A scientific finding (Nunez & Sweetser 2006, pdf) about Aymara is catching the news (more, Dutch): The Aymara people refer, in their words and their gestures, to the past as though it were before them, and to the future as though it were behind them.

Did he see it before him with his own eyes? Is that where the gesture comes from?

A nice analysis at physorg and interesting comments (more) suggests that the uniqueness of the Aymara way is exaggerated (there are many other occasions where the past is put in front and the future in the back). It is also stated that the finding is not new, as it has been described before in this book. A further complication is that the Aymara mark whether they were an eye-witness to an event or just heard about it.

The writers of the original article appear to be aware of these things. Their main contribution seems to be that gestural and spoken data support each other in this case and that they should always be looked at together in similar studies.

The authors do say that besides Aymara “so far all documented language appear to share a spatial metaphor mapping future events onto spatial locations in front of ego and past events onto locations behind ego”. Well, I can not find it on the list of human universals and they provide no reference. Let’s face it, it smells a bit like a strawman. But for the greater good of protecting the Aymara heritage and Earths cultural riches I am sure we can all put such petty criticisms behind us.

I will end by saying: Aruskipasipxañanakasakipunirakispawa [?]