I did my undergraduate studies on anthropology and linguistics at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador and received my M.A on interdisciplinary cultural studies from Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar in Quito. In 2003 I joined ACLC as a PhD candidate to work on the interplay of typological and social constraints on language contact on the basis of three case studies from Latin America. I settled back in Ecuador in 2007 with the purpose of working on indigenous languages and mainly for indigenous peoples. Since then I have been involved in programs of documentation and revitalization of Imbabura Kichwa (Kichwa), Media Lengua (Mixed Language), Sia Pedee (Chocoan), Awapit (Barbacoan), Waorani (unclassified) and more recently Andwa and Sapara (both Zaparoan). Also, I have been active in conducting sociolinguistic surveys of several Ecuadorian indigenous languages with a view to establishing their actual state of vitality and designing language policies.
My research interests include language contact, particularly, the influence of Spanish on Amerindian languages, pre-Inca languages in the Northern Andes, critical discourse analysis, linguistic heritage and safeguarding, Amerindian oral tradition and nineteenth-century travel literature.
Ecuador is a South American country whose capital city is located on the equator line, hence its name. It is home to a dozen languages from different families and two of unknown origin. While a large number of languages were spoken in the lowlands and highlands before the Spanish conquest, most indigenous languages nowadays are concentrated in the Amazon Lowlands. The distribution of Ecuador's languages in geographic regions is as follows:
Kichwa and Shuar chicham are by far the languages with the largest number of speakers, even if they - like any other indigenous language in the country - continue to be in a diglossic relation to the official language, Spanish. Diglossia has prevailed since the early colonization of South America and resulted in two scenarios: either indigenous languages have died after their speakers having shifted to the official language, or they have changed their lexical and structural profiles to better adapt to the Hispanic mainstream society. While language mixing is a rather common outcome which does not necessarily lead to language death, the expansion of Spanish-based culture and education in the last fifty years all over the country has dramatically increased the levels of endangerment of minority languages. An accurate assessment of the current vitality of Ecuador´s indigenous languages is a pending task, but several language-specific studies show that the rate of language shift and death is accelerating. An overall though not quite accurate evaluation of the vitality of Ecuador's languages is provided by UNESCO Endangered Languages Atlas.
Considering the high levels of language loss, my work of language documentation in Ecuador is strongly linked to revitalization programs. In my view, language documentation cannot serve the purposes of linguistic theory only, but must serve first and foremost those of the language community. Language documentation for its own sake risks becoming mere archiving.
Since 2005 I have carried out several documentation and revitalization activities in Ecuador. In addition to my work on a mixed language (Media Lengua) and its matrix language (Imbabura Quechua), I have also done documentation work on three languages, precisely those with the highest level of endangerment: Andwa (Zaparoan), Sia Pedee (Chocoan) and Awapit (Barbacoan). Speakers of Awapit number over three thousand whereas those of Sia Pedee are less than one hundred. On the contrary, Andwa is now an extinct language after the demise of its last speaker in 2011. Currently I am working with another moribund language of the Zaparoan family (Sapara). Below I provide a sketch of these languages and their documentation and revitalization state.
Imbabura Quechua is a language of the Quechua family (QIIB in Torero's classification) spoken in the highland province of Imbabura in the Ecuadorian Andes by approximately 70.000 people (Census 2010). While Imbabura Quechua is much more vital than other varieties of the same family spoken in the Andes, it shows a considerable amount of Spanish lexical borrowing and structural changes induced by contact (Gómez Rendón 2007, 2008, 2009). The intensity of this contact in the area of San Pablo led to the emergence of a mixed lect commonly known as Media Lengua, characterized by a predominantly Spanish-derived lexicon and a Quechua-derived grammar (Gómez Rendón 2008). Lately I have questioned the status of this variety as a true bilingual mixed language associated with a new ethnic identity (Gomez Rendón fc.)
