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Documentation of the Palikur Language (Arawak) of Brazil

 

 

Language Palikur
Depositor Elissandra Barros da Silva
Affiliation Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
Location Brazil
Deposit ID 0374
Grant ID SG0291
Funding Body ELDP
Collection Status Collection online
Landing Page Handle http://hdl.handle.net/2196/35d6732c-a5b8-40c7-a32c-9f7982ebe817

 

Showreel

 

Summary of the deposit

Palikur is an Arawakan language spoken by most of the Palikur people, of which approximately 1,400 live in Brazil and 900 in French Guiana. While in Brazil 80% of the natives speak Palikur and Portuguese, French is the mother tongue of the younger generation living in Guiana. This collection contains documentation in audio and video of different genres of spoken Palikur throughout 12 villages at the Indigenous Land of Uaçá, Oiapoque, Amapá, Brazil. The villages are Kuahi, Ywawka, Flecha, Mangue 1, Mangue 2, Tawari, Amomni, Kwikwit, Pwaytyeket, Kamuywa, Urubu and Kumen, where the Palikur live in a multilingual region coexisting with Kheuól (a French based creole language), Portuguese and French.

 

Group represented

The collection created within this project focuses on speakers of Palikur which are located in the extreme north of Brazil in the State of Amapá near the border to French Guiana. That reservation is called ‘Terra Indígena Uaçá’ (Indigenous Land of Uaçá) and has been defined and recognized in 1991. Nowadays, the 470,164 hectare area is home to most of the Palikur people living in Brazil and two other peoples, the Galibi-Marworno and the Karipuna who both speak Kheuól as their mother tongue. Although the larger villages of the Palikur have small health centres and a school, a few families don’t live in the Indigenous Land, but in the municipality of Oiapoque where they work in organs such as FUNAI (Fundação Nacional do Índio, ‘National Indian Foundation’) and at the Museu Kuahí dos Povos Indígenas do Oiapoque (‘Kuahí Museum of the Indigenous Peoples of Oiapoque’).

A sociolinguistic survey carried out in the State of Amapá by Barros da Silva in 2013 showed that more than half of the Palikur speakers are bilingual in Palikur and Portuguese, which has become the main language of communication and as such is being used in schools, official meetings and in care services. The children learn Palikur until the fourth grade, but afterwards they are taught in Portuguese. The Palikur living on the French side don’t have a differential teaching and adopt French as their main language quite early. This in turn leads to the fact that Palikur is more and more forgotten, even in the villages in the Indigenous Land. It is first of all the older generation who still remember the traditions of the Palikur and speak the language fluently.

However, language shift is not the main reason why Palikur is seriously endangered: more than 40 years ago, the group has been converted to Pentecostalism. As a result, the Palikur have stopped using speech genres related to their own religious manifestations and have instead started to go on missionaries to evangelize other indigenous peoples. Along with the loss of the vocabulary related to their former religion, the Palikur have abandoned numerous activities and traditions due to the conversion. They no longer chant their traditional chants (because they have been replaced with church hymns) and have abolished everything that is related to ancient rituals. That also means they’re no longer holding their traditional festivals, such as the Turé. The Palikur don’t dance the Turé any longer, don’t play flute and don’t wear adornment and corporal paintings. Because they stopped holding these festivals, they’ve also stopped manufacturing pottery (particularly the pots that are used during the Turé rites to drink caxiri, a fermented drink made from manioc, and the ones that are used to store funeral urns) – although they are the only people in the region who know this art. Today, only a few elder men and women still remember some techniques to manufacture these kinds of objects. The more these rituals are forgotten, the more the Palikur language is threatened.

 

Language information

Along with one other ethnic group that lives in the region of Uaçá, the Palikur are the only ones who speak an indigenous language. The other indigenous people adopted a patois as their main language that has derived from French creole. Palikur is an Arawakan language belonging to the Eastern Maipuran branch. There are important generational differences regarding the use of the Palikur. While only the older generation remember certain speech genres and the corresponding vocabulary, the younger generation is shifting towards Portuguese and Kheuól on the Brazilian side and to French in Guiana. The daily use of Palikur is therefore significantly decreasing and risks to be completely supplanted by the other languages spoken in the Indigenous Land of Uaçá and across the border to French Guiana.

 

Deposit contents

The Palikur collection compromises 120 bundles and resources documenting different speech genres including narratives and chants. The collection also includes images showing the everyday life in the villages. All the materials are classified as “sensitive”, which is why at the moment, users need permission from the depositor to access the files. Access can be gained by filling out the access request form.

The deposit also contains a publication of Palikúr narratives (A Palikúr Book of Narratives – Indigenous Knowledge at the Palikur School/Livro de Narrativas Palikúr – Saberes Indígenas na Escola Palikur), which can be accessed using this link: http://hdl.handle.net/2196/00-0000-0000-000F-7338-7.

 

Special characteristics

Along with one other ethnic group that lives in the region of Uaçá, the Palikur are the only ones who speak an indigenous language. The other indigenous people adopted a patois as their main language that has derived from French creole. Palikur is an Arawakan language belonging to the Eastern Maipuran branch. There are important generational differences regarding the use of the Palikur. While only the older generation remember certain speech genres and the corresponding vocabulary, the younger generation is shifting towards Portuguese and Kheuól on the Brazilian side and to French in Guiana. The daily use of Palikur is therefore significantly decreasing and risks to be completely supplanted by the other languages spoken in the Indigenous Land of Uaçá and across the border to French Guiana.

 

Deposit history

Elissandra Barros da Silva’s research on the Palikur language began in 2013 when she first carried out a sociolinguistic information survey which aimed to identify the number of speakers and languages spoken in the Indigenous Land of Uaçá as well as the degree of proficiency in each language. The survey resulted in maps for each Palikur village which specify what language is spoken by whom with what degree of proficiency in which village. Barros da Silva also started training groups of Palikur speakers in the use of audiovisual equipment and editing softwares in order to collect more data during the researcher’s absence from the field. Another step during the depositor’s previous research was to collect, record and film wordlists with the purpose of investigating the Palikur sound articulation. The phonological analysis is one of the main goals of the entire project which will eventually result in a description of the Palikur phonology. The other main goal of the Palikur collection is the preservation of speech genres that are no longer transmitted to the younger generation.

 

Acknowledgement and citation

Users of any part of the collection should acknowledge Elissandra Barros da Silva as the principal investigator, data collector and researcher. Users should also acknowledge the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme as the funder of the project. Individual speakers whose words and/or images are used should be acknowledged by name. Any other contributor who has collected, transcribed or translated the data or was involved in any other way should be acknowledged by name. More details about the contributors can be found in the metadata.

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

Barros da Silva, Elissandra. 2016. Documentation of the Palikur Language (Arawak) of Brazil. Endangered Languages Archive. Handle:  http://hdl.handle.net/2196/00-0000-0000-000F-62F1-4. Accessed on [insert date here].

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