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Pisamira(tuo) and Yurutí(yui): Split halfway. A sociocultural view from a linguistic research

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Title:Pisamira(tuo) and Yurutí(yui): Split halfway. A sociocultural view from a linguistic research
Authors:Valencia Perez, Elizabeth
Rodríguez, Iveth
Contributors:Valencia Perez, Elizabeth (speaker)
Rodríguez, Iveth (speaker)
Date Issued:03 Mar 2013
Description:The study of endangered languages raises the need to consider how the sociocultural practices related to language use are affected by the threatening situation of such languages. In this talk, I present some reflections on this topic drawn from the experience our research group has had during the documentation and description of two endangered languages from the Vaupés region in Colombia.

Pisamira (scarcely 12 speakers) and Yurutí (around 600 speakers) belong to the Eastern Tukanoan (ET) linguistic subfamily in Northwest Amazonia. Their cultural practices such as manufacturing musical instruments, building a maloka, practicing and playing carrizo have been mentioned in the existing literature about ET groups. Nevertheless, very little members do actually have this knowledge and do apply it in their daily life.

From a linguistic perspective, it has been proven through the comparative method that Pisamira and Yuruti keep consistent similarities in lexical, morphological and syntactical paradigms, and systematic changes in their phonological patterns (e.g. the loss of tones -characteristic of ET languages- in Pisamira and other phonological variations). Moreover, both languages present some loanwords from other languages in the region, including Spanish, as well as lexical innovation. We have traced those changes by analyzing their close relationships in the past. As they state, both groups used to intermarry and share territories, until Pisamiras left their ancestral lands.

The actual sociolinguistic status of these groups varies enormously. Pisamiras are critically endangered. With less than a hundred members and living surrounded by Cubeos whose language is dominant, most of Pisamiras no longer speak their language and many do not even understand it. On the contrary, Yurutís are well organised and work towards the preservation of their cultural practices and language. Still, there are some changes in their social organisation. The linguistic exogamy, one of the most outstanding traits in ET culture, evidenced in the language with a large set of words differentiating the way relationships go (mother’s or father’s family, cross-cousins), is changing as a more flexible view of the possibilities of intermarrying is developed. Will the core meaning of these terms be affected by these cultural changes?

We will discuss some questions arisen from the situations presented; Is the linguistic area of the Vaupés facing a change of sociocultural paradigms (due to the contact or other factors)? What would be the implications of current practices in the future?
Rights:Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections: 3rd International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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