Sia Pedee is a Chocoan language spoken in the Pacific Lowlands of Colombia and Ecuador. While the language is still vital in the former country, it is highly endangered in the latter. A sociolinguistic survey conducted in 2005 found that only thirty people above their fifties spoke the language with native fluency, the rest of the ethnic population being mostly monolingual in Spanish. However, after their legal consolidation as an ethnic group with their own territory and legal status in 2001, Epera leaders and grassroots became interested in the revitalization of their traditional language. Their efforts to reintroduce the language in the new generations as well as new waves of Colombian Epera immigrants have raised the number of Sia Pedee speakers in Ecuador. A team of speakers trained in language documentation have produced a monolingual dictionary which is now in its second expanded edition (2015), a collection of oral tradition (2008), a pedagogical grammar (2009), plus a ten-hour collection of annotated recordings in different genres. In working with the documentation team I have explored the use of code switching in story-telling (Gómez Rendón 2010) and proposed a classification of Epera oral tradition (Gómez Rendón 2013).
Awapit is a Barbacoan language spoken in the provinces of Esmeraldas, Carchi and Imbabura by approximately 3130 people. While Awapit speakers remained isolated until the 1970s, their contact with the Spanish-speaking society increased dramatically in the last decades and influenced the use of their native language, which is now seriously endangered. Since 2008 I have collaborated with the Awa Directorate of Intercultural Bilingual Education in training a team of Awa teachers in language documentation. The outcomes of this collaboration include an annotated audiovisual database of Awapit (2008), a collection of oral tradition (2010), two textbooks for the teaching of Awapit to third and fourth graders (2011) and a 1000-entry monolingual dictionary (2014). In 2010 a sociolinguistic survey was conducted in Ecuador in order to determine the vitality of the language and the prospects for revitalization.(Gómez Rendón 2010). In addition, I have produced an ethnographic sketch of Ecuadorian Awa in collaboration with Luis Antonio Cantincuz, an Awa teacher of the community of Mataje in the province of Esmeraldas (Gómez Rendón and Cantincuz 2011).
Andwa or Shimigae was a Zaparoan language spoken in Ecuador and Peru. The language is now considered extinct after the death of its last speaker in 2011. Andwa was the heritage language of the Andwa Nation in Pastaza, Ecuador. Nowadays, Amazonian Kichwa is the mother tongue of the Andwa population in both countries. Since 2008 Andwa leaders and grassroots in Ecuador have been leading an initiative of reintroducing their heritage language in the formal education and the media. As part of this initiative we have produced a Kichwa-Andwa dictionary, a collection of Andwa oral tradition and a grammatical sketh of the language (Gómez Rendón 2012). A summary of these efforts in language reclamation is discussed in a recent joint contribution (Gómez Rendón and Salazar fc). With a view to understanding the dynamics of language shift to Kichwa and the associated identity politics among the Andwa, I have scrutinized historical sources and contextualize them in today's process of identity strengthening (Gómez Rendón 2013).
Before the Inca conquest of the Northern Andes in the last third of the fifteenth century, the territory of present-day Ecuador was populated by peoples speaking languages different from Kichwa. Linguistic diversity was then a characteristic not only of the Andean Highlands but also of the Pacific and the Amazon Lowlands. Today most of that diversity has faded away as a result of three processes: 1) a language shift to Kichwa in the Highlands which concluded presumably by the early eighteenth century; 2) a language shift to Kichwa in the Amazon Lowlands which is now underway but began very early in the Spanish colonization with the Jesuit missions of Maynas and others led by Dominican and Franciscan orders; and 3) a language shift to Spanish which began in highland Kichwa communities in the second half of the nineteenth century and accelerated during the twentieth century. While we do not have grammars or dictionaries of pre-Inca languages once spoken in ancient Ecuador, we do have references to these languages in historical sources and long lists of toponyms and anthroponyms which give us an idea of their areas of influence. Following the work of Jijón y Caamaño and others who explored the linguistic landscape of ancient Ecuador before the Spanish conquest, I have undertaken a critical evaluation of the existing historical and onomastic records. The first outcomes of this evaluation are two articles discussing the linguistic situation of the Pacific lowlands in pre-Hispanic and early Hispanic times.
