Language Documentation and Archives in South America

publicado a la‎(s)‎ 19 feb. 2014 10:19 por Administrador Sociedad Bosquesina   [ actualizado el 19 feb. 2014 10:20 ]
Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas
Universidad de Buenos Aires

A preliminary version of this paper was given at the Fifth Annual Meeting of the Digital Endangered
Languages and Musics Archive Network (DELAMAN): “Global-local archive relationships”, in
November 2007 at the Instituto Nacional de Lenguas Indígenas (INALI) and Centro de Investigaciones
y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS) México, D.F. The authors would like to thank
the Volkswagen Foundation for financial support and the technical group of the Max Planck Institute
for Psycholinguistics (in particular Peter Wittenburg and Paul Trilsbeek) for manifold support.

been creating digital archives of primary language data in collaboration with European
linguists within the Documentation of Endangered Languages program (DOBES) of the
Volkswagen Foundation. For these activities, intellectual property rights and control of
access to data published on the World Wide Web are important topics. With good reason,
indigenous groups in South America are usually quite sensitive about research on and use
of their traditional knowledge, and here each national administration is developing its own
legal and practical strategies to protect local knowledge conceived of as a part of the national
patrimony from bio-piracy and other kinds of misuses (see Carneiro da Cunha 2005
on the Brazilian policy). The “repatriation” of research results on material and intangible
cultural heritage is therefore an important issue in South America. It is in this context that
the emergent regional network of local and national language archive centers has to be

In what follows, we will discuss the circumstances under which local archives were set
up in Peru, Argentina, and Brazil (sections 2–4) before addressing some important shared
aspects of this emerging network and its integration into an international network of language
archives (section 5).

2. A regional language archive in the Peruvian jungle. In Peru, a DOBES
project has been documenting the languages of the so-called “People of the Centre”
since 2004. The People of the Centre are a multilingual cultural complex (Echeverri 1997),
whose traditional territory was between the Caquetá and Putumayo rivers in what is now
Colombian territory. However, in the early 1930s, some of the population was deported to
Peruvian territory to the south of the Putumayo river by former employees of the rubber
company known as “Casa Arana.” Thus, speakers of these languages are now separated
by considerable geographical distance and by an international border. The documentation
project focuses on Bora, Huitoto, Ocaina, and Resígaro, which are taken to be a representative
subgroup of the People of the Centre. An international team is collecting cultural
and linguistic data on these groups in Peru and to some extent also in Colombia: the German
linguist Frank Seifart, the Colombian linguist Doris Fagua, and the Swiss-Peruvian
anthropologist Jürg Gasché, who has also contributed his data collected since the early
1970s in Colombia and Peru. These data are augmented by a salvage documentation of the
by now practically extinct Nonuya language, collected by the Colombian anthropologist
Juan Álvaro Echeverri and the Franco-Basque ethnolinguist Jon Landaburu in the 1990s
in Colombia.

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