Yaminawa Language Documentation Project


My summer 2013 fieldwork focused on documentation work of three related Panoan languages spoken in Ucayali in eastern Peru: Yaminawa, spoken by approximately 1,570 speakers; Sharanawa, with approximately 450 remaining speakers; and Nahua (also called Yora or Yoranawa), with fewer than 180 remaining speakers (Ethnologue 2013). Due to increased centralization of indigenous Amazonian groups to urban areas (Peluso & Alexiades 2005), all three languages are no longer being learned by children, and will be completely extinct within two generations if current trends continue. The two specific goals of this trip were to determine the present state of all three languages within the municipality of Sepahua, and to complete a preliminary linguistic survey of Nahua, which had previously never been documented despite its dwindling presence. Over the course of a month, I recorded language elicitation sessions from a total of twelve linguistic consultants in all three languages, with topics ranging from structural analysis of the languages to traditional stories. I identified several phenomena of broader interest to the field of linguistics that warrant further investigation, including the use of nasalization for both grammatical and affective purposes. I will archive all of my fieldnotes and recordings according to best linguistic practices. All of the data I collected this summer will be used in further language documentation, preservation, and revitalization projects of Yaminawa and Nahua, as well as in preparation for research on accommodation of nasalization in speech.  

Jevon Heath
Publication date: 
September 24, 2014
Publication type: 
Student Research