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.