In one of my last posts before my long blog hiatus, I mentioned the documentation foray that Karina Sullón Acosta (a colleague of mine from the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, in Lima, Peru) was planning on Muniche, a virtually extinct linguistic isolate spoken in the town of Munichis, near Yurimaguas. This work proved to be quite successful, given the circumstances, and so we decided to expand the documentation project.
Time, however, was short. Alejandrina Chanchari Icahuate, the person that Karina found who had the best memory of the language, is about 90 years old, and in frail health. Fortunately, NSF has a grant category for precisely for precisely these kinds of time-sensitive projects (RAPID), and I succeeded in obtaining a small RAPID grant through the Documenting Endangered Languages program (see the proposal summary here). With this funding, Chris Beier, Steph Farmer, Greg Finley, Michael Roswell, Karina Sullón Acosta, and myself worked for two months with three rememberers of the language, Alejandrina Chanchari Icahuate, Donalia Icahuate Baneo, and Melchor Sinti Saita, to document as much of the language as possible during this time.
There is much to tell about this summer’s work on Muniche, but let me confine myself in this post to the concrete project products. One of our major goals for this summer’s work was to prepare a set of Muniche language materials for the speakers, their family members, and any other interested community members, and to deliver them before the end of the field season. These materials included a Muniche-Spanish dictionary organized both thematically and in alphabetical order (available here), a non-technical grammatical description and dialogue collection (available here) with an audio CD of the dialogues, and a spelling primer for use of the practical Muniche orthography. The efforts of Chris Beier, Steph Farmer, and Greg Finley during the last week of the project assured that the materials were completed, and given to everyone who wanted them.
We are now working on analyzing the materials we collected in greater depth, but it was very satisfying to be able to prepare and deliver something for the people who care about Muniche before we left.