldwork. That might mean traveling to a far‑off location to hear people speak. In Puno, I do actual “field” work. I herd sheep and alpacas. I plant and harvest crops. I work alongside the people I am studying. For me, this is perfect. I can listen for a sign that what people are saying is different from the languages I already know.
When herding, my new neighbors and I take the animals to a hillside to graze. On these walks, I learn about the people I am with. I also learn about the land where they have lived all their lives. I help families prepare fields to plant the crops they will need all year. And my understanding of these people grows.
A woman herds her flock of sheep near Lake Titicaca.
Part of my studies includes interviewing people. I ask them to speak to me. This is called elicitation.
I ask people to say specific words or sentences into my recorder. Later, I study these to understand how they are spoken.
Other times, I do free‑form interviews. People talk about whatever they like. They tell me about their lives. They tell me local folktales or talk about the news. Some talk about the changes in the region and in their languages.
women in Puno, Peru
Most of the people who speak with me are 50 years old or older. Many speak their languages well. But many younger people do not. They only speak Spanish.
It is really sunny.
The people here look for ways to celebrate life. I am invited to an annual play about a man and a woman who are said to have founded Puno. This is another chance to listen to the indigenous languages.
I had hoped to hear a new language in Puno. One that I did not know. While the people here do speak a mixture of Quechua and Aymara, I don’t hear a new language. Still, I consider my time here well spent. I learned there is much more to discover about these people and their wonderful words.
Actors pretend to be the man and woman who founded Puno.
See you later!
GULF OF MEXICO