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Aymara variant revitalization in remote Andean communities

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Title: Aymara variant revitalization in remote Andean communities
Authors: Coler, Matthew
Issue Date: 14 Mar 2009
Description: Though Aymara is spoken by over a million speakers; its many variants remain undocumented and endangered. Linguistic research, aimed at better understanding morphophonological properties of the language, indicate that the Aymara spoken in the remote Andean villages of Muylaque and Sijuaya, in the Peruvian state of Moquegua, is unique. Given government plans to build a highway nearby coupled with the lack of Aymara education, the long-term vitality of this variant, and Aymara generally, is dubious for these communities. The researcher has a complicated role in the revitalization process: he is at once a university linguist and a documentarian who must meet strict guidelines in generating lasting data of interest not only to scholars but also to community members. In the situation at hand, the researcher is the catalyst for local preservation efforts. Despite local claims that the language was impossible to put to paper, efforts were made to work together with literate community members to write their language. As many adults (especially women and elders) are illiterate, special attention was necessary to document their speech. Recorded interviews were conducted in which the researcher, together with younger family members, would ask elders to recount their youth, tell myths, or sing songs. Cooperation with locals in doing this was essential, not only for communicative purposes, but also to establish a level of trust that would make the elder feel comfortable enough to speak about such cultural topics with an outsider present. These recordings were transcribed with the locals and are to be published in a book with original illustrations. Copies will be donated to the community. In exchange for the researcher's labor in the fields, community members taught him the variant. In his (often comical) attempts to speak the language, the researcher lent a level of prestige to the speakers who came to see themselves as teachers and experts, not exotic objects of study. This, by extension, helped put an end to the belief that this variant was inferior to Spanish or "standard Aymara". This presentation will detail some of the complications encountered by the researcher; the lack of trust by community members, the early difficulties associated with gathering linguistic data, and the struggle to overcome some unique sociocultural barriers. Focus is given to the creative community-based preservation/revitalization/documentation processes, chronicling the difficulties, complications, and successes of fieldwork and the researcher's role in the process alongside effective documentation methodology.
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections:1st International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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