SOAS University of London

Department of Linguistics, School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

Time in culture

Vera Da Silva Sinha (UEA)

Date: 6 February 2018Time: 3:30 PM

Finishes: 6 February 2018Time: 5:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B102

Type of Event: Seminar


Time in Culture is a short documentary that shows how ideas of time are expressed in different cultures and languages. In Western cultures time is measured by clocks and calendars using numbers. Calendars and clocks enable us to measure time intervals: years, months, days, hours, minutes and seconds. The past is thought of as located behind our backs, while the future is in front or ahead. Is this the way that everyone, in every culture, thinks and talks about time? This documentary tells the story of how three indigenous cultures of Brazil, think about, talk about and experience time.  

The Huni Kuĩ, Kamaiurá, and Awetý people talk about time very differently from us. These cultures do not use clocks and calendars. So individuals do not count their birthdays. Instead, they think about their lives in terms of life stages and the process of learning and acquiring skills throughout the life span.

For these cultures, time is thought about in terms of events and happenings, in nature and in the social world. The sounds of the crickets, the sun and the sunlight, the stars, the water level in the rivers, the rain, the breeze and the stars indicate time. The relationship between people and the environment is crucial for understanding time. Time, they say, is not behind or in front of me, but it is in my heart, in my eyes or in my mind.

Produced by:

Vera da Silva Sinha  

Vera da Silva Sinha is a PhD Student in Linguistics at the University of East Anglia. Her research topic is linguistic and cultural conceptualizations of time in indigenous languages of Brazil. This research investigates the relationship between spatial and temporal language and concepts, and the way in which concepts of time vary between languages and cultures. Through field research she tries to understand the way in which indigenous Amazonian concepts of time are organized and expressed in language structure, cosmologies and myths. Vera obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Portuguese language and literature at the Federal University of Rondônia in 1994. She has successfully completed two Master’s degrees in Social Sciences (Anthropology, Federal University of Pernambuco, 2000; Comparative Criminal Justice Studies, University of Portsmouth, 2004). She has worked in diverse academic and non-academic professional settings, from the criminal justice system, through heritage and community engagement to anthropological and linguistic research in Brazil, Sweden and the UK. Vera’s research interests include indigenous and minority identities, mythic and historical narratives, immaterial heritage, number and quantificational concepts, motion, space and time.

Co-produced by:

Prof Chris Sinha

Chris is Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science at Hunan University, China. Chris's central research interest is in the relations between language, cognition and culture, and a main aim of his research is to integrate cognitive linguistic with socio-cultural approaches to language and communication. He is experienced in field experimental and observational methods in human communication and human development. He has published widely in many disciplines, including anthropology, linguistics, education, evolutionary biology, connection science, as well as developmental and cultural psychology

Dr Wary Kamaiurá Sabino

Wary is a member of the Kamaiurá indigenous community that lives on its traditional lands in the Xingu Indigenous National Park in the State of Mato Grosso, Brazil. Wary lives in the Xingu Park, where he is a High School teacher in the indigenous school as well as teaching in the State programme of indigenous teacher education. He obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Portuguese Language and Literature from the State University of Mato Grosso (2006), followed by a specialist qualification in Indigenous School Education (2010). Wary then completed a Master’s in Linguistics (2012) and a PhD in Linguistics (2016) at the University of Brasilia. His research is in language description and documentation, with a focus on the Kamaiurá and Awetý cultures and languages (both Tupi languages).

Dr Alberto Hijazo-Gascón

Alberto holds a degree in Spanish Language and Hispanic Literature from the University of Zaragoza, Spain. He has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics of the Teaching of Spanish as a Foreign Language from Nebrija University in Madrid. He completed a PhD in Hispanic Linguistics at the University of Zaragoza in 2011. During his doctorate he made several research visits to the University of Southern Denmark, the University of Lund (Sweden), the University of California Berkeley (USA), and the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics (Netherlands). He worked as a researcher and as an associate tutor for General and Comparative Linguistics at the University of Zaragoza in 2012. He has been working as a Lecturer in Intercultural Communication and Spanish at UEA since September 2012.

Prof Luna Filipovic

Luna Filipović (PhD Cantab) is Professor of Language and Cognition. Her research interests are in psycholinguistics, forensic linguistics and language education, with a focus on bilingualism, second language learning and teaching, language typology and lan­guage effects on memory. Her forensic linguistic research draws attention to the ways in which speakers of minority languages can be disadvantaged in contexts and in access to justice. 

Edited by:

Mr Alfredo Castro

Alfredo Castro (Bachelor's degree in Journalism, University of Sevilla and Master's degree in Applied Linguistics of the Teaching of Spanish as a Foreign language, Nebrija University) is an associate tutor in Spanish who has been working at UEA since 2014. He is currently teaching Spanish as part of the degree in Modern Languages and Spanish as a subsidiary language. He is also teaching in the UEA Evening Language Programme and in the MED Language Programme. He is in charge of La Taberna UEA, the first Spanish magazine written by UEA students.

Music by:

Donna Kavangh: Donna is a New Zealand-born Composer and Audio Engineer with a history in the music, film and television industries. She has two albums and numerous film credits including current projects which have been accepted into the Norwich Radical Film Festival - UK (2016) and The New York State International Film Festival - USA (2017). She is currently working at NZLive Ltd as a Live Television Sound Technician and also freelances as a composer and audio post production engineer.

Paul Sinha: Paul is a young singer, songwriter and composer who was born in the Dutch city of Deventer and now lives and works in Amsterdam. He is one of the best known of the new generation of Dutch popular musicians. His music ranges from rap and hip-hop to pop and ballads, and has won him many national awards as well as appearances on national radio and TV.


The documentary was funded by CHASE/UEA.