Language Revitalization and Engagements in the Amazon: The Case of Apurinã

Reference work entry


Several Indigenous languages of Brazil have few speakers: in at least one case, one speaker only (Xipaya), in most cases a few tens (Mekens), in other cases a few hundred (Apurinã), and in rare cases a few thousand (Tikuna). In most cases, the original language is being replaced by the dominant language, Portuguese. In this article, the issues concerning the current state of vitality of Amazonian indigenous languages will be addressed, as well as resources and strategies available to work with the communities. The aim is to identify the main causes of language loss and the paths required to maintain these languages in the long run. The Apurinã language, which belongs to the Arawak linguistic family, will be discussed as a point of departure for addressing the issues of revitalization and engagements. The Apurinã people themselves, numbering approximately 7000, live mainly along the tributaries of the Purus River in Southwestern Amazonia. It was noticed that better results were achieved through a collaborative work with the community, as the diversity of spoken language could be included in the teaching materials. Furthermore, the indigenous authors could feel the authorship that also strengthened the adoption of the materials. Yet, more work is still needed to recreate functional domains for the language to be used, and these domains shall include not only contemporary everyday activities as well as storytelling, rituals, and chants but also the creation of new public spaces for language use. The power relations with the dominant society are also key elements in designing indigenous language materials according to the population’s interests and their particular linguistic characteristics.


Apurinã Language endangerment Amazon Revitalization 


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© Crown 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate Program of Linguistics and LiteratureFederal University of ParáBelémBrazil
  2. 2.Indigenous StudiesUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  3. 3.Faculty of LettersFederal University of ParáBelémBrazil

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