Last week a box showed up from Brill with shiny new copies of the volume on negation in Arawak languages that Tania Granadillo and I edited. Springing from a Society for the Studies of the Indigenous Languages of the America (SSILA) panel that Tania and I organized in 2010, the volume includes detailed descriptions of negation constructions in Apurinã (by Sidney Facundes), Garifuna (by Pam Munro and Caitlin Gallagher), Kurripako (by Tania Granadillo), Lokono (by Marie-France Patte), Mojeño Trinitario (by Françoise Rose), Nanti (by yours truly), Paresi (by Ana Paula Brandão), Tariana (by Alexandra Aikhenvald), and Wauja (by Chris Ball). There is also a final chapter in which I present a typological overview of negation in the family, based on these chapters and other published materials. Think ahead: this would make an excellent stocking-stuffer for all the Arawak specialists on your Christmas list, or even for that typologist or synctactician interested in negation who has everything.

Arawak Negation Volume

Tania and I were originally motivated to organize the panel by our interest in seeing Arawak linguistics become a more actively comparative enterprise. Perhaps stemming from the considerable geographical dispersal of the family, and despite good descriptive work done on many of the languages of the family, Arawak linguistics has lagged behind traditions focused on other major South American language families, such as Tupían and Carib, in terms of historical and comparative work. The chapters in the volume point to some interesting patterns – and significant diversity – in Arawak negation constructions, giving us a sense of how this important grammatical sub-system works in the family.

The volume is bargain priced* at ~$127 and is available through Amazon or Brill.

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*That is, bargain priced in comparison to having to go do fieldwork on all the languages in the volume yourself.

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Máíhuna film project

April 18, 2014

I recently learned of a new documentary film project that aims to tell the story of the Máíhuna fight to defend their lands in the face of a plan to build a road through their traditional territory. As the project website describes,

The Maijuna, an indigenous group of the northeastern Peruvian Amazon, live in one of the most biologically rich regions of the world. Unfortunately, the Peruvian government wants to build a road directly through the heart of their ancestral lands, an area that they have cared for and lived in for millennia. The direct effects of highway construction and the associated impacts from an influx of colonists and subsequent deforestation would irreversibly alter the ecological fabric of this currently roadless area. Given that the Maijuna are a forest dwelling people who rely on the forest for sustenance and survival, building this road would severely impact their livelihoods and traditional culture. Help us tell the story of the last remaining Maijuna through the power of documentary filmmaking as they fight for their ancestral homeland and their cultural survival. This film is critically important because it will help to get the word out about the plight of the Maijuna and help them in their struggle to defend themselves.

This is a joint project between Professor Michael Gilmore and students Tyler Orton and Will Martinez of George Mason University, documentary filmmaker Jacob Wagner, and the non-governmental organization Rainforest Conservation Fund.

The project is currently seeking to raise $25k in funds through crowd-funding, and you can learn more about the project this article, and support it through the project’s Indiegogo page.

I was delighted to receive via email yesterday a copy of a new collection of Máíhɨ̃ki texts compiled by Amalia Skilton, who was a member of the Máíhɨ̃ki Project fieldwork team in 2012 and 2013. Amalia began independent fieldwork on Máíhɨ̃ki in the fall of 2013, and since January of this year, she has been working with speakers of Northern dialect of Máíhɨ̃ki in the town of El Estrecho, located on the Peruvian side of the Peru-Colombia border.

Northern Máíhɨ̃ki was historically spoken in the basin of the Algodón River (Máíhɨ̃ki: Tótòyà), a major southern tributary of the Putumayo River, and the remaining 13 speakers of this variety live either in the community of Tótòyà, located on the river of the same name, or have moved to El Estrecho to have easier access to education, work, and commercial products. Northern Máíhɨ̃ki was, until Amalia began her work, the least documented of the three Máíhɨ̃ki varieties (Western Máíhɨ̃ki, spoken in the Yanayacu River basin, Eastern Máíhɨ̃ki, spoken in the Sucusari River basin, and Northern Máíhɨ̃ki), but its small number of remaining speakers are considered by many Máíhuna to be among the most knowledgeable in terms of traditional culture, including oral traditions. Amalia has also found quite a number of grammatical and phonological differences between Northern Máíhɨ̃ki and the other Máíhɨ̃ki varieties which will no doubt lead to interesting insights into the history of the language as whole.

The text collection that Amalia has compiled for distribution to the Maihuna communities includes texts from majority of the speakers of the Northern dialect (Adriano Ríos Sanchez, Enrique Ríos Díez, Féderico Lopez Algoba, Lizardo González Flores, Otília López Gordillo, Pedro López Algoba, Soraida López Algoba, and Trujillo Ríos Díez), and includes illustrations by Gervasio López Mosoline. The oral texts related by these speakers, and transcribed and translated by Amalia with their help, are all fascinating, and exemplify a wide range of themes and forms of verbal artistry.

Anyone with an interest in Tukanoan linguistics or Amazonian verbal art should check it out here (6.3mb)!