A Sketch of the Grammar of Space in Okiek

Authors: Robert Joseph Ochieng (University of Nairobi, Kenya)
Jane Akinyi Ngala Oduor (University of Nairobi, Kenya)
Kithaka wa Mberia (University of Nairobi, Kenya)
Speakers: Robert Joseph Ochieng, Jane Akinyi Ngala Oduor, Kithaka wa Mberia
Topic: Anthropological Linguistics
The GLOCAL AFALA 2023 Colloquium


Navigating through the physical world in our everyday activities makes spatial cognition a pre-requisite cognitive ability for our survival on earth (Evans and Chilton 2010; Mix et al  2010). Research into spatial cognition shows that our linguistic knowledge and spatial awareness are complementary to each other with claims that language does indeed modulate our spatial cognition (Whorf 1939/2000, Landau  et al 2010). The aim of this paper is twofold i.e., to present a sketch of  the grammar of space in Okiek and to examine whether and how that sketch of the grammar of space  modulates our on-line spatial representations in an Okiek narrative. Okiek is an endangered language branch. The data used in our analysis is a narrative text supplemented by elicited words, phrases, and sentences collected during field work in Nessuit town in Nakuru county. The paper uses the analytical tools provided by the Levinson and Wilkins (2006) to examine:  (i) the structure and grammatical properties of the basic locative  construction (BLC)- the expressions that responds to Where questions; (ii) the strategies for packaging the components of a motion event; and (iii) the characterization of the  orientation and disposition of the subject in the  BLC with respect to the ground. Additionally, the paper examines whether and how selection and enrichment mechanisms have been employed in order to influence our on-line spatial understanding of the narrative. The findings of this paper will shed light into the strategies of spatial representation in the Okiek branch in the Kalenjin language family.

Keywords: Space, the grammar of space spatial cognition, selection, enrichment, basic locative construction, motion event.