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Embodied Language Revitalization: Linking Uchinaaguchi, Okinawan Martial Arts, and Well-Being

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Title:Embodied Language Revitalization: Linking Uchinaaguchi, Okinawan Martial Arts, and Well-Being
Authors:May, Samantha
Contributors:May, Samantha (speaker)
Date Issued:03 Mar 2017
Description:Well-being is linked to native language use which in turn draws upon a variety of specialized knowledge systems. Such systems are known to include categorizations of the natural world, kinship terminology, or medicinal knowledge, but a key area that may be overlooked is that of lexical systems referring to physical human actions and interactions. While the most frequently used verbs and prepositions in endangered languages may be maintained or recorded, the specialized terminology associated with unique cultural and performing arts might remain unknown by non-practitioners, even if they are fluent native speakers. Using the example of karate and kubodo, two indigenous Okinawan martial arts, this research seeks to uncover the tremendous importance of documenting movement terminology associated with highly specialized physical cultural art forms. Drawing on Wenger's (2000) communities of practice concept and theories of embodied language (Buccino, Colagé, Gobbi & Bonaccorso, 2016; Streeck, Goodwin, & LeBaron, 2011), interview, participant observation, and survey data collected on martial arts-related Uchinaaguchi will be used to illustrate some uniquely Uchinaanchu conceptualizations of movement. Although such highly specialized vocabulary may seem to represent a little known “pocket domains” within various linguistic communities, it is in fact these culturally specific arts that serve to distinguish one society from all others. Thus, a vital part of the framework of each society's unique sociolinguistic outlook is embedded within culturally specific lexical systems of movement. Because elite practitioners of these arts represent a minority within a minority, recording their knowledge before it is lost is of paramount importance. Not least because of the further link between the practice of Okinawan martial arts and well-being, it is hoped that the beauty and utility of Uchinaaguchi documentation and reclamation in the Okinawan martial arts makes a strong argument for the importance of maintaining and preserving cultural arts-related movement concepts in all endangered languages. References Buccino, G., Colagé, I., Gobbi, N., & Bonaccorso, G. (2016). Grounding meaning in experience: A broad perspective on embodied language. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 29 (2016), 69-78 Streeck, J., Goodwin, C., & LeBaron, C. D. (2011). Embodied interaction: Language and body in the material world. New York: Cambridge University Press. Wenger, E. (2000). Communities of practice and social learning systems. Organization. 7(2). 225-246.
Appears in Collections: 5th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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