Visiting researcher at NEII conducts an international linguistic documentation project
Linguist and fieldworker, Dr. Pablo Fuentes has recently arrived to Chile to conduct a documentation project funded by the Endangered Language Documentation Programme (ELDP, Arcadia) and hosted by NEII, Universidad Católica de Temuco. The project (the first one
funded by ELDP in our country) has compiled more than ten hours of audio-visual material, recorded entirely in the pehuenche summerland of Cochico. It has the valuable collaboration of linguist Sonia Vita and various members of the Vita Manquepi family (Butalelbún, Alto Biobío). The compilation includes several interviews and a rich amount of communicative acts, naturally expressed in Chedungun (the Pehuenche variant of Mapudungun), which are already deposited in the reputed Endangered Language Archive, from the University of London.
Currently, part of the material is undergoing an annotation and translation process, which will result in a trilingual tier (Chedungun, Spanish and English) embedded in a specialized software (ELAN) of standard use by modern linguists working in language documentation. A researcher from NEII, Dr. Fernando Wittig, is collaborating with various technical aspects of the annotation, and the hope is that he and Dr. Fuentes develop a productive workflow for the implementation and divulgation of this valuable discipline in our country. Needless to say, the endangered reality of several indigenous languages in Chile makes this not only a valuable task, but an urgent one.
It should be mentioned that Dr. Fuentes project opens a concrete opportunity for collaborative work between our academic staff and indigenous communities, for two main reasons. First, due to the heritage value of the archived testimonies, which includes visuals and narratives about the history and traditions linked to the ‘veranadas’, as this spatiotemporal entity is conceptualized by Pehuenche speakers. This naturally motivates further research in the field of linguistics, anthropology, history, among others. Second, given the current context of the covid-19 pandemic, all the technical equipment is in possession of one of the members of the documented family (Mónica Vita Manquepi), who has received training and advice not only in the use of documentation techniques, but also on how to keep a safe sanitary workflow during the current circumstances. This has allowed Mónica Vita to continue the documentation process in the immediate domestic space of her family. As with the previous material, the incoming recordings will be transcribed and translated by her sister, linguist Sonia Vita, and eventually edited and annotated by our researchers, Dr. Fuentes and Dr. Wittig. Therefore, the project has entered a (safe) self-documentation stage, a central ideal within modern language documentation (and arguably, a new necessary standard for current times). This gives us a hopeful example that, on occasions, adverse circumstances such as the one we are all going through, can create scenarios that forces the realisation of ideals that otherwise would be postponed or not fully prioritized.
Photography: ‘View of the pehuenche summerland of Cochico’