The endangered West Toucanic language Secoya with a maximum of 1200 speakers today is native to the northern Amazon regions of Ecuador and Peru. In Ecuador, Secoya is spoken by less than 500 people and has strong regional influences from the related language Siona.
In the new project, funded by the Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Programme from September for 1.5 years, Dr. Anne Schwarz will document the Ecuadorian Secoya together with indigenous researchers. The aim is to create and archive a text corpus and an electronic dictionary based on audio/video recordings, accompanied by documentary linguistic training for the local team and the joint development of language didactic materials for the speaker community.
The language Secoya, native to the northwestern Amazonian lowlands, is spoken today by little more than 1,000 people in Ecuador and Peru. Within the research project "Documentation of Ecuadorian Secoya" which is funded for 1.5 years by Arcadia within The Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project at SOAS,* I cooperate with the Archive of Ecuadorian Languages at the Latin American Social Sciences Institute, Quito (FLACSO) and with the Department for Linguistics at the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador (PUCE). I also work closely with the speaker community in Ecuador. Since the Secoya dialects on the Ecuadorian side are increasingly under pressure from the outside due to the drastic socio-economic changes in the life of the speech community, some Secoya and I have joined in the initiative for the maintenance of their language. We hold workshops about language documentary topics and grammatical questions arising from the everyday practice of bilingual education, organize a linguistic competition and festivals during which the elders tell about mythical events. We also conduct sociolinguistic interviews and develop reading materials and a trilingual dictionary for the speech community.
* This project builds on previous research supported by the Firebird Foundation for Anthropological Research, the Faculty of Arts, Education and Social Sciences at James Cook University, and the Australian Research Council.