Dr. Raina Heaton is an Assistant Professor of Native American Studies and Assistant Curator of the Native American Languages Collection at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. She has spent the past two months in Paraguay documenting the Enenlhet language, her account of her time and efforts there can be found below.
"As a linguist I'm involved in a number of projects to revitalize and document under-resourced indigenous languages in North, South, and Central America. I am currently interested in the reconstruction of linguistic isolates (primarily work with Tunica, a language of the Gulf South, USA), linguistic benchmarks for child language acquisition in situations of language revitalization (primarily Kaqchikel (Mayan, Guatemala), and antipassivization and other valency-altering voice phenomena in languages across the globe. In 2018 I also started a collaborative documentation project for Enenlhet (Enlhet-Enenlhet, Paraguay), described further below.
The goal of the Enenlhet Documentation Project is to build a broad, multi-purpose linguistic corpus for Enenlhet (ISO 639-3: tmf). Since this language has not been previously documented, and there is little information available for this language family more generally, the materials that this project is producing will be a valuable resource for generations to come. My collaborator Manolo Romero and I are writing the first Enenlhet dictionary (Enenlhet, Spanish, and English), and I also plan to use these materials to write a descriptive grammar founded in a broad range of naturalistic data. Having these materials available will encourage future research on this language, and help raise the profile of the indigenous languages of the Chaco within Paraguay (while Paraguay is proudly a bilingual state (Spanish and Guarani), equal support is not afforded the other indigenous languages of the country).
I have spent the last two months in the Enenlhet community of Mekkanekha' Pa'at (Pozo Amarillo) recording speakers talking on a wide variety of topics which interest them. These include family stories, indigenous histories of the migrations of the region and the settling of Mekkanekha' Pa'at, traditional tales of transformation and taboos, medicine, food, religion, schooling, and what people like to do on the weekends. I have also worked closely with elders to document ethnobotanical information, and we have collected names and photos of over 500 plants, birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. These recordings are all transcribed, translated, and will be publicly available shortly via the Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America (AILLA) at the University of Texas at Austin. This research trip constitutes the first in what will likely be a decade of collaboration to support Enenlhet linguistic self-determination."