The Aymara Language in Its Social and Cultural Context: A Collection Essays on Aspects of Aymara Language and Culture

By M. J. Hardman | Go to book overview

4. Jama, t″axa, and P″uru: Three Categories of Feces in Aymara

Andrew W. Miracle Jr., with Juana Vasquez

This study was undertaken with two purposes in mind. First, it was hoped that some insight might be provided into the general question of noun category formulation in Aymara. Second, the opportunity to investigate this topic seemed worthwhile in that it is a category seldom dealt with in formal language studies. The category is used so extensively for metaphorical purposes in English that the investigation of possible similar use in a non-Indo-European language was intriguing.

Jama was "discovered" inadvertently by students in the Aymara class at the University of Florida through mispronunciation of other syllables during a lesson. The explanation correcting the students led to a brief discussion of the category and some English parallels. Subsequently in the course of this investigation it was learned that Jama is a general category, the verb being jamaraña. jamaraña can be translated as "to defecate" (ensuciar)1or "to go to the bathroom " (hacer bano). Thus jama might be translated formally as feces or manure in English. There are two other words in Aymara which would also translate as feces or manure: t″axa and P″uru. There are no other Aymara terms for manure or feces.

A great deal of time was spent in exploring the metaphorical uses of these terms. The terms jama, t″axa, and P″uru are seldom used in making jokes. Jaqi jama can be used to elicit laughter, but even then it is used in

Juana Vasquez is a marvelous storyteller and often regaled the students in the Aymara class with vivid renditions of old folktales involving anthropomorphized fauna. Out of these renditions grew the term paper Jama, T″axa, and P″uru: Three Categories of Feces in Aymara," writen by Andrew W. Miracle Jr., with Juana Vasquez, for a course in introductory linguistics in 1971. Once again the importance of shape to the Aymara is highlighted, adding as well the matter of texture. The paper was reviewed and partially rewritten by the author for this volume.

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