Master of Arts
Bruhn de Garavito, Joyce
Trillos Amaya, Maria
Universidad del Atlantico
The Wiwa are Indigenous people who live in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia. This project examines the vitality of Damana [ISO 693-3: mbp], their language, in two communities that offer bilingual high school education in Damana and Spanish. Its aim is to measure the level of endangerment of Damana according to the factors used in the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected through a questionnaire that gathered demographic and background language information, self-reported proficiency and use of Spanish and Damana [n=56]. Besides the questionnaire, interviews with teachers and parents [n=27], and students [n=29] elicit attitudes towards the languages in question and describe the condition of Damana. Finally, the project includes detailed field notes.Results indicate a difference in language use and competence between older and younger generations, suggesting a pattern of language shift that results in rating the language as definitely endangered. The most urgent linguistic needs for these communities include Native Damana-speaking teachers, language documentation and pedagogical material.
 In his style guide, Practical English Usage, Swan (as cited by the Department of Justice of Canada, 2015) states that initial capitals are used for “nouns and adjectives referring to… ethnic groups.” And despite the fact that the Canadian Constitution Act, 1982 does not capitalize the term aboriginal peoples, the words Aboriginal, Indigenous and Natives are capitalized in the Canadian context. This does not only show proper grammar but demonstrates respect.
Summary for Lay Audience
The Wiwas are an Indigenous people located in the slopes of the mountains of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia. This project examines the current condition of their language, Damana [ISO 693-3: mbp], in the two only communities that offer bilingual high school education in Damana and Spanish to the Wiwa Native people. Despite having a speech community of 7,400 individuals, previous research on Damana remains poor, and very few grammar or lexicon surveys have been produced (Anderson, 2014). Moreover, we do not know of any study that had considered Damana within these two educational contexts. This study measures the level of endangerment of the language according to the factors used to compile the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger (Moseley, 2012).
Results show a positive attitude towards Damana by the members of the Indigenous community. Results also indicate a difference in language use and competence between older and younger generations suggesting a pattern of language shift that allows us to rate the language as vulnerable or definitively endangered.
The most urgent linguistic needs for these communities include Native Damana-speaking teachers, language documentation and pedagogical material. The project concludes with general considerations of the reach of the different initiatives applied in the two schools including the efforts of the community and the Wiwa secretary of education. Further steps in the revitalization of the language can be better designed if the current situation of language loss is clearly determined. Information on language vitality is essential in the description of a language, especially when language endangerment is identified, to provide an effective support effort at different levels.
Fernandez Fernandez, Tatiana L., "Vitality of Damana, the language of the Wiwa Indigenous community" (2020). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 7134.