The concern about language loss in the last decades led to the emergence of language documentation and the strengthening of language policy-making around the world. Ecuador was not the exception, even if much work remains to be done in this field following an agenda of priorities (Gómez Rendón 2008, 2009). In the last years a new approach to the protection and promotion of indigenous languages and cultures sees them as part and parcel of intangible cultural heritage. The UNESCO Convention (2003) includes language and oral tradition as part of the first domain of intangible cultural heritage. The notion of language as heritage is not exempt from controversy, however, as heritage can be approached from different levels - global, national, regional or local - on which specific policies can be drawn with different outcomes (Gómez Rendón 2012). Of great importance in this respect is the view of language and cultural heritage not as "something" independent of other social practices but inextricably linked to them. The corollary is that linguistic rights are part of economic, social and cultural rights, and any efforts of revitalization must point not to the language itself but to the people and their practices (Gómez Rendón 2014). Along the same lines, traditional revitalization programs should not focus, as they have so far, on writing and reading practices exclusively, but mainly on promoting the use of the minority languages in their own sociocultural contexts and on developing new literacies that include other semiotic systems (Gómez Rendón & Jarrín Paredes 2015).
Beyond the view of language as a semiotic system serving communicative and cognitive purposes is the idea that language crucially embodies and is embodied by power. Language is one of the forms of power, and power manifests effectively though surreptitiously in language. Therefore, the task of linguistic theory is not only to describe the structure and function of language but mainly to unveil the ways in which language is used to dominate others and the ways in which language is used to counteract such domination. One genre in which the interaction of language and power becomes transparent is that of testimonial narratives, defined as oral texts in which subaltern individuals speak according to their own truth values and tell their own version of history. Pieces of testimonial narrative have been collected by many anthropologists, sociologists and historians during the twentieth century but have been mostly analyzed from the traditional perspective of Western literature and its accepted genres. On the contrary, the approach of critical discourse analysis contribute to elucidating the ways language structure is linked to broader language configurations (discourse) and the ways discursive configurations correspond to specific sociopolitical contexts.
Given the relevance of testimonial narratives to understand the sociopolitical situation of language endangerment and loss, the collection of pieces from this genre should be an important part of any project of language documentation, as the ultimate task of revitalization is not "saving a language" but empowering its speakers in the mainstream society. Along these lines, I have collected several pieces of testimonial narrative and analyzed them as alternative forms of history-writing and political statements of subaltern condition and counter-hegemonic initiatives (Gómez Rendón 2001, 2013).
To the extent that language is linked to society and culture, any integral description of language implies a correlated description of society and culture. Accordingly, a satisfactory linguistic description can be achieved only by a thoughtful ethnographic work in which the linguist becomes involved with the speakers as interlocutors in a continuous process of meaning-making. The need to move the old paradigm of fieldwork beyond the positivist subject-object relation towards a constructionist inter-subjective one is deeply felt in the contemporary practice of linguistics and ethnography. The relevance of constructing a new paradigm of research in the social sciences pertains directly to language documentation and revitalization for several reasons: first, it recognizes and empower speakers as subjects controlling their own semiotic systems (languages); second, it advocates a participatory action research approach for scholarly projects, thereby linking them to communities in more direct and sustained ways; and third, it enables us to explore, and reflect on, our own research practices along the way and make them more adaptive to specific field situations (Gómez Rendón 2013).
ETNOSOCIOLINGUISTICA (2012 - 2015)
En este curso se tratará la compleja red de relaciones entre lengua y sociedad así como las formas en que una y otra se influyen en diferentes niveles de variación. Dentro de este marco se hará un acercamiento a la situación social, política, educativa y comunicativa de las lenguas indígenas del Ecuador y el área andina, su relación pasada y presente con el idioma oficial y sus perspectivas para el siglo XXI dentro de estados plurilingües e interculturales.
