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

16. Effects of Spanish Tense versus Aymara Tense on Mutual Attitudes (from "Cultures in Contact")

E. Herminia Martin

The grammatical category of verbal tense, manifested so differently in Aymara and in Spanish (see essay 13), reflects differing world views in the two languages, giving rise to the kind of cultural barriers that make integration in bilingual areas difficult. The Aymara speaker, whose expression of thought is governed by the category of visible versus not- visible naturally distrusts the truth value of statements by the Spanish speaker whose expressions are governed by rules which permit the affirmation of things of which the speaker has no direct knowledge. At the same time, the Spanish speaker, for whom it is a matter of indifference whether knowledge be direct or indirect, interprets the questions of the Aymara speaker as the result of unjustified distrust or excessive suspicion.

____________________
This excerpt from "Cultures in Contact" by Martin (see note to essay 13) addresses, pointedly and succinctly, one of the most salient cross-cultural problems between Aymara and non-Aymara. From anthropological literature ( Tschopik 1946 and La Barre 1948, often quoted in introductory textbooks) through teachers to the ordinary citizen in the streets, the Aymara have been considered a suspicious lot--it turns out, as Martin shows, for grammatical reasons. And the converse also occurs--that the non-Aymara are all boastful, say more than they know, and speak without thought, are equally common beliefs among the Aymara, again, for grammatical reasons. Before the work of Martin, of the other contributors to this book, and of the editor, these grammatical reasons were unknown to either side. Martin, a native speaker of Spanish from the Argentine, with knowledge of Aymara structure and warm personal relationships among the Aymara, was in a unique position to view the situation dispassionately. The translation is by the editor.

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