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Linguistic Materials on Indigenous Languages of Guyana

Collection number: SCL 2018-03
Primary contributors:  Felix Xavier (consultant), Lawrence Joseph (consultant, translator), Christine George (consultant), Gladwyn Kingsley Noble Jr. (researcher)
Additional contributors:  Manjari Ohala (donor), Albert Atkinsen (consultant), Sylvia Peters (consultant), Lorendo James (consultant), Salvadore Atkinsen (consultant), Fred Atkinsen (consultant), Eric Winter (consultant), Claris Peters (consultant), Elizabeth Winter (consultant), Christine Xavier (consultant), Doris Peters (consultant), Veronica Johnson (consultant), Percy Griffith (consultant), James Park (consultant)
Languages: Wapishana, Atorai, Macushi
Dates: 1965
Extent: 13 reel tapes
Historical information: In the summer of 1965, Gladwyn Kingsley Noble, Jr. (1923-1994; PhD Columbia 1962), then a professor at San Jose State University, carried out several weeks of linguistic fieldwork in the Rupununi river basin of Guyana. His empirical focus was on Wapishana and Atorai, two Arawak languages of the region. (He also carried out a single lexical elicitation session with a speaker of the Cariban language Macushi.) At the time, and as of 2018, Wapishana continues to boast several thousand speakers; Atorai, on the other hand, was already spoken only by elderly individuals who were likely born in the late 19th century. To our knowledge, the Atorai materials contained in this collection are the only known sound recordings of the language in existence. Noble's principal consultants were Lawrence Joseph (for Wapishana) and Christine George and Felix Xavier (for Atorai). A woman who seems to be Felix Xavier's wife is also often present, though she is not named. Prof. Noble's 1965 fieldwork on Arawak languages was an outgrowth of his PhD dissertation research ("Proto-Arawakan and its Descendants") on the phylogeny of the Arawak language family. It was his only field season. In 1972, Noble applied for, but was denied, a visa to return to Guyana during his sabbatical in the spring of 1973. Around this time, he gave these 13 reel tapes to friend Prof. Vida Denk (San Jose State). Around 2006, Prof. Manjari Ohala (San Jose State), a friend of both Prof. Noble and Prof. Kenk, and wife of Berkeley linguistics professor John Ohala, facilitated the donation of the reel tapes to the Survey of California and Other Indian Languages, then directed by Prof. Leanne Hinton. Prof. Noble appears to have taken copious field notes, references to which are made throughout these recordings. In the Description fields for each item in this collection we include annotations that appear to reference those notes, when they exist. As of April 2018 the location of these field notes is not known. For each item we provide the most specific date of recording possible. A location along the middle Rupununi River was chosen for coordinates; it does not correspond necessarily to a specific place where these recordings were made.
Scope and content: Audio recordings of lexical and sentence elicitation, monologic texts, conversations, songs, and group activities
Repository: Survey of California and Other Indian Languages
Preferred citation: Linguistic Materials on Indigenous Languages of Guyana, SCL 2018-03, Survey of California and Other Indian Languages, University of California, Berkeley,