TIPOLOGIA SOCIOLINGÜÍSTICA (2015)
A partir de un enfoque funcionalista del lenguaje en general y del cambio lingüístico en particular, el curso se propone explorar los factores extralingüísticos de naturaleza sociodemográfica y sociocultural que modelan la estructura de las lenguas naturales y la manera cómo estas interaccionan con factores lingüísticos para configurar el perfil tipológico de una lengua. Con este fin se ha dividido el curso en cinco módulos intensivos: en el primero se discutirá en profundidad un modelo de causalidad del cambio lingüístico a partir de una clasificación y jerarquización de las causas de dicho cambio, tomando ejemplos de diferentes estudios de caso; en el segundo módulo se desarrollarán las premisas básicas de la tipología sociolingüística; los siguientes tres módulos estarán dedicados al estudio pormenorizado del cambio lingüístico en tres lenguas amerindias – el kichwa ecuatoriano, el guaraní paraguayo y el otomí queretano – procurando enmarcar los cambios tipológicos operados en dichas lenguas a partir de una comprensión general de la historia sociodemográfica y sociocultural de sus comunidades de habla.
DESCRIPTION AND DOCUMENTATION OF NATIVE LANGUAGES OF ECUADOR (2009-2014)
The research plan scheduled for the period 2009-2012 focuses on the basic documentation and description of several indigenous languages in Ecuador. Apart from Spanish, Ecuador has twelve different languages spoken by some 1.5 million people of Indian descent. Compared to its relatively small area, this number makes Ecuador one of the most linguistically diverse countries in Latin America. Yet, these languages are in one way or another severely endangered and require effective and immediate actions for their documentation and preservation. Four of them have been documented already. Consequently, the first focus of the research plan is on documenting the rest of Ecuador’s indigenous languages according to international standards of linguistic documentation. While this documentation cannot be exhaustive for reasons of time and funds, it seeks to lay the foundations for further documentation through the capacity building of local human resources and the setting of basic guidelines of work. The results of the documentation will be catalogued and archived at several local academic and public institutions concerned with the promotion of Indian languages and cultures in Ecuador. The resulting database will thus serve varied purposes for the speaking communities involved, such as the production of pedagogic materials for language revitalization, scientific descriptions of languages hitherto understudied, and studies of language typology and contact. It will be interesting to explore as well the chance that the final database may be integrated to existing typological databases in Europe.
The second focus of the research plan is on the production of two types of scientific papers for each language documented: one paper will deal with a particularly relevant feature of the language (e.g. ergativity in Sia Pedee, Chocoan); another paper will address the changes induced by contact of the language with Spanish or other major language spoken in the area (e.g. Quichua in the Amazon basin). Similarly, a broad study of all the languages documented will be undertaken from a typological and areal perspective at the end of the research period.
* For a list of all the indigenous languages and their state of vitality along with the most recent efforts to revitalize them, see (cf. Gómez Rendón 2008b).
INDIGENOUS LANGUAGES OF ECUADOR AND PERU (2014-2017)
The research plan scheduled for the period 2014-2017 continues with the documentation and description of indigenous languages in Ecuador and Peru (Ecuadorian-Peruvian border) from a synchronic and a diachronic perspective, including basic lexicographic and grammatical descriptions as well as sociolinguistic surveys of vitality and studies of language contact.
Apart from the four languages previously documented prior to the first term of affiliation, four Ecuadorian languages have been object of a basic documentation according to international standards of linguistic documentation from 2009 to 2012. Therefore, the languages documented so far include: Siapedee, Awapit, Andoa (+), Tsa’fiki, A’ingae, Wao tededo, Baikoka and Paicoca. For each language the applicant has made available a collection of digital audiovisual materials about different aspects of social interaction and cultural heritage, with a total of eighty (80) hours, only a small part of which has been annotated. In addition, for each language a sociolinguistic survey has been conducted in order to know its vitality. In accordance with the former Research Plan, a basic lexicographic work and/or a description of some aspect of the grammar of each language has been prepared and published.
