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Documentation and description of Paresi-Haliti (Arawak)


Language Paresi, Haliti
Depositor Ana Paula Brandao
Affiliation University of Texas at Austin
Location Brazil
Collection ID 0278
Grant ID IGS0160
Funding Body ELDP
Collection Status Collection online
Landing Page Handle


Summary of the collection

This collection includes documentation of Paresi, an Arawak language spoken in Brazil. The Paresi people, who number approximately 3000 people (in 2017), live in the State of Mato Grosso, Brazil. The documentation took place between the years of 2011 and 2014 in six communities: Bacaval, Formoso, Nova Esperança, Kotitiko, cabeceira do Buriti and Buriti. The collection contains 128 vídeos and 153 audios, and 8 hours of transcribed and translated texts.

Esta coleção inclui a documentação de Paresi, uma língua arawak falada no Brasil. Os Paresi, que somam aproximadamente 3.000 pessoas (em 2017), vivem no Estado do Mato Grosso, Brasil. A documentação aconteceu entre os anos de 2011 e 2014 em seis comunidades: Bacaval, Formoso, Nova Esperança, Kotitiko, Cabeceira do Buriti e Buriti. O acervo contém 128 vídeos e 153 áudios e 8 horas de textos transcritos e traduzidos.


Group represented

Paresi people (also cited in the literature as Parecís, Paressí, among other names) call themselves Halíti (person, people). They live approximately 500 km northwestern of the city of Cuiabá, in the region of the tributaries of the Juruena river (a branch of the Tapajós river). There are ten Paresi Indigenous Lands (non-contiguous Lands in some cases): Rio Formoso, Utiariti, Estação Parecis, Estivadinho, Pareci, Juininha, Figueira, Capitão Marcos, Ponte de Pedra, and Uirapuru. Six communities in the areas Bacaval, Formoso, Nova Esperança, Kotitiko, Cabeceira do Buriti and Buriti are represented in this collection. Rio Formoso is the most conservative place in socio-cultural practices; in most of the villages in Utiariti people do not speak Paresi as their first language and there are few speakers of the Waimaré variety; and one community in the Pareci Land (the Rio Verde community) is considered as having the most prestigious and organized school.


Language information

Paresi, also known as the Haliti language (Arawak), is a variant of Formoso River, spoken in Southern Brazilian Amazonia. The documentation of Paresi is particularly significant because Arawak languages present typological features of grammar that require more investigation. For instance, there are interesting distributional and semantic aspects of possession and classifiers in Paresi that will be described. Paresi can be significant for advancing the study of the typology of classifiers because it exhibits a system similar to languages such as Miraña (Grinevald and Seifart, 2004) which combines features of various types of classification systems.


Special characteristics

Nowadays, the majority of the population is bilingual in Paresi and Portuguese, with Paresi as their first language. The Paresi speakers number approximately 90% of the Paresi population, but the total number of speakers is nevertheless low, about 1800 (the major variety is the Kozarini variety, approximately half a dozen or fewer speak the Waimaré variety, and the Kaxiniti variety is almost extinct). Although Paresi is mostly used as the everyday language (in conversation, rituals, to tell stories), language shift has started to take place, and the shift toward Portuguese appears to have been initiated in at least some domains. One example of this shift is that Portuguese started recently to be used as the language of instruction in schools located in the villages. Small children still learn the language, but as socio-cultural conditions are changing rapidly, they are not learning their socio-cultural practices, and formal and ceremonial forms of the language. Due to the endangered status of Paresi (there are few speakers who have cultural knowledge and even fewer speakers of some dialects of the language) this work aims to provide a systematic documentation of Paresi. Documenting aspects of Paresi culture may be the only way to make this knowledge accessible to future generations.


Collection contents

The collection contains audio, video and annotated texts in a range of contexts of the language in a variety of genres such as traditional narratives, procedural texts, conversations, songs and elicitation of data.

Variety of discourse forms such as myths, songs, oratory (advice), ritual speech (to offer to deities), and prayers used in particular circumstances and that are known by few people (only elders who are shamans) enrich linguistic description with some complex sentence structures and cultural material relevant to the documentation. The recording of speakers in spontaneous conversations led to the collection of words and structures of the language employed in daily communication. On the other hand, life stories and descriptions of actual events in the village (such as fishing or preparing medicine) built a recorded set of diverse genres to inform in-depth analysis of the language.


Collection history

This project was built on the depositor’s experience working with the Paresi people for more than 4 years, which led to contact with many Paresi people (from several communities) and their organizations, such as the Halitinã, the Waimaré, and the Kozarene organizations.

Five community members were trained in basic linguistics and in documentation methods. They worked in the recording and transcription processes of the project. Community members were also given workshops in documentation (learning how to record and edit audio and video), and on basic linguistics and teaching methods for teachers from the main schools working with the Paresi language.

The methodology for collecting and analyzing the Paresi data were the traditional methodology of linguistic fieldwork, including best-practice methods of documentation and analysis (such as Bird and Simons, 2003), using computers and digital equipment such as digital recorders and video cameras. Three methods of data collection were employed: (i) recording of natural conversation; (ii) storytelling sessions; and (iii) direct elicitation.


Acknowledgement and citation

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

Brandão, Ana Paula. 2014. Documentation and description of Paresi-Haliti . Endangered Languages Archive. Handle: Accessed on [insert date here].

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