DENNY MOORE is a linguist with a PhD from the City University of New York. He has been an employee of the Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development for 9 years, in charge of developing the study of Amazonian Indian languages by Brazilians. In addition to his own research (principally in the Tupi linguistic stock), he has spent a great deal of time training Brazilian students, developing a professional infrastructure, and carrying out practical assistance projects among indigenous communities--especially literacy in the native language and use of the language to record traditional culture and knowledge. He is currently involved in setting up a large-scale, long-term (5 years) effort, the Projeto Linguas Amazonicas, to advance linguistic work in Amazonia and to take concrete steps toward language documentation and preservation. He has collaborated with Willam Balee on comparative ethnobotanical terminology in Tupi-Guarani languages.
There are approximately 170 indigenous languages still spoken in Brazil, of which about 140 are spoken in Amazonia. Less then 10% of these have adequate published descriptions, and many have few speakers, who live in precarious conditions. The Linguistics Division of the Museu Goeldi is beginning to implement an active, systematic project to apply modern electronic documentation technology to the native languages and cultures of Brazil, to preserve at least minimal knowledge of the languages and their speakers. This project is meant to be an extensive survey of all the languages and major dialects of the country (ten hours of audio taping and one hour of video taping), complementing but not replacing traditional intensive field study and description. The material to be recorded needs to be selected so as to maximize (1) the knowledge of the structure of the language, (2) the usefulness of the vocabulary items for comparative purposes, (3) the information about the speakers and their culture, history, and current situation, and (4) the value of what is recorded in terms of linguistic and cultural preservation which is of interest to the native community itself.
The basic equipment (Hi-8 video camcorders, editor, and accessories, as well as DAT recorders and microphones) has been acquired. A protocol for what is to be recorded must be devised so as to maximize the usefulness of the material collected. This involves many questions, such as which vocabulary items are most valuable for reconstructing prehistory by linguistic methods, or how to most accurately elicit species names. Ideas and suggestions from other conference participants are solicited in order to make the project as scientifically productive as possible.
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