Language documentation

María del Carmen Bolívar interviews a child in rural Chuquisaca

Language documentation

We’ve turned the page on 20 years’ worth of fieldwork! In 2000, Susan Kalt set out to investigate Quechua influences on Bolivian Spanish and collected original recordings of 100 Spanish-language interviews among bilingual and monolingual schoolchildren in Cochabamba, Sucre and rural Chuquisaca, Bolivia. Realizing that Quechua is changing fast and merits attention on its own, she returned to the Andes each summer from 2008-2011 to replicate and expand the study, this time focusing on Quechua rather than Spanish. Working closely with native speaker educators and activists, and with the help of grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities (US) and Endangered Language Foundation (London) she archived a collection of 110 interviews called The Speech of Children from Cusco and Chuquisaca  and carried out the hands-on native language curriculum revitalization project Yachay Q’ipi in rural schools of Cusco, Peru and Chuquisaca, Bolivia. Findings were shared with graduate students in bilingual intercultural education through workshops and seminars at the Universidad Nacional del Altiplano in Puno, Peru and the ProEIB Andes in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Still, the interviews recorded with children from Chuquisaca had been limited to picture selection and description; furthermore there was no large-scale corpus study of adult speech from the Chuquisaca region. From 2016-2020 Susan worked intensively with Bolivian native speaker linguists, graduate students and language activists as well as community leaders from Chuquisaca to create a new corpus of narrative speech in Quechua solely from that region.

The corpus (we think of it as a time capsule) of speech in contemporary Quechua is now complete and under curation for its speakers and for communities of scientists and educators. Every word archived from 2009, 2016, 2018 and 2019 is now glossed by native speakers according to international standards and translated to Spanish, ready for holistic appreciation and statistical analysis. This brings us full circle, so that people who want to make claims about Quechua influences on Bolivian Spanish can do so with better information about how Bolivian Quechua is actually spoken today! More importantly, those who speak and love this language, or want to learn it, have a rich source of recordings and texts to draw from.


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