Documenting the Endangered Languages of Amazonia: Cataloging, Digitizing, and Archiving Audio Material for Cultural, Linguistic, and Historical Preservation

Thursday, January 7, 2016: 4:10 PM
Salon C (Hilton Atlanta)
Wilson de Lima Silva, Rochester Institute of Technology
Benjamin Lawrance, Rochester Institute of Technology
The Salesiano missionaries in the Vaupes Region of Northwest Amazonia collected audio and video recordings in the mid 1950s of many Amazonian language communities in Vaupés Region of Northwest Amazonia, Brazil. Many of the languages spoken in this area are highly endangered. An archive of precious recordings of languages – including known, totally unknown, and now extinct languages (including but not limited to Amokapitori, Bara, Desano, Ide-Masa, Kohorositari, Kubeo, Mikura, Piratapuya, Siriano, Tatu, Tsena, Tukano, Tuyuka, and Wanano) – was recently rediscovered, consisting of vinyl disks, 8-track tapes, 9 mm video recordings, and handwritten notebooks. Historical, linguistic, and cultural data embedded in this collection speaks to tribal traditions and practices, songs, dance, and community religious performance, and gender-specific tasks. The data contains important clues to the historical settlement of the Vaupes, and possible keys to the linguistic reconstruction of the Tukanoan, Arawak, and Nadahup (also known as Makuan) language families. This digitization project will result in the cataloging of the languages in the collection, the digitization of all audio materials and notebooks, and the archiving of the collection. The primary goal is to make all digital materials available to scholars working on the languages of the Vaupés, and to members of the communities involved.