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Emiliana Cruz
University of Massachusetts, Amherst (Amherst, MA 01003-9242)
Chatino Place Names and Local Knowledge: Language Description and Multimedia Documentary Corpus

The goal of this project is to produce the first systematic analysis of place names in the Chatino language of San Juan Quiahije, Oaxaca, Mexico, along with a corpus of audio, video, and mapping files that will ground collective and individual memories of local landscape in examples of speech. Fieldwork will involve close collaboration with five native speaker consultants who are familiar with geographic landmarks such as ritual areas, mountains, rivers, and paths. In addition, I will work closely with seven other native speakers who already know how to write Chatino. While Quiahije Chatino is not urgently endangered, what is disappearing from speech is specialized vocabulary such as the language of landscape, which is a sign of language loss. My research follows an intellectual trajectory represented by numerous scholars including Franz Boas, who highlighted the importance of the study of place-name systems because it tells us a great deal about the people, their cognitive categories, and their history. This research project will generate three concrete products that will benefit researchers of indigenous communities: (1) geographically situated texts, including narratives and oral histories; (2) a lexicon of space; and (3) a heuristic for assessing the vitality and endangerment of undocumented languages. It will also provide a model for organizing future research by indigenous speakers to document the indigenous languages of Mexico and Latin America. All the new data will be deposited into Archive of Indigenous Languages of Latin America (AILLA), and will provide an important resource for understanding the structure of the Chatino language. (Edited by staff)

Project fields:
Linguistic Anthropology; Linguistics

Documenting Endangered Languages - Fellowships

Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2014 – 8/31/2015