While this documentation and description cannot be exhaustive for reasons of time and funds, it seeks to lay the foundations for further work of linguistic description through the capacity building of local human resources and the setting of basic guidelines of work. The results obtained so far are serving various purposes for the speech communities involved, such as the production of didactic materials for language revitalization, scientific descriptions of languages hitherto understudied, and studies of language typology and contact.
Once the basic audiovisual, descriptive, sociolinguistic and bibliographic documentation of the twelve indigenous languages has been completed by 2017, the materials will be collected, edited and published in what will be the first comprehensive publication about indigenous languages of Ecuador. The priority of a publication of this kind in Ecuador is high, given the increasing role of indigenous languages not only in intercultural communication and bilingual education but also in academic circles. The collection of these materials seeks to provide a solid basis for the making of coherent and realistic language policies for Indian groups in Ecuador.
SOCIOLINGUISTIC TYPOLOGY OF KICHWA, SIA PEDEE, SAPARA AND AWAPIT (2018-2020)
The proposal expands the scope of my UvA doctoral dissertation (2008), which studied the typological and social constraints of language contact mostly from a linguistic point of view. My doctoral research analysed the corpora of three typologically different languages (Quechua, Guarani and Otomi) focusing on their typological profile as the main factor in determining the outcomes of contact and having social factors only as a backdrop. The research proposed for this period, on the contrary, seeks to explore the interaction of social and linguistic (typological) factors, specifically, whether social factors (mainly demographical ones) are decisive enough to influence the typological profile of languages.
Theoretically, the proposal is aligned with the framework of sociolinguistic typology as developed, among others, by Trudgill (2011). Sociolinguistic typology intends to answer the question of how human societies at different times and places produce different kinds of language, considering the extent to which social factors influence language structure. The major process identified by sociolinguistic typologists as directly influence by socio-demographic factors are simplification and complexification at any of the levels of language. Both processes are akin., though not exactly similar, to the concepts of transparency and opacity, mostly used by linguistic typologists in the framework of Functional Discourse Grammar to refer to the one-to-one mapping of meaning and form or the gradual lack of it (Leufkens 2015; Hengeveld & Leufkens, fc). The second framework to be considered in this research is social network theory, particularly the types of social networks at meso and macro levels and their influence on the spread of language change and speaker innovation, as developed, among others, by Milroy (1980, 2000) and Milroy and Milroy (1985). The proposal seeks to unify both dyads of concepts in one causal framework that integrates typological criteria and demographic factors, thus updating and restructuring my previous causal model (Gómez Rendon 2008: 35). The research plan includes the following activities.
The languages under study include Sia Pedee (Chocoan) and Sapara (Zaparoan), spoken in the Pacific and Amazonian Lowlands, Awapit (Barbacoan) spoken both in the Highlands and the Pacific Lowlands, and Kichwa (Ecuadorian Quechua), the most widespread language in Ecuador, spoken historically in the Andean Highlands but nowadays present in the Amazon basin and the Pacific Lowlands because of various historic developments occurred since the seventeenth and mid-nineteenth century. While the four languages belong to different language families and are typologically different in several respects – Sia Pedee is, for instance, ergative while the other three are nominative-accusative – they do show similarities in relation to their specific histories of contact with Spanish and other indigenous languages of the Andes as well as differences in relation to the processes of colonization of the Northern Andes during pre-Columbian and colonial times. Thus, for instance, Kichwa is the language with the longest (century-long) history of contact with Spanish while the other three have been in intense contact with the official language only in the last forty years. In all, these differences and similarities provide the basis for contrast and comparison.
The resources available are both linguistic and historical for each language: on the one hand, a corpus-based dictionary, a grammatical outline, several hours of annotated spontaneous speech, and sociolinguistic surveys; on the other hand, ethnographical sketches, historical monographs, and a database of demographic data compiled from the late sixteenth century to the present.