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ELDP Project Highlight: The Enxet Documentation Project

Today on the ELAR blog, we are featuring ELDP grantee John Elliott’s ‘The Enxet Documentation Project’. John’s collection with ELAR focuses on the Enxet Sur language (ISO639-3:enx), spoken by approximately 4,000 speakers in the Enlhet-Enenlhet nation in Paraguay. 

John Elliot, from the University of Hawaii, gives us his community and scientific highlights from his research between 2015 and 2017.

Impact on the community and speakers:

“One of the most successful aspects of the project was the degree to which the community members involved became interested in pursuing their own documentary type work. I left all rechargeable recording equipment (a video camera and some microphones) with my primary consultant and his family, gave them training on how to do video work, and discussed with them possibilities for content. They are very excited to produce documentary content from an indigenous perspective and for an indigenous audience.”

Linguistic highlight:

“As was hoped for in project planning, the bushwalk set-up for most of the recording sessions provided a range of contexts and environments that produced many examples of verbal morphology related to deixis, tense/aspect, epistemic mood, and evidentiality. This documentary corpus contains plenty of “non-canonical” uses of markers and morphemes which might, in a more conventional elicitation approach, be analyzed as simple tense or deictic markers, but which can be seen in the corpus to have additional semantic value as markers of definiteness, epistemic mood, and speaker/hearer alignment. This corpus will be very helpful in working out unresolved questions in Chaco areal linguistics about the semantics and morpho-syntax of these complex TAM type markers.”

John is also currently working with several schoolteachers and translators in the El Estribo community to develop a language attitudes survey aimed at young people, to help determine where the community could best use its limited resources to enable younger speakers to continue to use the language in all facets of daily life, especially online.

John and his team have produced and distributed within the community a DVD of the video recordings of the spring festival that are in the deposit, and I have been told that this DVD has been screened publicly several times at community events, including one in March that was part of a commemoration of the UN’s 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages. 

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