An ethnographic account of language documentation among the Kurripako of Venezuela

Tania Granadillo
Dept. of Anthropology, University of Arizona
July, 2006


This dissertation deals with language documentation from a theoretical and practical perspective. Alongside a theoretical discussion of language documentation, I present my own language documentation project carried out among the Kurripako of Venezuela. What is language documentation? How should it be carried out? And what does it include? These are some of the questions that I address in this dissertation through the analysis of my own project. I argue that language documentation is a multipurpose, data-driven gathering of records of a language that should take into account the needs of various interested parties such as researchers and community members.
In this way, the needs and desires of many should be taken into account in the planning and execution of such a project. I provide examples of those different parts by looking at my project among the Kurripako. In this sense, each chapter addresses a different part of a project. Chapter 2 addresses theoretical and pragmatic issues. Chapter 3 addresses information about the language, its speakers,dialect variation and a grammatical sketch. Chapter 4 examines argument marking structure in depth and concludes that Kurripako is an active-stative language. Chapter 5 examines the active-stative split in texts and argues that text collection needs to be complemented by elicitation in order to be able to fully address grammatical aspects. Chapter 6 provides information on the context of the project and explains the interests that speakers had in collecting particular types of texts. I finalize by arguing that there needs to be much more work on the theory of language documentation as well as evaluations of these theoretical proposals in order to serve all needs that language documentation wishes to. I do not intend to present my language documentation project as an exemplar of how language documentation should be done, but merely use it to reflect upon issues that such a project raises. There more questions that came to light and that remain to be answered than issues that have been provided with an answer. It is my hope that this will also encourage others to tackle some of these questions.*

This dissertation is a compound document (contains both a paper copy and a CD as part of the dissertation). The CD requires the following system requirements: Windows MediaPlayer or RealPlayer.