Regional fields

Brazilian Amazon, Chiapas (Mexico)

Thematic fields

ethnolinguistics, ethnology of speech, oral tradition, rhetoric, ethnosyntax


Trumai (Upper Xingu, Brazil), Tzeltal (Chiapas, Mexico), oral traditions, parallelism, ergativity, mythology, agency, analysis of rituals

> Lire cette page en français

JPEG - 24.5 kb
Trumai, Xingu, 1980
(photo A. Monod Becquelin)

After studying classical literature, Aurore Monod Becquelin turned to linguistics and ethnology. Her first field study was conducted in the Brazilian Amazon, in the Upper Xingu region, a multi-ethnic and multilingual cultural area. She specialised the language and culture of the Trumai who were linguistically isolated, and published her doctoral thesis on the linguistic and mythological practices of these Indians. She then began a thorough examination of speech and the oral tradition, the contrast between traditional learning and recent school-based education, and the collective rituals of this region, an analysis that resulted in a book that dealt with the categories involved in the dynamics of multilingual and multicultural co-action.
 In 1972, while continuing her research among the Trumai, she began a new field study in Mexico among the Tzeltal Mayans of Chiapas, in collaboration with archaeologists and ethnologists (the Tonina project). Her first texts dealt with rituals and their associated discourse. While researching the rhetorical and performance customs of Mayan speech, and making contributions to the study of parallelism, she analysed certain aspects of grammar – composition, the passive, ergativity – in collaboration with Mayanist colleagues.

JPEG - 36.9 kb
Ritual verbal exchange between chiefs, Chiapas, 1991
(photo A. Monod Becquelin)

In constant association with colleagues from other disciplines, since the early 1980s she has been helping to run the Maya Teaching and Research Group (GERM / Le Groupe d’enseignement et de recherche maya), by suggesting various themes that are spread over one or several years; this group is responsible for conferences, collective publications, a project that originated in the ACI entitled “Terrain, technique et théorie”, the accommodation of international colleagues and especially the creation of a multidisciplinary program at the National Institute of Oriental Languages. She also helped assemble a “Mayan Collection” within the Éric-de-Dampierre Library at the LESC.
 In a different area, she explored a multidisciplinary field of research entitled “Anthropologie de la nuit” (“Anthropology of the Night”), run by a group that she coordinates with Jacques Galinier, and she oversees a collection by the same name published by the Ethnology Society.
 Finally, she has been teaching ethnolinguistics in numerous institutions almost uninterruptedly since the 1970s.

She is an emeritus research professor. Her current interests revolve around new research on Tzeltal and Trumai grammar, focusing on agency, rhetoric and forms of memory in American Indian societies, the anthropology of night, and the application of the concept of the “thick boundary” as a tool for analyzing the cognitive mechanisms structuring the cultural dynamics of American Indian societies.

Recent publications

  • 2013 eds (with V. Vapnarsky and M. de Fornel), L’agentivité, vol. II: interactions, grammaire et narrativité [n° thématique], Ateliers d’anthropologie, 39 http://ateliers.revues.org/9250.
  • 2012 (with C. Becquey), Case pattern and verb classes in Trumai, in G. Authier and K. Haude (eds), Ergativity, valency and voice (Berlin, De Gruyter Mouton): 289–322.
  • 2012 (with V. Valentina and C. Becquey), Passive and ergativity in three mayan languages, in G. Authier and K. Haude (eds), Ergativity, valency and voice (Berlin, De Gruyter Mouton): 51–110.
  • 2012 (with A. Breton), Before poetry, the words. A metalinguistic digression, in K. Hull and M. Carrasco (eds), Parallel worlds: Genre, discourse, and poetics in contemporary, colonial, and classic Maya literature (Boulder, University Press of Colorado).
  • 2011, Le tzeltal, in E. Bonvini, J. Busuttil and A. Peyraube (eds), Dictionnaire des langues (Paris, PUF): 1412–1419.
  • 2010 eds (with A. Breton and M. H. Ruz Sosa), Figuras mayas de la diversidad (Mérida, UNAM) [serie monografías, 10].
  • 2010 eds (with V. Vapnarsky), L’agentivité. Ethnologie et linguistique à la poursuite du sens [special issue], Ateliers du LESC, 34 http://ateliers.revues.org/8515.
  • 2010 (with V. Vapnarsky, C. Becquey and A. Breton), Paralelismo, variantes y variaciones: decir, contar y rezar la diversidad maya, in A. Monod Becquelin, A. Breton and M. H. Ruz Sosa (eds), Figuras mayas de la diversidad (Mérida, UNAM): 101–156 [serie monografías, 10].
  • 2010 (with J. Galinier et al.), Anthropology of the night. Cross cultural perspectives, Current Anthropology, 51 (6): 819–847.


Publications available at the Éric-de-Dampierre library


Contrat Creative Commons
The contents of this page (with the exception of book cover images) is made available according to the terms of the Creative Commons License Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported.

Mis à jour le 16 January 2014

Directeur de recherche émérite, CNRS
[Emeritus Research Professor CNRS]