The way coca “speaks”: Pragmatic features of Andean divination

Vito Bongiorno


In this paper I will describe and interpret some data from Southern Quechua and Southern Aymara spoken texts recorded during traditional divinatory sessions. This analysis is aimed to show that divination can be considered as an example of how ritual speech, often described as a phenomenon based on fixed sequences, is characterized by variable elements too, being the relationship between a particular “context of situation” and the divinatory speech event very strong. In particular, the analysis focuses on a specific kind of speech acts, which seem to be built with the help of morphological devices that are normally used to indicate the source of information in the Quechua and Aymara language families. The same devices are used with a specific performative function in the context of divination: To “officialise” the message of the oracle and to oppose this to the speech acts of the diviner.

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