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In the Language of the Plants: Documenting Food and Medicine in Enxet Sur

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Title:In the Language of the Plants: Documenting Food and Medicine in Enxet Sur
Authors:Elliott, John
Contributors:Elliott, John (speaker)
Date Issued:04 Mar 2017
Description:This presentation describes an on-going video documentation project to record and disseminate information about traditional uses of wild food and medicinal plants in Enxet Sur (ISO 639-3: enx), an indigenous language of the Paraguayan Chaco. Working with a yohóxma (shaman and indigenous healer) and a health auxiliary in the Enxet Sur community of El Estribo (Presidente Hayes, Paraguay), this project’s primary goal is to create a well-annotated video corpus of knowledgeable native-speaking Enxet guides giving walking tours of the wooded and undeveloped areas of the community. Throughout the walking tour videos, these experts describe the plant life in the community, giving practical instructions for everyday use of available plants as medicine, food, and tools, while contextualizing daily collection activities within a broader Enxet worldview. These walking narratives advocate for the maintenance of indigenous language and culture as a means of capacity building and health autonomy in Enxet communities. I will discuss how resources like those being created by our project fit into the ongoing discourse of health access in the community and the relationship between traditional/shamanic uses of plants and western biomedicine, as well as plans to use the created materials to improve representation and actual use of the Enxet Sur language in the primary school setting. This project is informed in part by previously conducted ethnobotanical studies in Enxet Sur communities - projects which have produced high-quality detailed records of local food and medicinal plant uses in several Spanish-language volumes, and as such, the presentation describes how the previous ethnobotanical studies have contributed to framing the present language documentation project, and how Spanish-language resources are being used to help create Enxet-language materials. For the purposes of language documentation and description, this method of collecting narrative-in-motion is shown to be productive in providing a range of scenarios for the elicitation of unique deictic, temporal, and evidential combinations that may not be as prevelant or even extant in other genres of natural speech or documentary scenarios. The discussion here addresses the limitations and potential problems with narrative-in-motion as a language-documentary genre while advocating for its use as an important genre for language documentation, especially for languages known to have rich deictic and/or evidential systems.
Appears in Collections: 5th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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