Accueil du site> Membres du LESC > Membres permanents > VAPNARSKY Valentina (EREA)


Regional fields

Mesoamerica, Mexico, Guatemala, Maya

Thematic fields

anthropology, linguistics, pragmatics, ethnohistory, categorisation, temporality, oral and written traditions, American Indian literature and language


Maya, Yucatec, Itza, Cruso’Ob, time, history, prophecy, modality, agency, verbal art, poetry, interaction, grammar

> Lire cette page en français

JPEG - 49.3 kb
Distribution of offerings, Maya ritual specialist,
Quintana Roo, Mexico (photo V. Vapnarsky)

Valentina Vapnarsky has been a research fellow at the CNRS since 1999, assigned to the EREA centre (Enseignement et recherche en ethnologie amérindienne / Teaching and Research in American Indian Ethnology), where she is currently the director. She teaches linguistic anthropology at the University of Nanterre, as well as Yucatec Maya, the oral tradition, and the grammar of the Mayan languages at INALCO (National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilisations / l’Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales), where she coordinates the Mayan Language and Culture degree course. She is a member of the GERM (Le Groupe d’enseignement et de recherche maya / The Maya Teaching and Research Group).

Valentina Vapnarsky’s research falls within in the field of linguistic anthropology. It essentially concerns the Itza Maya (Guatemala) and the Yucatec Maya (Quintana Roo, Mexico) among whom she has spent several years conducting field research. After working on categorisation (cognitive ethnobiology, the study of classifiers and their use) in the context of international projects, for her thesis she analysed conceptions and expressions of temporality among the Yucatec Maya, particularly the processes of discursive historical memory construction among Maya descended from the Cruso’ob, which were established around the cult of the talking cross after the Caste War.

JPEG - 42.3 kb
Mayan home, Quintana Roo, Mexique
(photo V. Vapnarsky)

Her research has three principle orientations, which are closely linked:
– time frameworks, conceptions of agency and causality: a consideration of the cognition of time, focusing on the multiplicity of temporal frameworks used individually and culturally, their contextual dependence and the role of language, through discursive practices, in the configuration of experienced and represented time. This research is linked to a consideration of systems of historicity and ways of apprehending the future, particularly among the Yucatec Maya. Specifically analysed are the links between temporality, modality and knowledge, event conception, causal attributions and manifestations of agency;
– grammar and verbal interaction: the grammar of Yucatec Maya language is approached on the basis of situated interactions in which it is practiced, and conceived in its tension between a standardised system on the one hand, and a place of creativity and the contextual emergence of meaning on the other. From this point of view, and often in the context of a comparative approach with colleagues (Mayanists or colleagues from other fields), Valentina Vapnarsky has produced texts on the nature of lexical roots, ergativity, the actantial model and voices, tense-modality-aspect, predication, agency. Her research on category versatility, conducted with X. Lois, resulted in the international project POLYCAT: La polyvalence catégorielle: un paramètre linguistique universel? Approches grammaticales, sémantiques et cognitives (Category Versatility: A Universal Linguistic Parameter? Grammatical, Semantic and Cognitive Approaches) (ANR 2006-2010), including around twenty world languages and broadening the study to the question of how children acquire categories;
– the dynamics of Maya oral and written tradition: the analysis of contextual variation and its individual, socio-cultural and historical roots led her to understand types of discourse, memory construction processes and the constitutive dynamics of oral tradition. This perspective encompasses studies on the forms, the rhetoric and the effectiveness of Maya day-to-day or ritual speech (for example, on parallelism, cyclicality, variation). This research has extended to indigenous-language contemporary literature, specifically the work of Maya poet Briceida Cuevas Cob, involving reflections on translation.

Principal publications

  • 2013 eds (with A. Monod Becquelin and M. de Fornel), L’agentivité, vol. II: interactions, grammaire et narrativité [special issue], Ateliers d’anthropologie, 39 http://ateliers.revues.org/9250.
  • 2012 (with A. Monod Becquelin and C. Bequey), Passive and ergativity in three Mayan languages, in G. Authier and K. Haude (eds), Ergativity, valency and voice (Berlin, Mouton de Gruyter).
  • 2011 (with O. Le Guen), The guardians of space and history: Understanding ecological and historical relations of the contemporary Yucatec Maya to their landscape, in C. Isendahl and B. Liljefors Persson (eds), Ecology, power, and religion in Maya landscapes (Markt Schwaben, Germany, Verlag Anton Saurwein): 191–206.
  • 2010 (with X. Lois, S. Atran, C. Fréger), Itza’, memorias mayas (Mexico, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) [édition trilingue Itza’/Espagnol/Anglais].
  • 2010 eds (with A. Monod Becquelin), L’agentivité: ethnologie et linguistique à la poursuite du sens [special issue], Ateliers du LESC [on line].
  • 2009, Predicción y performatividad en la memoria histórica maya yucateca, in A. Gunsenheimer, T. Okoshi Harada, J. Chuchiak (eds), Texto y contexto: La literatura Maya Yucateca en Perspectiva Diacrónica (Aachen, Shaker): 160–189.
  • 2008, Paralelismo, ciclicidad y creatividad en el arte verbal maya yucateco, Estudios de Cultura Maya, Mexico, XXXII: 155–199 [on line].
  • 2007, Introduction, édition et traduction au français de poèmes mayas yucatèques de Briceida Cuevas Cob, Revue Jointure, Paris [on line].
  • 2006 eds (with X. Lois), Lexical categories and root classes in Amerindian languages (Bern, Peter Lang).


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 25 September 2017

Chargée de recherche, CNRS
[Associate Research Professor CNRS]


EREA website