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Contextualizing Yukpa language and myths

The linguistic and ethnological position of an outsider in the Cariban language family and the northern Andean lowlands

Foto: Anne Goletz

The Yukpa are a Cariban-speaking people who live at the Colombian-Venezuelan border area on both sides of the Serranía del Perijá. Nowadays, the at least 15.000 Yukpa live both, in larger cities and in remote settlements in the mountains. The individual subgroups show considerable differences not only on linguistic but also on socio-cultural and socio-cosmological levels. The Yukpa are the northwesternmost group among the Cariban-speakers. Their settlement area is located in great geographical distance from other Cariban-speaking groups. The immediate neighboring groups of the Yukpa are Chibchan- and Arawakan-speakers. Due to this geographical situation, the Yukpa are outsiders, linguistically and socio-culturally, in the context of the Cariban languages as well as in the regional environment.

So far there are no systematic studies that deal with the exceptional position of the Yukpa in relation to other Cariban speakers and neighboring Ararwakan- and Chibchan-speakers, nor the differences between the individual Yukpa subgroups. The project aims to close this gap by means of a comparative analysis of creation myths and their life-worldly and socio-cosmological implications. Based on a rich corpus of Yukpa creation myths that will be systematically processed in a first step (transcription, interlinear morphological glosses, translation, ethnographic annotation), the social and ethnological contextualized myths will be analyzed comparatively at the level of the various Yukpa subgroups. Next they will be analyzed in the context of the language family (Carib) as well as in the context of the geographic environment (Chibchan- and Arawakan-speaker). In doing so, the life-world, linguistic and ontological dimensions of the myths are taken into account.

The project contributes to the ethno-linguistic documentation and analysis of the creation myths of the Yukpa, an understanding of their role in the life-worldly and socio-cosmological practice of the Yukpa and further, to a systematic comparative analysis of indigenous cosmologies in the north of South America.

Project leader: Prof. Dr. Ernst Halbmayer
Scientific assistant: Anne Goletz M.A.
Student assistant: Katrin Metzger
Conception: Prof. Dr. Ernst Halbmayer and Anne Goletz
Duration: 2016-2021
Financing: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) HA 5957/11-1