Sunday, May 4, 2014

Community-based production of the Alto Perené-Spanish illustrated thematic dictionary

by Elena Mihas

The Alto Perené-Spanish illustrated thematic dictionary is a third instance of community-based production of language materials for individual native households, bilingual teachers, and community leaders in the Upper Perené valley of Chanchamayo Province, Peru. This Western Amazonian Arawak language of Kampan subgrouping is on a downward trajectory, spoken by the parental and grandparental generations. Radical socio-economic changes of the last century had a significant impact on the community’s ways of living and speaking. The most notable transformations are transition from subsistence economy to cash economy based on fixed-field agriculture, and a shift from monolingual to bilingual social interaction among the indigenous population. Due to a growing awareness among native speakers of the rapid language shift to the language of wider communication, Spanish, important language documentation and revitalization work has been undertaken since 2009. Between 2009 and 2014, over 50 community members have been engaged in the production of two multi-genre text collections, Añaani katonkosatzi parenini and Upper Perené Arawak narratives ofhistory, landscape, and ritual, and a thematic dictionary, Iñani katonkosatzi. Diccionario temático ilustrado Alto Perene-castellano. All three projects have been managed by the language consultant team led by Gregorio Santos Pérez, a bilingual specialist and supervisor of the area’s 26 bilingual elementary school teachers employed by the local Department of Education. Reflecting the collective nature of the endeavor, the contributors’ pictures were prominently placed on the first pages of the dictionary. The team’s work has received the necessary support from the community’s influential political figures. In 2009, the language documentation project was endorsed by the tribal chief of Bajo Marankiari Osbaldo Rosas, and in 2011, by the president of the local political organization CECONSEC (Central de las Comunidades Nativas de la Selva Central), Héctor Martin Manchi.

During the initial stages of the dictionary project in 2011, consultations were conducted with the president of CECONSEC and primary language consultants with regard to the dictionary’s structure and contents, the alphabet, and the project schedule. (The alphabet remains a difficult issue, and is still in the process of being modified in light of community members’ ongoing feedback.) Motivated by the rapidly disappearing lexical domains covering culture-specific traditional subsistence activities and ritual behavior, the decision was made to produce a thematic dictionary of Alto Perené language and culture containing c.3000 entries and sub-entries. Later on, the number of entries was revised in light of tight budget constraints, since the production costs were to be nearly fully covered by the Foundation for Endangered Languages grant, unless the number of pages exceeded a hundred. It was also important to produce color illustrations to make the dictionary more useful for the purposes of pedagogical application, which significantly increased the cost per copy. As a result, the published dictionary contains 956 entries and sub-entries and is a 105-page publication, with 62 pages in color. The overall publication expense was 1080USD for 50 hard copies.

Figure 1. The editors Bernardo Gaspar Signón (left) and Gregorio Santos Pérez (right) discussing the design of the dictionary (2013)
The thematic dictionary was envisioned to include the most essential lexicon employed in hunting, fishing, gathering, gardening, ritual practices, warfare, and medicinal treatments. These were considered  by many native speakers to be the most representative semantic domains, enabling to capture the distinctions of Alto Perené culture. The published version contains 16 rubrics: ikovintsatantari pairani ‘how they hunted in the past’, ishimaatantari pairani ‘how they fished in the past’, ipankitantari, ikoyantari pairani ‘how they planted and harvested in the past’, antavairintsipatsaini ‘small works’ (i.e. craft-making), ovarentsi ‘food’, ovayeritantsi ‘war’, yantantarori ivankopaye ‘how they made their houses’, ijajeetantari yayi tzivi ‘how they travel to extract salt’, yamanantariri ivavani ‘how they worship their gods’, isheninkapaye ‘their kinfolk’, mantsiyarentsi, matsitantsi ‘disease and witchcraft’, tovari yaavintantari ‘herbs which they use to administer medicinal treatments’, kipatsi ‘land’, ovaironi paisato iipatsite ‘ancient names of their land’, atziri iriperantzi ‘the best people’, iñani ivakoitantyarori kameetsa ‘words which they use to explain well’ (i.e. ideophones).

Figure 2. Ruth Quillatupa Lopez (left) and Delia Rosas Rodríguez (right) discussing the map produced by Ruth’s son, Daniel Bernales Quillatupa (2013)
The dictionary is well-illustrated. Illustrations were produced by native speakers and me. Two maps, by Daniel Bernales Quillatupa and Gregorio Santos Pérez, of the Alto Perené Arawak ancestral land, with its sacred landmarks marked and their names designated, have been included. Three native artists, Daniel Bernales Quillatupa, Rither Giovani Santos Meza, and Gregorio Santos Pérez have drawn 38 illustrations for the dictionary. Unfortunately, some artists’ names are not known. For example, the name of the artist whose painting serves as the dictionary cover was not possible to ascertain. The original was drawn on a piece of wood and is located in Pampa Michi. A few images of birds and game which I obtained in the Centro Cultural (Center of Culture) in La Merced remain anonymous as well. The photographs of language consultants, tools, homes, medicinal herbs, and landmarks were taken by me, excepting three digital images provided by the primary consultants Gregorio Santos Pérez and Daniel Bernales Quillatupa at my request.

