Chamacoco (Yshyr)

Chamacoco (Yshyr) [ceg], also known as Yshyr(o), is one of two extant languages of the Zamucoan language family. Chamacoco (Yshyr) has approximately 1,500-2,000 speakers scattered across several villages and towns in the northeastern part of the Paraguayan Chaco along the Brazilian border.

In 2009, Living Tongues Institute visited the Chamacoco (Yshyr) communities of Puerto Diana and Karcha Bahlut and discussed with Chamacoco (Yshyr) community leaders ways we could help support their language revitalization efforts. The first request they had was for assistance in reprinting their first and second grade textbooks that the community had recently developed, which they required multiple copies of to effectively distribute them among the schools of the region.

There, working with primary consultant Kafotei (Crispulo Martinez) in Puerto Diana and with Alejo Barras in Karcha Bahlut, we made a range of digital audio and video recordings, representing a sample of the lexicon and grammar of this wonderfully complex language. Remaining in Paraguay was field team member and follow-up coordinator Anna Luisa Daigneault who began working with Living Tongues Institute Indigenous Language Activist Andrés Ozuna. Andrés was outfitted with a Language Technology Kit and was offered initial training in Asunción.

Andrés’ first book a study of Yshyr medicinal plant knowledge and use was published late in 2009. His second book on the Yshyr concept of truth was produced in its final form at the Santa Fe Workshop in the spring of 2010, as well as a digital storybook.

During the summer of 2010, Andrés recorded several thousand words in his language which now form the basis of the on-line Chamacoco (Yshyr) Talking Dictionary. Work is underway currently to expand this data set and to produce a bilingual Chamacoco (Yshyr)-Spanish print dictionary, to be published in 2015.

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