August 9, 2010
In August I’ll be traveling to Santa Cruz, Bolivia in order to study Aymara, the language of the Aymara people of Bolivia, Peru, and Chile. Just a few of the language’s unique features are its three-part system of logic (unlike the binary true-false logic of English) and its conflation of the present and past tenses. To the Aymara, present and past are linked together—and distinguished from the future—on the basis of being visible. Quite unlike English—and any other language I’ve heard of—the past is what lies ahead, while the future lies behind: the past is what is looked into; one must turn around in order to see the future. Statements like “looking ahead to the year 1200” or “looking back toward 2050” sound strange to my ear, but they are suggestive of the Aymara’s intimate, active relationship with their own cultural history. My greatest hope for this trip is that my long-established perspectives will continue to be shattered.