Christian Brown - Research of the Peruvian Tahuayo River Basin

Christian Brown
Mr. Christian Brown
Arabic Studies
Sayville, Long Island, NY

This past Summer I had the pleasure of receiving fellowship grants to pursue field research in linguistic anthropology in the Peruvian Amazonian jungle. For a month I stayed in what is called the Amazonian Research Center (or ARC) located four hours into the heart of the jungle from the city of Iquitos, and stationed by Dr. Paul Beaver; owner to Amazonia Expeditions tour company. Within this area of the Tahuayo river tributary, I sought out the Riverinos villages so that I could interview them and ask questions about the language spoken within this river community. With audio and video equipment and a translator from the Amazonian Expedition’s staff I set out to learn and document as much as I could, preferably in the form of a text size or glossary, as well as a collection of the oral history.

When I initially began this project, I had known the lingua local of the Tahuayo was very different from Peruvian Spanish, though still being a mix of Spanish and something else. My goal was to determine what that something else was, and my assumptions were it was a mix of Spanish and Quechua, the language of the Inca. As I conducted my interviews, from six different villages, I discovered this lingua local was very complex and had roots of phrases, slang terms, and expressions connected to well over two hundred Amazonian (otherwise known as Panoan) languages. The language was identified with many words such as “regional dialect”, “river Spanish”, “lingua local”, but within this all non-Spanish vocabulary, phrases, and expressions were also identified simply as “jungle talk” meaning jungle talk is anything in this language that is non-Spanish in origin.

I thought it best to create a text collection, and I ultimately produced a text with just under 1,200 words with direct translations, as well as definitions for each. The work I am doing now as an SYE project is identifying which words in this list are non-Spanish vocabulary, and from which languages they come from. Also from the notes and interviews I’ve gathered asking about the oral history of this language, it appears to me the Tahuayo lingua local is extremely new with the first lingua local speakers coming from a generation or two older from my interviewees. In all of the thirty three interviews conducted, they all tell a story and that is how this language came to be and how it all began. That’s the oral history. Even further into my research I’m continuing to examine linguistic devices, such as “patterns of borrowing” which pretty much means how non-Spanish vocabulary, phrases, and expressions are mixed with Spanish.

Overall it’s been an outstanding experience and I am so pleased to have been granted the opportunity to conduct such an extensively awesome project!

Study Abroad: 
Research grant
Sol Feinstone International Study prize