Journal of American Folklore. July-Sept. 1949, Vol. 62 No. 245, p336-337.
Sierra Popoluca Speech. By Mary L. Foster and George M. Foster. (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1948. Institute of Social Anthropology, Publication No. 8, PP. 44. $0-40.)
The Sierra Popoluca, according to the authors, are one of four small groups of Indians living in the southeastern part of the State of Vera Cruz. Together with the Texistepec Popoluca, the Copainala and San Andres Tuxtla of Chiapas, and the Zoque languages of Oaxaca, they form the Zoque branch of the Mixe-Zoque stock. The remaining two Popoluca languages, Oluta and Sayula, belong with the Mixe.
"The data which form the basis of this study were gathered in the spring of 1941, when we lived for 10 weeks in Soteapan, cabecera, of the municipio of the same name, which includes more than half of the Sierra Popoluca and 'Which is the only municipio entirely composed of Popoluca-speaking inhabitants. The principal objective of the field trip was ethnographic research, and the linguistic work was carried on as a more or less accidental and unplanned side line. When we discovered that one of our principal informants, Leandro Perez at that time about thirty-five years of age, knew a great many stories, we decided to record as many as time permitted, in spite of our lack of formal linguistic field training. Eventually we found ourselves with about 300 pages of textual material. These data, in addition to phonetic and grammatical material which we gathered simultaneously, form the basis for this study. Although the speech here analyzed is that of Perez we made enough use of other linguistic informants to know that his manner of speaking is typical of Soteapan" (p. i).
Despite the fact that the Fosters carried on linguistic work "as a more or less accidental and unplanned side line," they have assembled a very competent sketch of the language. Their paper is not a detailed analysis of a particular topic but a broad descriptive account covering phonology, morphology, and syntax, plus an analyzed text and vocabulary. To this reviewer, who is no student of Popoluca, the task seems to be very well done, and it is certainly not the usual amateurish offering linguists so often get from ethnologists. The Fosters have taken pains to proceed according to the best methodology and have obviously both read and understood the work of linguists working in the same field. Their sketch, especially since it concerns a language in a field linguistically so little known as Mexico, is a welcome and useful addition to knowledge. If more ethnologists would observe the same obligation with the same degree of competence, our collections of linguistic data would be far more complete.
University of California, Los Angeles, California
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