Post by Alex
So we have a lot to talk about. 

This Monday was our first day working with Janet, who teaches the course about Zapotec of Teotitlán del Valle at San Pablo. Our first task was to create some materials for a children’s Zapotec class—little booklets with animal, greetings, and numbers in Zapotec. Then we started to plan for Tuesday and our first trip to Teotitlán. We planned to meet with Janet’s aunt to record some simple greetings and numbers for the children’s class as well as minimal pairs (words that mean different things but are the same except for one key element). Because Zapotec has contrastive tones, we hope these recordings will help us compare each different tone in the language. Janet said her students have a lot of trouble with this, so Helen and I are going to try to create a kind of tone guide for her to use in class. 
PictureView from a street of Teotitlan
Tuesday we left San Pablo around 10:30 to go to Teotitlán. It’s about a 45 minute ride away from Oaxaca City. We were going to take a bus but there was a cab that went just to Teotitlán so Janet, Helen and I hopped in. I’m not sure it’s common anywhere in the US, but this cab was kind of like a mini bus. It was a regular taxi car but it would stop at bus stops and pick up passengers who were going in the direction of Teotitlán. So it was like we were sharing a cab with whoever happened to need a ride! A bit more expensive then the bus but much cheaper than taking a taxi all by yourself. 

PictureHelen and I outside of Preciosa Sangre de Cristo
When we got to Teotitlán we first got to see a little bit of the amazing church. Walking in we immediately smelled the fresh flowers at the altar and side chapels. The patio was gorgeous as well with trees and flowers and a few decorations in preparations for a big town party that Janet says is going to happen next week.  We then went to meet with Janet’s aunt, but it turned out there was a miscommunication about timing, and she wasn’t at home. This left us with a little extra time to go check out the town museum. It had some really great pieces of Zapotec art  as well as a lot of history about the town and it’s traditions. One really neat tradition is  La Danza de la Pluma: a traditional dance with brightly colored costumes and A LOT of jumping, leaping moves.  

We then got to meet with Troi Carleton, a linguist currently working on a dictionary and orthography for Zapotec de Teotitlán del Valle. We had a kind of a training session about how the orthography compares to IPA and the many complications of trying to create an orthography. One struggle is deciding how to handle multiple pronunciations or pronunciations that vary from speaker to speaker. Do you write in each alternate spelling or chose one of the two (or three or four)? Another big question was whether or not to include tones in the orthography. Troi told us that a lot of younger speakers are beginning to lose or not use tones as much as older speakers. Because there is a lot of variation among speakers, would it make sense to try to include tones in the orthography? Troi told us that the approach right now is to leave it up to the speakers whether or not they write in the tone or not. What seems to be a theme in the orthography work are the needs and desires of the Teotitlán community. Accessibility and transparency for speakers of Zapotec de Teotitlán del Valle is key. 

After our exciting meeting with Troi, we were pretty hungry. I finally got to try a Tlayuda (the Oaxacan "pizza that Brook wrote about in the first post) and it was DELICIO"US.  Side note: I’ve been eating so much fantastic food while here I don’t know what I’m going to do when I get back. The closest thing to Mexican food in Bryn Mawr that I know of is…Chipoltle. Now don’t get me wrong I love Chipoltle but it does not compare even a tiny bit to the amazing food here in Oaxaca. 

Then, finally, we got to record some Zapotec! Janet took us to her abuela’s house where we sat outside (in the company of some very noisy birds) and recorded Zapotec greetings, numbers 1-20, minimal pairs, and some animal names. Janet’s abuela didn’t speak as much Spanish as she did Zapotec so Janet helped us translate a bit, but we also got to try out some of what we had learned in Zapotec class! It was a truly amazing experience and tomorrow we’re going to work with the recordings to create materials for the kids’ course! 

We’re also planning a post comparing things we’ve learned in Zapotec de Teotitlán del Valle and Zapotec de Macuiltianguis but there’s still a little more work to do going over the orthography. Like I said before, it’s really tricky!

That’s what’s been going on this week, and little later we’ll post about some of the more touristy things we’ve been up to. 

Gaxagtiun! (see you soon) 

Troi Carleton:

Teotitlán de Valle Museo:

Brook Danielle Lillehaugen
7/3/2013 10:22:50 am

I'm so glad you're doing this work! I'm looking forward to re-joining you next week.


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