Muniche Language Materials

September 29, 2009

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.

Donalia, Steph, and Greg listen to the Muniche dialogue CD

Alejandrina enjoying the Muniche dialogue CD with Greg and Steph

Donalia looking at the Muniche language materials

Donalia and her grandchildren looking at the Muniche language materials

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Amazonicas III

September 28, 2009

The CFP for the third iteration of the quasi-annual conference series on the syntax and phonology of Amazonian languages is now out (here). I attended the last conference, in Recife, Brazil, and enjoyed it tremendously.

This year the conference will be held outside of Brazil for the first time, in Bogotá, Colombia, and includes a wider range of conference themes: 1) The phonetics and phonology of laryngeal features; 2) Valency increasing strategies; 3) Lexical categorization; 4) The expression of spatial notions; and 5) Valency increasing mechanisms in Arawak languages.

I’m hoping that the location of the conference will make it more feasible and attractive for Peruvian and Ecuadorean linguists to attend than past conferences. Originally, the plan had been for the conference to be held in Leticia, right on the Amazon proper, where Peru, Colombia, and Brazil meet. That would have been wonderful, but I understand why for logistical reasons Bogotá makes more sense. In any event, I am really looking forward to the conference. Now I just need to write my abstract.