Figure 3. Language consultants from Mariscal Cáceres who provided explanations of landscape terms for the dictionary project. First row: Clelia Mishari, Livia Julio Quinchori, Elias Meza Pedro, Jose Quinchori Julio (from left to right). Second row: Dora Meza Santos (left) (2014)
The work flow consisted of three stages: (i) consultations and planning; (ii) collection of data, and (iii) revision/editing.  As mentioned previously, consultations involved the community’s leadership and primary consultants. During the second stage in 2011, after critical issues of the dictionary’s production were clarified, language consultants, with my assistance, started putting together a dictionary database. Three primary consultants, Gregorio Santos Pérez, Daniel Bernales Quillatupa, and Delia Rosas Rodríguez, worked individually to complete the Alto Perené wordlist whose design and contents were modeled on the SIL comparative African wordlist (SILCAWL) by Keith Snider and James Roberts. The collected material allowed us to compile a file which contained entries from the targeted semantic domains. Primary language consultants were paid 12-15PEN per hour for consultancy work, and a lump sum for a written work that they produced.

Figure 4. Fredi Miguel Ucayali (editor) at work (2014)
The next step was to provide explanations of these terms, and if needed, illustrate the concept with a drawing or a photograph. Since the community’s traditional knowledge structures have been significantly weakened in the last half a century, the most challenging task was to find knowledgeable speakers who remembered why a place was named this way, how a particular tool was made, or a fishing technique was utilized, or a certain treatment was conducted in the past. In 2012-2014, to this end, I made multiple trips to the communities of Pampa Michi, Pucharini, Pumpuriani, and Mariscal Cáceres, usually accompanied by Dora Meza Santos. Three primary consultants, Gregorio Santos Pérez, Daniel Bernales Quillatupa, and Delia Rosas Rodríguez canvassed Alto Perené settlements asking their family members, neighbors, and friends to go on record about the community’s past everyday practices. In particular, Gregorio Santos Pérez visited 8 hillside communities on the left bank of the Perené River; Daniel Bernales Quillatupa interviewed his old friend and colleague Otoniel Ramos Rodríguez in his Churingaveni residence; Delia Rosas Rodríguez worked with six members of her extended family in Bajo Marankiari. The collected texts were inserted into the dictionary, in many cases serving as both an illustration of the lexeme’s usage and explanation of this particular word’s meaning. Secondary language consultants were paid 10-12PEN per hour.

Figure 5. Gregorio Santos Pérez (editor) at work (2014)
The final stage involved editing work, for which 3 literate individuals were selected by Gregorio Santos Pérez and me on the basis of their language competence, familiarity with the currently used Alto Perené practical writing conventions, and status in the community. To receive the community-wide approval of the project’s product, those individuals who have authority and are well-respected were asked to do the job. Among those were Bernardo Gaspar Signón, an elder from Pucharini who produced his own alphabetically-arranged dictionary many years ago (see Figure 7); Fredi Miguel Ucayali, chief of Pampa Michi; and Gloria Nuria Capurro Nestor, a member of CECONSEC, from Pampa Michi. Gregorio Santos Pérez, the consultant team leader, from Villa Perené, served as the general editor. The editors each received 100PEN for their work. In March 2014, after having reviewed the manuscript, three editors delivered the corrected copies to Gregorio Santos Pérez, the consultant team leader, who discussed the proposed changes with me before advising me on making the final corrections in the dictionary file.

Figure 6. Gloria Nuria Capurro Nestor (editor) commenting on her corrections (2014)
Because of the self-editing production scheme, unfortunately, the quality of editing work was not satisfactory. Some typos were overlooked in both native-language texts and Spanish, the most blatant being the word temático ‘thematic’ which is missing the diacritical mark (acute accent) in the dictionary. In addition, there were disagreements among editors over spellings of Alto Perené words and dialectal variants of some lexemes, which were not easy to reconcile because of the editors’ principled positions on the issues under consideration. In particular, it was proposed to eliminate one of the graphemes and , which stand respectively for aspirated and unaspirated alveolar affricates, using instead either (as suggested by Gregorio Santos Pérez) or (as advised by Bernardo Gaspar Signón). Eventually, we agreed to keep both graphemes. Two editors (Bernardo Gaspar Signón and Gloria Nuria Capurro Nestor) strongly objected to including dialectal variants of words, calling them barbarismos ‘barbarisms’. As a result, in some cases, dialectal variants were excluded, exemplified by chakopi~chekopi ‘arrow’, with chekopi being assessed as a non-local word and rejected. In other cases, the editors felt that both variants were acceptable, such as ompikiritoki~impikiritoki ‘naranjillo’. Also, dissemination of the draft to language consultants and formation of the editors’ team in 2014 generated tensions due to tribal rivalry, gender inequality, and social divisions. Some male contributors felt that they should have been selected to serve as editors, rather than a female. Others were concerned with the pecking order of the names and pictures of the contributors in the publication.

Figure 7. A dictionary compiled and self-produced by Bernardo Gaspar Signón, from Pucharini
After the dictionary is disseminated to the community members in 2015, it will be revised in light of the readers’ feedback. The next step will be to produce a trilingual version, Alto Perené-Spanish-English thematic dictionary, which is hoped to be published by Lincom Europa.

1 comment:

  1. This Western Amazonian Arawak language of Kampan subgrouping is on a downward trajectory, spoken by the parental and grandparental generations.Joe Mitchell