LINGUIST List 27.2351

Wed May 25 2016

Books: The Heart of the Matter: Collins

Editor for this issue: Sara Couture <>

Date: 25-May-2016
From: Gayle Sheehan <>
Subject: The Heart of the Matter: Collins
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Title: The Heart of the Matter
Subtitle: Seeking the Center in Maya-Mam Language and Culture
Series Title: Publications in Ethnography 44
Published: 2015
Publisher: SIL International Publications

Book URL:

Author: Wesley M. Collins
Paperback: ISBN: 9781556713750 Pages: 220 Price: U.S. $ 39.95

Can a culture have a theme that unifies seemingly unrelated practices? In this volume, Collins suggest that Maya-Mam customs as different as constructing a house, staying healthy, seeking God, disciplining children, agreeing to a contract, or just speaking the language, all originate from the same concept -- a search for the center. This is far more than mere balance, long recognized as a Mayan cultural value. Rather, center space is a place of physical and metaphysical peace, acceptance, meaning, health, happiness and "home".

Collins also shows how centeredness is deeply embedded in the grammar of Mam -- its lexicon, morphology, syntax, and discourse structure. This relatedness of Mam culture and linguistics provides an unusually detailed contribution to the debate on linguistic relativity and the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. Collins combines historical accounts with firsthand ethnographic and linguistic methodology to explore the concept of centeredness. Detailed accounts of his personal interaction with the Mam illustrate and enrich the book's concepts.

This volume will interest students of the relationship between language and culture generally, and specifically those interested in the Maya of Mexico and Guatemala.

Wesley M. Collins (Ph.D., The Ohio State University), along with his family, lived and worked among the Maya-Mam people for over 30 years. He currently directs the CILTA linguistic training course in Peru. His academic interests include linguistic development of indigenous languages and Mam-language research.

Linguistic Field(s): Anthropological Linguistics
                            Discourse Analysis
                            General Linguistics

Subject Language(s): Mam (mam)
Language Family(ies): Mayan

Written In: English (eng)

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Cambridge University Press

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Page Updated: 25-May-2016