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Linguistics Seminar - Diego Arispe-Bazan, post-doc, Northwestern University (anthropology): "Form over Evidence: Poetics of Arguing History"

Event Type
Department of Linguistics
wifi event
Nov 30, 2020   4:00 pm  
Daniel Stelzer

In this chapter from my book manuscript, I identify a highly circulating structure of argumentation performed during critiques of Spanish migration to Peru. During my fieldwork with Peruvianlocals and Spanish migrants in the city of Lima in 2015 and 2016, I identified this form in multiple debates in person and in online web forums. Composed of specific combinations of verb forms and pronominal deixis, the poetic structure itself appears to act as confirmation of the truth of the claims made therein. Entirely avoiding markers of epistemic modality (necessarily lexical in Spanish), this structure performs certainty about a set of truth claims about the past, specifically the period of Spanish colonization of Latin America. Features include the use of simple past, unqualified, combined with irrealis verb forms, meant to bolster the validity of the arguments laid out by the speaker in lieu of, for example, evidentials of any sort. These claims, moreover, become a means for national identities to be inhabited in acts of alignment. Through a poetic structure, interactants link themselves and others toimagined historical and contemporary social personae, claiming relationships of belonging to national polities that require them to insist on their truthful interpretation of events in the past. In making claims about history, interactants coalesce “Peruvian” and “Spaniard” as types that emerge from chronotopic ideologies of the nation taught respectively (and differently) to Spanish migrants and Peruvian locals. This is crucial to understanding the transmission of historical information in everyday contexts via grammatical and lexical encoding, demonstrating that such transmission is an inevitably ideological event.

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