Kampan Dilemma

January 15, 2008

I’ve recently been thinking a lot about a dilemma which has been bothering me more and more over the past few months. The dilemma concerns the name to use for the sub-branch of the Arawak language family that I work with, which includes Ashéninka, Asháninka, Kakinte, Nanti, Nomatsigenga, and Matsigenka. At this time, one encounters two different names for this family in the scholarly literature: `Pre-Andine (Arawak)’ and ‘Kampan’ (also ‘Kampa’ and ‘Campa’). Unfortunately, each name suffers from certain drawbacks which make me wish there was a good alternative, but I am very hesitant about inventing a third name. My decision thus far is to use ‘Kampan’, but I remain somewhat uneasy about this choice. Let me explain.

First, what’s wrong with ‘Pre-Andine’? Basically, the problem is that the history of the term makes it very ambiguous what set of languages one is referring to by the term. The term was originally coined by Paul Rivet for a proposed grouping of Arawak languages that encompassed what are now commonly known as the Kampan and the Pur\’us branches. The best known languages of the latter branch are Yine (Piro) and Apurinã (Ipurina). Later, Yanesha’ (Amuesha) and the Harakmbet family were added, and each subsequently removed. As David Payne showed back in 1991, however, there is little evidence to support even the grouping together of the Kampan and Purús languages. All recent classifications treat the Purús branch as coordinate with the Kampan branch within Southern Arawak. Similarly, Yanesha’ was removed from Pre-Andine, and is now sometimes grouped with Chamicuro. Those who retained the term `Pre-Andine’ employed it for this successively dwindling group, until only the Kampan languages remained, rendering `Pre-Andine’ coextensive with `Kampan’.

So, my basic objection to `Pre-Andine’ is that it was initially coined to denote a grouping that includes the Kampan branch as a subgroup, which, as far as I’m concerned, renders its use to denote only the Kampan group as rather suspect. Perhaps worse, from the perspective of scholarly communication, one can never be sure without further investigation, when someone uses the term ‘Pre-Andine’, which version of ‘Pre-Andine’ they have in mind. With or without Amuesha? With or without the Purús branch? Its a mess.

But I think I understand why some people prefer ‘Pre-Andine’ to ‘Kampa(n)’ — the latter term carries with it some political baggage that renders it somewhat unattractive. In the early colonial period ‘Campa’ was used by the Spaniards to refer to all the, well, Kampan peoples. Since then, however, the term has come to be used principally in relation to the groups that are also known as the ‘Asháninka’ and ‘Ashéninka’. In the last few decades, however, the political leadership of these groups have expressed that they find the term ‘Campa’ derogatory, and have been successful in getting many outsiders to adopt the ethnonyms ‘Asháninka’ and ‘Ashéninka’ instead (see this post for some discussion of the politics of ethnonyms in Peruvian Amazonia).

As a result, linguists scrupulously avoid using ‘K/Campa’ to denote individual languages, but many continue to use it to denote the sub-branch of Arawak to which these languages belong. As far as I know, there has been no complaint about this sub-branch-level use of the term ‘K/Campa’, but I could easily imagine such complaints arising. So, what to do, if one does not want to fall back on ‘Pre-Andine’?

Sure, one could invent a new term, but except for a small group of linguists who prefer ‘Pre-Andine’, most linguists, and Arawakanists in particular, know and use the term ‘K/Campa’ for the family in question. I fear it would only confuse matters to introduce a third term. And as a junior scholar, I feel that I am in an especially weak position to suggest a new term. So thus far, I have kept using ‘Kampan’, but somewhat uneasily. What I see as the ideal resolution to this issue would be to ask the assembled political leadership of the, uh, Kampan peoples what they think should be done about the name of the sub-branch. Such an endeavor would be logistically difficult, but not entirely impossible. I’d be interested to know if other readers have faced dilemmas of this sort, and how they have dealt with it

4 Responses to “Kampan Dilemma”

  1. Mark Says:

    Siwu, the language I work on, has traditionally been grouped with some fifteen other minority languages scattered about in the mountainous Ghana-Togo borderland. The Germans (who got there first) called those languages Togorestsprachen, literally ‘Togo Remnant languages’. This name was in use until the late 1980’s despite the fact that it was known that the people themselves didn’t particularly like to be called ‘Remnant peoples’. (There is a 1992 article by a native linguist fiercely arguing against the term.)

    The first attempt to change it was in 1988 in a collection on the languages of Ghana; the proposal was to use Central Togo languages. This didn’t catch on because it was something of an anachronism, referring to ‘Togo’ in the old sense of the German colony Togoland.

    The most recent alternative has been Ghana Togo Mountain languages, a name that not only captures the geographical distribution more accurately but also captures the fact that we’re still not even sure that this is a valid phylogenetic unit. This was introduced by a SIL linguist in 1995, and it seems to be catching on now.

    Trouble is, for most of these languages we simply lack the data to do more in-depth comparative analysis. Perhaps in some ten years this loose geographical grouping will have dissolved into higher-order Niger-Congo branches.

  2. Lev Michael Says:

    Thanks, Mark, for your comments. Yes, I can see why the peoples you are talking about wouldn’t be that happy with being referred to as ‘Remnant peoples’. I think its great there are native linguists around to argue against the term. Frankly, were there Kampan native linguists I would simply turn the entire naming issue over to them and accept any decision they made (after, of course, issuing dire warnings about ‘Pre-Andine’ ;) ). It’s only a matter of time, of course, until there are Kampan native linguists — the sooner the better.

    I’m curious if you can say a little more about the process by which the term ‘Ghana Togo Mountain languages’ is catching on. Just thinking about the use of the terms ‘Pre-Andine’ and ‘Kampan’, for example, ‘Pre-Andine’ is now the term favored by SIL and is enshrined in Ethnologue. As a result of the latter, it also tends used by linguists who are not Amazonian specialists. It is also the term most likely to be used by Peruvian linguists — and I think here the influence of SIL in Peru probably plays a decisive role. ‘Kampan’ (and its variants), on the other hand, tends to be used by non-SIL, non-Peruvian Arawakanists and Amazonianists. So there are also institutional and national factors behind the use of these terms. Are there similar factors at work in the case you mention?

    As for your comments regarding the lack of comparative analysis regarding the languages you are working on, the same pretty much holds for Southern Arawak, the major branch of Arawak that I work with. As you suggest, proper classification may dispose of many of our nomenclatural problems for us.

  3. Mark Says:

    Are there similar factors at work in the case you mention?

    These are familiar (and thorny!) issues, but this case is somewhat simpler fortunately. Part of the succes of the term GTM lies probably precisely in the fact that it is not much more than a geographical mnemonic. This continues the tradition of geographical references (which is quite widespread in African linguistics anyway, cf. Niger-Congo, Nilo-Saharan) but gets rid of the derogatory ‘remnant’ adjective.

    That it is catching on can be seen from publications in which the term is used (mostly by non-SIL linguists — SIL linguists don’t publish that much anyway) and more importantly by recent workshop in Ghana (summer 2006) that brought together all linguists working on these languages; the term was used in the title of that workshop. All present (among them quite a few Ghanaians) agreed that the ‘remnant’ thing should go, and GTM was the best alternative.

  4. Lev Michael Says:

    Well, it certainly seems like the way y’all made the decision was pretty much the ideal way to deal with the issue. It would make sense to try something similar with Kampan/Pre-Andine.

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