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Documentation of the Mayoruna Languages


Language Mayoruna
Depositor David Fleck
Affiliation University of Oregon
Location Peru
Collection ID 0111
Grant ID MDP0193
Funding Body ELDP
Collection Status Collection online
Landing Page Handle


Summary of the collection

Annotated audio recordings of oral history narratives and other speech genre in the Matses, Kulina of the Curuçá River, and Chankuehbo languages, all members of the Mayoruna branch of the Panoan family.


Group represented

The Matses made first peaceful contact with non-Indians in 1969, and most Matses continue to live in kin-based societies and practice traditional subsistence strategies. Their language is still used as the principle means of communication in all the Matses villages, but it is clear that Matses is already in its early stages of language loss. Many of the younger men now speak Spanish or Portuguese at various levels of fluency. While about 75-85 percent of the Matses are still essentially monolingual (i.e., unable to carry out a conversation in asecond language), most Matses understand Spanish and Portuguese much better than they speak it. The Matses learn to read and write first in Matses in the local bilingual schools, but Spanish or Portuguese are also taught. Town meetings are carried out partly in Spanish and Portuguese, particularly when non-Indians are present. Many young men are leaving the Matses villages to participate in wage labor in surrounding areas, and some do not return.Heavy lexical borrowing from Spanish or Portuguese is evident in the speech of the younger generation.

It is among the oldest Matses individuals (>60 years old) that one finds experts on oral
history and other less widely known topics, such as ceremonial languages and traditional
chants. Speakers of the Korubo dialect remain uncontacted.


Language information

Matses, Kulina of the Curuca River, Chankueshbo


Collection contents

All recording are transcribed and translated into English and Spanish, with some parsed in the Toolbox programme. This is the first partial collection for this project.

The collection contains 114 recording files and 114 annotation files; i.e., 1 annotation file corresponding to each recording file, sharing the same file name, but with different suffixes (.wav and .txt). The recorded material totals 24 hours, 1 minute, and 45 minutes, all of which has been transcribed and translated into Spanish and English. 5 hours, 31 minutes, and 58 seconds of this material has been parsed in Toolbox (see the final row of the Excel metadata table for these totals).
The unparsed text files use the same line designations (e.g., “\id”, “\t”) as the Toolbox files since most of these will eventually be parsed.


Collection history

From the depositor: ‘I have already published articles on some of the more typologically interesting features of Matses grammar, including evidentiality and double tense, causation, ergativity, body-part prefixation, and coreferential pronouns. It will be most interesting to obtain comparative data for the other Mayoruna languages. Other topics of interest, which I
have treated in my grammar but deserve further study, are double-object constructions,clause-chaining, adverbial agreement, and discourse-governed constituent order; the recordings from this project will provide important and extensive data for investigating these phenomena in natural speech.

Few texts and no recordings are publically available for the Mayoruna languages language.In addition to a single short Matses text in a pedagogical grammar, the only other available texts useful for linguistics are three parsed texts appended to my Ph.D. dissertation. For my doctoral research I recorded about 20 hours of speech and analyzed about 10 hours of these in the Shoebox parsing programme. While I may make this material available at some point, it is desirable to make a larger and more varied set of recordings of archival quality, following modern standards’.


Other information

The Brazilian Matses are politically completely separate from the Peruvian Matses. It is not possible to carry out research with indigenous communities in Brazil without permits that are very difficult to obtain. Therefore all research was conducted in Peru, though some material from Brazilian Matses was recorded when they were visiting Peru, in order to document the Brazilian Matses dialect.

The depositor collaborated in the past with a non-profit organization that carries out educational programs with the indigenous groups of the Javari Basin in Brazil (Centro de Trabalho Indigenista), developing an orthography for the Matis (another Mayoruna language, not spoken in Peru) and donating copies of the pedagogical book he created together with the Matses.


Acknowledgement and citation

To refer to any data from the collection, please cite as follows:

Fleck, David. 2011. Documentation of the Mayoruna Languages. Endangered Languages Archive. Handle: Accessed on [insert date here].

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