An Assessment of Language Vitality Among the Mako People & the Importance of Participant Observation Data

Jorge Rosés Labrada poster Dec 3rd


Mako, a Sáliban language spoken along the Ventuari River in the Venezuelan Amazon, has been reported as (critically) endangered and threatened (Mattéi- Müller 2006, Mosonyi 2003). These reports, however, rely on second-hand information and/or self-reported census data. In this talk, I present a vitality assessment of the language that relies on first-hand fieldwork data from 20 Mako villages. The analysis of the data—collected through informal interviews, two community censuses, and participant observation between 2012 and 2014 – shows that the language is in fact vital in its local context but that the place of Mako in the regional/national context puts the language in a vulnerable position, recommending that steps be taken to ensure its presence in new domains. Methodologically, I show the importance—and argue in favour—of including data from long-term participant observation in analyses and reports of linguistic vitality because of the access this methodology provides to tacit knowledge (DeWalt & DeWalt 2011) about language use and attitudes.

Speaker Bio

Jorge Rosés Labrada is an Honorary Killam and Banting postdoctoral fellow and a postdoctoral teaching fellow in the First Nations and Endangered Languages Program. His research focuses primarily on the diachronic and synchronic morphosyntax of American indigenous languages, especially those of the Amazon; and on language documentation and revitalization in Latin American contexts. To learn more about Jorge’s work, click here.

Location & Timing

11:30am-1:00pm, Thursday, December 3, 2015
Anthropology & Sociology Building | Room 1109
6303 NW Marine Drive


The poster for this event is available here.