The Meaning of Interjections in Q'eqchi'-Maya

In Western philosophy and linguistic theory, interjections--that is, words like oof, ouch, and bleah--have traditionally been understood to indicate emotional states. This article offers an account of interjections in Q'eqchi'-Maya that illuminates their social and discursive functions. In particular, it discusses the grammatical form of interjections, both in Q'eqchi' and across languages, and characterizes the indexical objects and pragmatic functions of interjections in terms of a semiotic framework that may be generalized for other languages. With these grammatical forms, indexical objects, and pragmatic functions in hand, it details the various social and discursive ends that interjections serve in one Q'eqchi' community, thereby shedding light on local values, norms, ontological classes and social relations. In short, this article argues against interpretations of interjections that focus on internal emotional states by providing an account of their meaning in terms of situational, discursive, and social context.