An Oral Tradition Gets Its First-Ever Written Dictionary
In the Bolivian tropical rainforest, about 2,500 people live in Yurakaré (sometimes spelled Yuracaré) villages. This indigenous population speaks a unique language, also called Yurakaré, which is distinct from all other languages spoken in the area. That fact makes it special and precious; it also puts it in danger.
The Yurakaré language is at risk of being lost to time.
Julen Villarreal Moreno, a self-described “enthusiast of linguistic and cultural diversity” is finishing a master’s degree in linguistics at Leiden University in the Netherlands and is committed to helping the Yurakaré people preserve their native tongue. Under the supervision of Vincent Hirtzel and Rik van Gijn and in collaboration with the Yurakaré leaders, he plans to collaborate with Yurakaré leaders to produce the language’s first written dictionary, containing vocabulary related to medicine, nature, culture, and ceremonies. His aim is twofold: to safeguard the language and to support efforts to teach Yurakaré in local schools.
Julen will use our grant to organize meetings in Yurakaré villages, hold two workshops with the Yurakaré Education Council to get community feedback on the project, and to purchase papers, pens, chalk, and other supplies. We think of language as a tool, but languages themselves are stories. We want future generations to be able to read this one!