Shiwilu and Shawi Collection of Pilar Valenzuela

Colección de Shiwilu y Shawi de Pilar Valenzuela

Object Details

Collection LanguageShawi
Language PIDailla:119783
Title [Indigenous]
Language of Indigenous Title
TitleShiwilu and Shawi Collection of Pilar Valenzuela
Collector(s)Valenzuela Bismarck, Pilar
Depositor(s)Valenzuela Bismarck, Pilar
Project/Collector Website
Description [Indigenous]
Language of Indigenous Description
DescriptionShiwilu (a.k.a. Jebero (jeb)) and Shawi (a.k.a. Chayahuita (cbt)) are the two extant members of the little-known Kawapanan family from northeastern Peru.

Shiwilu is a severely endangered language, since there are approximately 30 fluent speakers left, whose ages range from 57 to over 90 years old; all of them are bilingual in Amazonian Peruvian Spanish and seldom use their ethnic language. Most of these speakers are concentrated in the town of Jeberos and neighboring villages (Jeberos District, Alto Amazonas Province, Loreto Department). A younger generation, approximately 40 years of age and older, includes a few passive speakers. Shiwilu has not been passed on to children for several decades, and thus younger community members do not speak or understand their ethnic language at all.

In contrast to the critical position of Shiwilu, Shawi is a very vital language. It is the main means of communication of the approximately 20,000 members of the respective ethnic group, and it continues being acquired by children. Most Shawi live in some 180 “comunidades nativas,” on the banks of the Cahuapanas, Cachiyacu, Paranapura, and Sillay rivers. There is also a Shawi population along other tributaries of the Huallaga and Marañón rivers (Alto Amazonas and San Martín Provinces, Loreto and San Martín Departments).

The materials in this collection have been produced as part of a language documentation project funded by the National Science Foundation (DEL 0853281), and led by Peruvian linguist Pilar Valenzuela. It is composed of video and audio tapes containing different types of Shiwilu and Shawi texts that have been processed to varying degrees, as well as video clips documenting fieldwork activities. The Shiwilu collection is particularly important, since it contains interviews of most of the remaining native speakers of the language. The collection also contains the Trilingual Shiwilu Dictionary, which can be divided into two bilingual versions: Shiwilu-English/English-Shiwilu, and Shiwilu-Spanish/Spanish-Shiwilu. There are recordings of some 900 entries.

To a significant degree, Amazonian peoples define their identity in terms of an indigenous language. For “post-traditional Indians” like the Shiwilu “it is the only remaining, tangible cultural element that legitimizes the Shiwilu’s claim to being an indigenous people and ensures their recognition as such by others” (Valenzuela, 2010). It is expected that ethno-linguistic documentation will help them strengthen their ethnic identity and pride, which may in turn have an impact on their status and rights as indigenous people (e.g., bilingual education and territorial rights). Also, the development of a practical orthography, a dictionary, and other resources may help them carry out revitalization efforts more effectively.
References2010b. “Ethnic-racial reclassification and language revitalization among the Shiwilu from Peruvian Amazonia.” International Journal for the Sociology of Language, vol. 2010, 202: 117-130.