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This year's keynote speaker will be Anthony K. Webster (University of Texas-Austin), giving a talk entitled “The Understanding of a Simple Poem:” Seductive Ideophony, Misunderstanding and the Sounds of Navajo Poetry (abstract below).
“The Understanding of a Simple Poem:” Seductive Ideophony, Misunderstanding and the Sounds of Navajo Poetry
Anthony K. Webster
Inspired by Edward Sapir’s suggestion that “the understanding of a simple poem” might be a key site for thinking through questions of linguistic relativity, I reflect on the social and linguistic processes of understanding and misunderstanding a “simple” poem. I begin by presenting a poem written in Navajo by Rex Lee Jim and four translations of the poem. Three will be from Navajo consultants and one of those translations will be, from a certain perspective, rather surprising. Namely, why does one consultant translate this poem as if it is composed of ideophones? The fourth translation is mine. I follow this by working through the morphology of the poem in Navajo and saying something more about the translators and the process of translation. I then provide a transcript of a conversation I had with Blackhorse Mitchell about this poem. I use this to take up questions of phonological iconicity (punning) and the seductive quality of ideophony. I also place this poem within a context of the stick dice game in Navajo philosophy. This leads, in the conclusion, to reflections about linguistic relativity, misunderstandings, sound, poetics and the role of a humanities of speaking in anthropology and linguistics.
The coordinators of WAIL are grateful for the support of the following groups on the UCSB campus:
For further information contact the conference coordinators:
Adrienne Tsikewa & Jesús Olguín Martínez