A CD-Rom and
Webpage of the
Sounds of the Andean Languages
Including Jaqaru, Kawki, Three Varieties of Southern
and Seventeen Regional Varieties of Quechua from
This project focuses on a particular form of popular dissemination for one component of our larger comparative research project on the
Andean languages: our extensive,
newly-collected database on twenty native language varieties of the Andes (of
the Aymara and particularly Quechua families in
So far our fieldwork data and recordings have been used only for academic research purposes, as input to our linguistic analyses. Dissemination funding will be used to convert this same mass of collected comparative data into a free-to-copy cd‑rom and equivalent website, each in both English and Spanish versions. The aim is to benefit a much wider and non-specialist audience, above all the speakers themselves, by supporting the new literacy programmes in their languages.
Our materials will be based principally around tables of side-by-side links that speakers need simply click on to hear how the same word is pronounced in all twenty regional varieties in our database. The structure will guide users through the regional differences in pronunciation, with the specific intention of supporting the adoption of the neutral, harmonised spelling system now being promoted throughout the Andean countries, by helping explain those aspects of it that speakers in one region or another can at first sight find difficult and perplexing. Optionally it will be possible to view our corresponding phonemic and phonetic transcriptions too, which will make the resource more valuable to trained linguists (for whom we shall also prepare other data formats better suited to research uses).
We shall give a series of presentations
of our research in the Andean countries from autumn 2005, made possible and
more valuable by being based around the cd‑rom
material we propose. These will include
return visits and talks to such institutions as the Spanish-Quechua teacher
training college in Potosí; around 150
at the linguistics department in the
Aims and Target Audiences
Supporting Literacy Programmes in Native Andean Languages
Over the course of our fieldwork periods for our main research project, we became aware not just of how critically endangered are some of the languages we have covered (for which our dissemination material will at least represent a basic documentation), but also, particularly for the more widely-spoken varieties, of just how wide a local non-specialist audience was so interested in our comparative study, and why. Its full potential value to them only becomes apparent in the current sociolinguistic context of the Andean languages, now at a crucial stage in the campaign to revitalise them. Significant strides are at last being made towards establishing them as truly written languages through the much-prized harmonisation in spelling (not, of course, pronunciation!), as far as is possible throughout the Andean countries.
The great stumbling-block remains reticence in different regions towards spellings that speakers feel to be in any respect incompatible with their own local pronunciations. This is eminently understandable: most speakers have next to no personal experience whatever of the dozens of more or less closely related and comprehensible varieties of Quechua (precisely because none has any de facto official status). The only way to dissipate such reticence, along with a number of damaging and demeaning (see our separate webpage on popular misconceptions surrounding native Andean languages), is through some means of raising popular awareness and understanding of the relationships between their dialects. Experience of their overriding similarities develops a sense of identity and solidarity among the eight million-strong Quechua-speaking communities, scattered and marginalised across thousands of miles over four main countries, in none of which they represent more than a quarter of the population. An understanding also of the systematic differences in regional pronunciations, meanwhile, is the key to openness to this diversity and progress in harmonisation and literacy.
potential of our comparative data to make a very timely contribution to such
understanding was not lost on linguists
and directors of bilingual education in
This is a rare opportunity
for comparative linguistic research to be disseminated in such a way as to make
a real contribution to a very wide, non-specialist audience, by helping make a success
of the tortuous revitalisation of their language and culture. (Moreover, the example of Quechua is looked to as a test-case for dozens of
increasingly endangered low-prestige indigenous languages – over forty in
Finally, we shall also seek to use our material to encourage interest and research in indigenous national languages (rather than their traditional focus on European ones) by presentations targeting audiences of staff and particularly students in linguistics and related disciplines at leading Andean universities.
Details on Our CD-Rom and WebPages
The very limited written resources that do exist on only a few regional varieties of Andean languages are largely out of date, ill-suited to a non-specialist readership, and neither easily available nor affordable. To reach and engage with our scattered target audiences requires the most affordable and easily distributed media possible. We shall produce several hundred copies of our cd‑rom and distribute them on request and free of charge to any interested groups – including as a matter of course each of our twenty fieldwork communities, in return for their enthusiasm and cooperation that made our database possible at all.
For individuals, the
internet is remarkably affordable and accessible through the public
access ‘cafés’ mushrooming in all but the smallest towns in the
Engaging with our audience puts a premium on our dissemination material being as user-friendly as possible. It is cd‑roms and the internet, once more, that will allow us to include maps, photo pages of our informants and their home regions (click for a sample of such pages already available on our research project website), and – crucially for non-specialists and for as yet essentially unwritten languages – media that can integrate easy-to-use (clickable) sound recordings.
A Spanish language version is equally vital. Our presentations met with constant requests
to make more of our findings available written in Spanish, and the smaller
Spanish section of our website is much more successful in reaching a local
audience (42% of all visits worldwide are from
Staff and Timescales
The dissemination materials will be produced at the
Milestones to measure progress include:
• converting our lexical semantics database to a publicly presentable Microsoft Access version;
• writing the introductory and explanatory texts;
• preparing our twenty presentation pages of our fieldwork sites;
• editing our fieldwork recordings, cutting and sorting them word-by-word into sets of twenty corresponding regional pronunciations of each word;
• converting these into computerised sound files, and integrating them as clickable links on our main pronunciation pages;
• translating all of the above into the Spanish version.
Our full recorded data of some 150 words in each of 20 language varieties represents an enormous potential total of 3,000 individual sound files to be processed, so we aim first to complete a minimum of forty comparison tables of those words most usefully illustrative of important regional variation across the Andean languages, only then proceeding to other words as far as progress permits.
Disseminating Our Output and Assessing Our Success
The value and attraction of this dissemination project lies in how it takes data already collected and analysed for the purposes of the research community, and with comparatively little extra effort turns them into a format indispensable to make them truly accessible and directly useful for a much wider non-specialist audience.
Moreover, this new dissemination can plug into the widespread
interest and contacts already established during our fieldwork trips with all
the main organisations for language revitalisation in the Andes, to help it
reach as much of our target audience as possible. On the internet too, it will be hosted by our
existing website, one of the largest and most popular websites on Quechua and
other Andean languages (it ranks first worldwide on a Google.com search for
‘Quechua linguistics’, for example, second for ‘Quechua language’, and fourth
for ‘Quechua’). This new material will
represent a major new expansion of that website as it moves to its new
We shall be able to assess our progress and success of our various outputs in reaching the target audience in similar ways. The website’s popularity can be assessed by counts of visits to each of our different pages (both English and Spanish versions), sound file downloads, and the number and proportion of hits from the various Andean countries themselves. Progress will also be gauged by the number of requests for our cd‑roms from interested groups there; and as for our presentations, by the number of invitations we receive, attendances, and the nature of their feedback.
click on the links below to go back to our webpages on: