Olivier Le Guen (CIESAS, México)
“Managing epistemicity in everyday Mayan interactions”
Recent studies tend to show that human cognition evolved based on social principles (Tomasello, 2008) and everyday cognition is primarily socially motivated (Enfield & Levinson, 2006). Conversational analysis have long shown that even informal conversations are constructed on basic organizational universal principles (e.g. turn taking, repair, etc.) (Enfield & al., 2010; Sacks et al., 1974; Stivers et al., 2009). However, it remains that some ways of speaking are nonetheless locally determined according to cultural maxims (Ochs Keenan, 1976). This talk examines how Yucatec Mayas (Mexico) manage epistemicity in their everyday speech, that is, how information is distilled and evaluated very carefully according to conversational contexts as well as whom the interlocutor is (or could be).
I will follow Proust (2008)’s proposal on conversational metacognition that considers embodied communication as a crucial way, not only to convey information, but also to evaluate and predict the accuracy of the information transmitted.
My presentation will be twofold. First, based on an experimental task and more than 10 years of participant ethnography, I will show how Yucatec Mayan consider that sharing information is ultimately a socially dangerous act and that retaining information (or even lying) in ambiguous context is preferred. The second half of the talk will examine the use of epistemic markers, as well as several embodied aspects of conversational metacognition, especially interactional gestures and emotion display.