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7099 - Community participation in linguistic documentation among the Ninam

In the past, linguistic research of an indigenous language typically involved an outsider recording the language as spoken by a few members of a community, and the result was a descriptive grammar with a word list or a dictionary of that language. These products were intended primarily for a limited academic or scientific audience. Current research practices, however, reflect a more recent concern for the loss of linguistic diversity worldwide and the preservation of endangered languages and cultures. The Ninam language has the fewest number of speakers and is the least documented of the four major sub-groups of the Yanomami linguistic family; moreover, Ninam communities are characterized by a greater degree of assimilation to Brazilian culture and more Portuguese-speakers among their members. Consequently, the importance of the documentation of Ninam was acknowledged by its inclusion as one of a dozen languages within the Project for the Documentation of Brazilian Indigenous Languages and Cultures (PRODOCLIN) being promoted by UNESCO and the Museum of the Indian/FUNAI of Rio de Janeiro in 2009-2011. This paper focuses on research conducted on Xiriana, one of two Ninam dialects, and describes the expanding role of indigenous collaborators and the involvement of the community in language documentation. In the case of the Xiriana of the region of Ericó (Roraima, Brazil) language documentation is linked to indigenous literacy and cultural preservation. Thus, the indigenous community of Xiriana speakers actively determines the nature and outcome of the documentation results, reflecting the change from indigenous subjects to agents and authors of their own stories.

Keywords: Yanomami, Ninam, language documentation, Brazil, Amazonia

Author: Gomez, Gale (Rhode Island College, Ud States of Am / USA)

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