The Zaparo Documentation Project (ZRDP) will bring together remaining speakers of Zaparo, a linguistic isolate spoken in the Ecuador. There are three last speakers of this under-documented language who are in their nineties and in frail health. The outcomes of this project are pivotal to understanding the typological features which characterize the Zaparo language family. The project records conversational interactions and oral narratives from which a corpus will be constructed with interlinearalized transcriptions. The project will be valuable to researchers and to community members as the final products include the central corpus (in video and audio formats), a Zaparo-Spanish-Quichua Dictionary and a Zaparo primer.

Project Report

The ZRDP is a descriptive and documentary research project. Through this NSF grant, intensive fieldwork and data analysis were conducted in Ecuador with five of the remaining speakers of Sapara (Zaparo, ISO code: ZRO) by the project team, in two phases: between December 25, 2010 and January 21, 2011; and between May 23, 2011 and July 25, 2011. The major findings of the ZRDP consist of (1) textual, (2) audio-recorded and (3) video-recorded language documentation data on the Sapara language, accompanied by analyses and descriptions of various aspects of the Sapara language, including its sound system, and aspects of its lexicon, morphology, and syntax. These data are primarily organized in a lexical database, which was built using FLEx (FieldWorks Language Explorer) software. The data set also includes some audio- and video-recorded narratives and songs in Sapara and related transcriptions. In addition, the data collected by the ZRDP has enabled us to better understand historical relationships among the four languages of the Zaparoan family: Sapara (Zaparo; ISO code: ZRO), Andoa (ANB), Arabela (ARL), and Iquito (IQU). The ZRDP has benefitted its participants in different ways. First, all four US participants broadened and deepened their field-based research skills, due to the collaborative nature of this project. Second, the ZRDP was carried out in collaboration with NASE, the Sapara Nation of Ecuador, and through this collaboration many members of the Sapara Nation learned about the methods, goals, and outcomes of our linguistic and cultural documentation work. Third, all participants now have access to the ZRDP's products, which will be useful for both further research (primarily in the US) and further education (primarily in Ecuador). The principal product of the ZRDP is the trilingual dictionary: Diccionario Trilingue sapara-castellano-kichwa, castellano-sapara y kichwa-sapara (Julio 2011). This is a Zaparo-Spanish-Kichwa dictionary with 1,038 Sapara entries. It is organized both alphabetically and thematically and was produced specifically for use by members of the Sapara heritage language community and members of the Sapara Nation. In addition, we have created a database with 1180 distinct 'headword' records. This database includes all available morphology as individual 'headword' records, as well as short sentences within the 'headword' records. We will eventually archive this database with the Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America (AILLA),, so that it can be accessed and used by a wide audience. The ZRDP has made a contribution in various domains. * Documentary Linguistics: The ZRDP has increased knowledge of both the Sapara (Zaparo) language and the Zaparoan family more generally. * Historical Linguistics: Our documentation project has increased knowledge regarding the family-internal relations among the four languages of the Zaparoan family for which there exist data: Andoa, Arabela, Iquito, and Sapara. * Other disciplines: The ZRDP is a cross-disciplinary project by design; it was designed to address a set of interests shared by the ethnoarcheaologist and linguists who are its core participants -- interests in the intersection of linguistic form, language use, cultural forms, social networks, and historical processes. Because of our attention to this set of interests as they are manifest in language, we anticipate that the outcomes of the ZRDP will benefit anthropologists, cultural geographers, historians, and any other specialists in related fields who are interested in the language, culture and/or history of the Sapara people. * Resources for Research and Education: The data set produced by the ZRDP is being archived and disseminated, in both paper and electronic forms, as appropriate, so that other researchers and other interested parties, both in the US and elsewhere, will be able to use our results to further their own research and educational projects outside the ZRDP. * Contributions Beyond Science: Products of the ZRDP have already been distributed, and will continue to be distributed as they become available, to NASE (The Sapara Nation of Ecuador) and to key personnel in the Ministry of Education in Ecuador. It is our hope that these products can be used to support (1) the social and political well-being of the the Sapara Nation, and (2) the physical, economic, and cultural well-being of all its members, as a result of generating greater positive understanding of the Sapara people among relevant government personnel. Similarly, project products have been or will be disseminated to individual members of the Sapara Nation throughout the territory, to the degree logistically possible, in order to disseminate knowledge about the language, history, and culture of the Sapara people. It is our hope that this will be benefit people both within and external to the Sapara Nation, by increasing greater cross-cultural understanding of the Sapara people as a unique and important part of Ecuadorian and regional history.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
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Shobhana Chelliah
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California State University-Fullerton Foundation
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