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Documentation and Description of Sia Pedee, Ecuador


Language Sia Pedee
Depositor Jorge Gómez Rendón
Affiliation Universidad Andina Simón Bolivar
Location Ecuador
Collection ID 0386
Grant ID FTG0111
Funding Body ELDP
Collection Status Forthcoming


Summary of the collection

This collection is the result of previous and ongoing collaborative documentation of the Sia Pedee language (Embera, Choco) as part of a long-term revitalization process. The collection includes annotated audio-visual documentary materials as well as materials for direct community use.


Group represented

This collection represents members of the Epera community, who live in northern Ecuador in the coastal province Esmeraldas and who speak Sia Pedee (Epera). According to information provided by the Epera governmental body ONAEE, the Epera population in Ecuador is 310 people.

The Epera are in contact with speakers of the Barbacoan languages Cha’palaa, Tsafiqui and Awapit as well as with speakers of Spanish.

In April 2004, ONAEE leaders, who were worried about the rampant loss of the native language among young adults and children, contacted Jorge Gomez Rendon, to help with language documentation efforts.

Jorge Gomez Rendon found that Sia Pedee is the first language for less than one third of the population. For the remaining two thirds, either Sia Pedee is the second language or Spanish is the only language. All children under 10 are monolinguals in Spanish. Children become exposed to Spanish through their parents and local mass media. The presence of Spanish (the only official language in Ecuador) pervades all spheres of society. Yet, competence in Spanish is limited and the great majority of Epera are illiterate. Unlike their Cha’palaa, Tsafiqui and Awapit neighbours, Epera speakers do not have their own bilingual education programme and the Bilingual Education Office did not intend to develop any programme for the Epera communities due to lack of funds.

On the General Assembly of the Epera People in June 2004, the leaders and the community agreed to undertake a series of efforts to revitalize the language in the long term. People were aware however that any effort would result in failure should a large documentation and description of the language not be conducted before.


Language information

Sia Pedee (Epera) is a Chocoan language of the Embera family spoken in northern Ecuador, in the coastal province of Esmeraldas. Other languages of the family are spoken in southwestern Colombia.


Collection contents

When completed, the collection will include both new recordings and legacy materials produced in collaboration with the community before (see History of the collection).

For the legacy materials (four hours of audio and video materials), the collection will include new time-aligned transcriptions, translations into Spanish and annotations.
The new materials include

  • audio and video recordings of folk literature (around 15 stories) and testimonial narratives (around ten narratives)
  • time-aligned transcriptions, translations into Spanish and annotations in ELAN and Toolbox
  • a bilingual Spanish-Sia Pedee book on folk literature and the oral history of the Epera people in Ecuador with illustrations from community members (around 300 pages)
  • an electronic basic wordlist with sounds


Collection history

On the initiative of the community, Jorge Gomez Rendon conducted a first sociolinguistic survey in May 2004 to investigate language loss, language transmission to new generations, bilingualism across age groups, language use across social spaces, and the perceptions of speakers towards the native language and Spanish.

Since then, the community and Jorge Gomez Rendon have worked on together on language documentation and development efforts. Their activities received the financial support from The Endangered Language Fund. During three workshops between October and November 2005, the community and Jorge Gomez Rendon produced

  • a basic linguistic description of Sia Pedee (500-word list with sound files, basic phonology, basic morphosyntax, a first orthography proposal)
  • recordings and transcriptions of audiovisual material (folk stories, songs, testimonial narratives, cultural practices such as dances and feasts, economic activi ties such as basketry and fishing, council meetings)
  • a draft orthography during a one-week workshop i n October 2005, submitted to an extended audience for approval
  • basic teaching materials (a dictionary or Cartilla Inicial of basic vocabulary contextualized in sentences and short stories, with illustrations by the children, recorded material was selected and incorporated in the textbook

The new materials in this collection were gathered and prepared in 2007 during fieldwork and research for the ELDP Field Trip Grant held by Jorge Gomez Rendon.


Other information

The materials in this collection will also be archived at the archive of ONAEE at Borbón, the archive of Universidad Técnica Luis Vargas Torres at Esmeraldas, and the archive of CONAIE (Organization of Indian Peoples in Ecuador) at Quito.


Acknowledgement and citation

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

Gómez Rendón, Jorge. Forthcoming. Documentation and Description of Sia Pedee, Ecuador. London: SOAS University of London, Endangered Languages Archive. Handle: Accessed on [insert date here].

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